Etailers stand at the forefront of change

Online retail sales grew 14% during the past year, according to the IMRG Capgemini E-retail Sales Index. Despite the recession, the report says UK online shoppers spent an average of £10 more per visit in April 2009 than this time last year. The value of the average online shopping basket increased from £121.69 in April 2008 to £131.76 in April 2009.

But these figures, published this week, tell only half the story of online retail’s future. Innovations currently occurring in this burgeoning sector may be viewed as ripples now, but it only takes a modicum of foresight to understand that those ripples are potential future tidal waves. Although it’s true that the huge growth rates of the past are not reflected in this latest progress report for online retail, the etail brand managers featured in our cover story, which starts on page 18, reckon their consumer-centric strategies, based specifically on added value, will ensure they own retail in the years to come.

Nick Robertson, ceo of online fashion retailer ASOS.com, spoke last week at the Marketing Society’s Retail Forum, where he told the audience: “When you have a retailer like Amazon that offers a full price item, next to a second-hand item, alongside both last season’s item and something else that isn’t the same item but a bit similar that the purchaser might also like, then you know traditional retail has gone. The internet should not be seen as part of a road to recovery but a new road altogether.”

Our feature also looks at the web strategies being pursued by some of the cleverer high street retailers, which recognise the threat of pure-play online rivals. Others need to think quickly about their web offers and how they can provide more for shoppers.

High street retailing is centuries old but there are no precedents for online retail and therefore no rules. Some of the brands we talk to over five pages may be causing no more than a stir right now in market share terms, but disregard their message at your own peril. For they believe that the giants of the high street are there to be taken on. Retail is changing. Ripples will become tidal waves simply because online retailers are taking the “challenger brand” attitude to new stratospheres.

The combination of brave and brilliant ideas, the convenience that the internet brings and the occupation of the space where consumers are spending more and more time, could prove lethal.

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