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Despite the considerable economic doom and gloom, the online marketing industry still has va va voom, as a new forecast from Verdict Research illustrates.

The company admits that pesky recession is finally starting to hurt web retailers and growth in online spending has slowed, but it predicts that by 2013, online sales in the UK will reach £31.2bn, forecasting spending of £20.9bn this year alone.

Of course, no one can be sure exactly how this recession will develop, or how long it will last, so now is a particularly hard time to forecast future online spending.

Still, the staff at Verdict Research reckon the convenience of the web, coupled with a wealth of good deals compared to the high street, is what will continue to drive spending up.

With this in mind, I gave some thought to exactly what a company loses out on by not offering its products for sale on the internet. I firmly believe businesses miss more than money making opportunities by not offering online sales.

Here are just a few ways only retailing offline can damage your brand. As always, please leave your own thoughts in the comments if you think I have missed any.

Brand damage

I remember when it was interesting to see which companies had websites, then the race was on for larger firms to sell online before their competitors. Now, however, online retail is so expected by consumers that failing to offer it is like not having a website in the year 2000 – it makes a business look less capable and less successful.

Such an impression damages brands, regardless of the quality of product or service.

Creating an air of competency among competitors

If your key competitors are offering online sales and you are not, then obviously they are going to end up securing more business from those browsing using the web.

However, there is another, considerable problem. If your competitor offers online sales and you do not, you make that company look more competent, more progressive and more successful than you.

Your lack of action does not just damage your brand; it enhances your more web-ready opponent.

Missing targeted marketing messages

The web allows you to use a multitude of methods to market at your consumers. In a shop, your customer comes in, witnesses generic marketing that may or may not appeal to them, buys a product and leaves.

Your promotional efforts may have worked but they may just as easily have failed to hit their mark. In an online transaction, you can ensure that the customer sees adverts and opportunities relating specifically to their purchase.

For example, if you're selling camping gear and they have been looking at Trangias, your emailed receipt can include information on other relevant sundries, like fuel, food and, I don't know, sporks.

In a shop, catalogue or phone sale, you would have been more limited.

Failing to exploit global sales

In the wonderful world of the web, a bloke in a shed in Wimbledon can find himself selling to consumers in Japan. For any company, this is easy expansion into other countries with no further financial commitment than some targeted online marketing and a sales-ready website.

By growing numbers of customers in other parts of the world, you do not just expand your customer base, you protect yourself from localised economic downturns (this advice will become more relevant once we have left global recession, I promise).

Missing a chance to secure customer data

I am much happier to leave a box ticked that allows a firm to contact me if I am buying online than I am to answer questions or give personal details when in a shop.

This may be illogical but I expect a company to attempt to secure my email address for marketing when I am buying through a website. Attempts to secure my details in a shop seem much more intrusive.

I doubt I am alone in this, and so online retailers can source a much wider pool of people to promote further products and offers to than those with no web presence.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 8 June, 2009 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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The Marketing Intern

You mean to tell me, Mr. Gibbons, that people are selling things online now? And here I thought this Internet thing was just a fad.

It seems to me that the business that isn't selling things online, that isn't using the Internet to connect with customers, or that isn't trying to expand in the digital marketplace, is a business that isn't trying very hard at all to succeed. It really takes such minimal effort to insert your business into the  e-commerce maelstrom that, at least here in the US, it would be shocking for a company not to do it. Aside from the vegetable stand down the street (and I'll have to look in to that), I can't think of a single retailer that doesn't sell online. Not one.

Of course, being online is one thing, and succeeding is another thing entirely, but that seems to be a stroke farther downstream from this post.

over 7 years ago



Maybe it's better in the US, Marketing Intern, but I am often surprised and annoyed at big brands here in Britain that dont let me buy on their sites. Sometimes they even have catalouges but you cant just make a simple purchase.

over 7 years ago


James Ainsworth

A good point Andon and a great article. Is it complacemcy, cost cutting or just laziness? At a minimum, selling online ties customers in and builds a database of great information relating to the customer base.

over 7 years ago


Mark Hook

I think it's all of the above James, and maybe you could add in fear of change (and technology).

It's amazing how many companies have yet to adapt to a changing market place or have simply refused to, believing that their customers don't shop online so having an Internet presence is pointless.

And it's not just small businesses who hold that opinion as the example above shows.

It could also be ignorance of the positives selling online brings as was pointed out above. This is a real shame especially in regards to SMEs who could gain advantages that could prove vital to surviving the recession.

over 7 years ago



Not all industries are conducive to online sales.  I work for an optical retailer that provides eye exams and such - and an eyewear purchase that should be tailor-made for its wearer (lenses and all) cannot be sold online.  There is are aspects to what we do that cannot be offered on the internet. 

That said, if we could sell online, we would. In lieu of this, we offer customers the opportunity to go to our website to schedule their eye exam and complete their medical paperwork before they get to the store.

over 7 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Typediva's right. I work from the assumption that all retailers can do this, but it just ain't so. For example, a high end swimwear retailer with finite stock is going to have a relatively hard time, as far as I can tell...

over 7 years ago


Jason Lock, PPC Director at Guava

There are (for some reason) loads of examples from the UK high street that have poor offerings online. Both GAP and H&M as far as I can tell are completely non-transactional. Like Andon says, they are missing a trick and have no excuses!

over 7 years ago

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