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.
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.