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Comment - Wake up to the implications of turning 'notspots' into 'gotspots'

Internet shopping has become such a part and parcel of our everyday purchasing habits that it is hard to believe that buying on the web is still a trauma for the three million UK homes without broadband. By Steve Goodheart

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Comment - Wake up to the implications of turning 'notspots' into 'gotspots'

Internet shopping has become such a part and parcel of our everyday purchasing habits that it is hard to believe that buying on the web is still a trauma for the three million UK homes without broadband. By Steve Goodheart

Whilst some of these people undoubtedly shop online when at work, the Government’s pledge to bring broadband to everyone within the next two years or so will give e-tailers a new and lucrative revenue stream.

However, it must also serve as a wake-up call to those companies whose delivery, IT and customer service networks are already creaking under increased demand. There are already predictions that the migration of shoppers from the high street to the internet in search of value for money will see online retail spending grow from just under £9 billion now to £21.3 billion by 2011.
Add another five million people, given online spending power for the first time by the availability of broadband, and you begin to get a picture of just how efficient e-tailers will have to be in order to cope with demand.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that those people without broadband are restricted to isolated villages and hillside farmers – ‘notspots’ are just as likely to be in suburban areas and even streets in major towns.

If the three million ‘dial-up’ households had all come online at the end of July, the £3.8 billion which UK shoppers spent online in August, an increase of 16 per cent over the past year, would have been more like £4.37 billion.

All the main growth areas of e-tail, such as health and beauty, electrical and footwear come with their own particular challenges in terms of reliability, customers’ satisfaction and effective returns systems.

But you must also assume that many of those shoppers heralding the dawn of broadband in their homes by buying online for the first time will be e-tail novices. Remember how daunting it was when you used the self-service tills at your local supermarket for the first time and how much help you needed?

Increased demand for customer service help and the need to simplify things for the large number of e-tail first timers should not be underestimated. I imagine that all across the country, MDs are rubbing their hands at the increased revenue while IT bosses are sitting there wondering how they are going to put the systems in place that will maintain customer satisfaction levels.

Some will fear that they don’t have the time, money or resources to cope. Off the shelf solutions are available to help them with their infrastructure, IT and resource needs but they must resist the temptation to bury their heads in the sand and react now, before they get left behind.
Steve Goodheart is a partner with online retail analysts Transaction Partnership

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