On-line capabilities increasingly important

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 8th May 2008

With research suggesting that over 50% of Australians are accessing the internet before they make a purchase, the importance of the internet for businesses large and small cannot be understated. While some food retailers have been slow to react to the trend the many who have, have benefited.

A mere five years ago most small businesses would not have wasted their time setting up a website but now small business websites are commonplace. They are particularly important for take-away food outlets and restaurants as they allow for potential consumers to peruse the menu before they make their decision to go to the restaurant/outlet. In effect, the website provides customers with reassurance about the price and type of food that will be served. Furthermore, it provides a phone number for the company and opening times to assist the customer with their decision-making, along with eliminating the need for customers to search through the assortment of menus they have placed (and often misplaced) somewhere in their house.

Pizza Hut have recently enabled, and now updated, an on-line ordering system to help them capitalise on the on-line phenomenon. In Australia, though, online retail has not proven to be as successful as expected, especially when the number of people who use the internet before making a purchase decision is taken into consideration.

The US, UK and Canada have embraced the concept but Australians cite concerns to do with delivery costs and difficulty of returning goods as reasons for not shopping on-line. In the US many companies adopt a ‘no questions asked’ policy when it comes to customer returns, thus ensuring the customer feels safer about their purchase decision but such policies are rare in Australia.

The research, commissioned by consultancy firm Leading Edge, found that Australians are particularly concerned about buying fresh produce on-line due to the perception that quality will be compromised. The survey found many people not currently purchasing goods on-line were likely to continue to avoid on-line shopping. The lack of dedicated commitment to on-line retail by most companies has, however, limited the potential for success and, with the right strategy, on-line retail could become more popular.

An option for people to purchase their goods on-line and then simply pick them up at the store for a small fee, which would be less than delivery costs, could prove successful for certain food retailers. This would still save time for the shopper, as they would not have to spend time finding all the goods they need in store, while decreasing concerns about food delivery.