Australian online retail suddenly got serious

The announcement by David Jones yesterday that they will make a significant investment to transform themselves into a multi-channel retailer is a bold step and a clear sign that traditional Australian business has started to listen to customers. Rather than bemoaning changing consumer behaviour like Gerry Harvey, David Jones are taking action and launching what promises to be one of the most comprehensive Australian online stores.

Whilst there has been some criticism about the speed of the delivery by Smart Company, the plan appears to me to be realistic and sensible. David Jones are rebuilding their systems from the ground up. First they are launching a new POS system underpinned by IBM, then they are launching a new website with over 90,000 stock items. Their new website is a check-list of best practices for online retail offering social media integration, mobile apps, mobile web, customer reviews and ratings, and a marketing investment in search. This strategy would for any online retailer as it covers paid, earned, and owned media.

The message is pretty clear. Aussie retailers, it’s time to put up or shut up.

What makes this a true multi-channel approach is that David Jones are investing money to improve customer experience in their stores. Recognising that a bad experience devalues brand equity and is a major turn-off for customers, they are bolstering staff and incentivising them so they provide the right experience to customers. This is a mature approach and echoes the approach taken by Telstra, who as part of their new digital strategy invested in their staff to improve customer experience.

Whilst the strategy is sound,  the execution will be critical. They still have plenty of time to get it wrong. David Jones should pull out all stops to have a solution ready for the 2012 Christmas period. This would restore  investor confidence and give them an opportunity to persuade buyers that they are listening online and in store.

Image courtesy of The Age

What do you think?