Saturday, 1 July 2000

Newsletter Issue 7, July 2000

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 7, July 2000
Hi guys,
The main topic of this newsletter is e-tailing; the new buzzword for on-line retailing. Consumer this month have an article on using credit cards for all your purchases to save you bank fees, and mention that risks of using credit cards via the internet (with reputable companies) are no greater than if you use credit cards in a "high street" store. 
Management Magazine also have run a piece on e-tailing and the likely future impacts of purchasing on-line. The Economist ran an article on the same topic in February of this year. 
From a blend of these articles and my own POV ("point of view" for those of you not familiar with that particular anagram!) I have pulled together a short piece on what this can mean to you. Check out E-tailing To Go below and Virus News
If you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

E-tailing To Go
Before we all go leaping off the deep end with "e" everythings, retailers and ourselves as business people have to consider the big question. What is in it for our customer?
Customers have to want to purchase via the internet. They have to be wired to the net, have a  level of technological ability, a credit card and faith in the retailer to charge fairly, despatch the ordered goods in a timely manner, and solve any problems with no fuss... and has to trust the postal service.
What is in it for the customer? Well, I think that successful e-tailing is about matching customers who (more or less) know what they want, with that product. This works really well where customers have pretty defined tastes - music, books, videos, software, ezines, repeat-purchase cosmetics, office stationery, banking, insurance and power suppliers. 
e-tailing doesn't work well where you rely on interaction with a salesperson or with the product itself. I wouldn't buy expensive clothes in an e-store; nor would I buy a car, furniture, curtains, linen or tools. I want to see them before I buy; I want to feel the items and check that they are fit for my purpose.
If this e-tailing thing takes off, I may well have to eat my words. Apparently we are in the same place in e-tailing today (so one analogy goes) as the motor car was in 1905. There were few roads. Mud was big. Tyres were thin. Speed was low and breakdowns high. And of course it all got better. Much better. So good that most families can hardly cope with only two cars.
So it looks to all intents and purposes that e-tailing is going to be BIG. Try these for size:
  • Virtual reality to try the fit (bad but improving)
  • Scratch and sniff to check out how it smells (currently in pre-production)
  • VIrtual salespeople custom-designed by the customer (soon to be available in Japan - and thence to the world) who remember every detail of your order
  • Custom-building one-off items (cars and bikes in Japan and to the rest of us later) 
  • Virtual "self" models who try on the clothes for you (again, Japan)
See what I mean about this thing getting big? I'm blowed if I will go shopping in town if I can do it at home. Then I'll go out for coffee and dinner, thanks. 
So, to return to the present; the thing that I really like about e-tailing is that on good e-store sites, we manage to get a lot of benefits. Consider:
  • I have far more to choose from than I have in a bricks and mortar store
  • I have access to other people's reviews of the products
  • I can see how popular the item is on the sales list
  • I can see other similar items to compare my potential purchase with
  • I can flick over to a competitors e-store to see if I am getting the best price
  • I really enjoy the 24 hour nature of the net. I can order at 1 am on a Saturday night (how sad is my life!)
  • Browsing is much easier. I can remember 1/2 a author's name or the name of a part, punch it into the search engine and scroll through the resulting list until I find what I am looking for
  • I can go straight to the item I want via a search engine
  • I don't have to dress up to go shopping; I don't have to spend thirty minutes in travel and logistics time, find a carpark, get a parkig ticket, or try to explain what I am looking for to fourteen people in three shops
  • I enjoy not having to say "just browsing, thanks"
  • I like having a customer profile whereby the store recommends new work by previously purchased authors/artists/ software - just click on the link (this still happens in some stores, but with chainstores this is becoming very rare)
  • I don't suffer from impulse purchases in e-stores; the temptation of getting immediate gratification in retail therapy doesn't happen on the internet - the stuff is going to take two weeks to get to you
  • I get billed on my card after the goods arrive - any problems and I don't pay the transaction and return the goods(no problems so far though)
e-tailing is here to stay, because people who think like me want it that way.  However, there is the constant pressure on small businesses to get on the net. 
Should small business build an e-store? Personally, I think that e-tailing is chainstore and niche-market territory, where you have the huge turnover to be able to make products available for less. People expect to be able to purchase their goods more cheaply on the internet.
There are also other problems with e-stores; they do not create loyalty - there are no relationships to maintained or face to save. It can be difficult for the customer to obtain unlisted items or place special orders. 
If you are in a niche market it may be worth going on-line. However, you need to do it well. You have to spend money to create a well-structured and easy to use site. Building a good website can cost in advance of $30k NZ. Global industry standards are credit card encryption, the ability to select either your own currency or use USD as standard, have invoice totals that show freight, send e-mail confirmations, send e-mail despatch notifications and have a good bricks and mortar warehouse and packaging service. 
This all takes time, good organisation and skilled labour. As small businesses, these resources are not usually at your ready disposal. If you can't do it well, my advice is... don't do it.
But. If there are other local or national businesses out there that could offer complementary services, what about forming a co-operative? Or, hitching in with one of the great e-tailers such as Amazon? If you can take advantage of systems already in place, you may be able to cut the set-up costs and just list your products.
Then all you have to do is let your customers know where you are, and send them a hyperlink so that they can find you easily.

Virus News

They say that "no news is good news"; and that is where we are at presently. However, there are still some nasties out there, so ensure that you watch out for the following;

All these viruses have been in the wild since June 2000.
If you are sent a virus warning, it always pays to check that is it not a hoax BEFORE forwarding it to all your colleagues and friends. Of course, if the notification is from your Information Systems Department you can be pretty sure that it is legitimate. But in all other instances you should verify the virus warning. 
Viruses and hoaxes are released into the wild to cause problems; servers to crash, systems to be marginalised and slowing internet transfer speeds due to increase in traffic. It is in all our interests not to become a part of the problem by forwarding hoaxes. 
The best place to check out hoaxes in the net is Datafellows.


Grocery shopping is going on-line (yay!). So far, only if you live in the main centres, you can order your groceries through Woolworths supermarkets. Costs you $15 for delivery to your door on each total purchase. You pay by credit card (saving those bank fees). The order keeps a running total and remembers your previous purchases. You also get exclusive on-line specials. You can register quite simply and then order your goods on-line. 

No more trailing around the supermarket with a trolley built and "maintained" by someone on hallucinogenics, dodging three foot high hyperactive monsters who ram the back of your ankles with those minature trolleys, trying to out-psych the bored shelf-stackers whose idea of humour is to put the poppadums on the cleaning aisle with the jif, on wet Friday nights internally chanting "I will not buy chocolate", "I will not buy chocolate" like a mantra.

However, a reliable source informs me that someone ordered goods in to Nelson, and they were delivered to that well-known suburb of Nelson.... Blenheim.... 
Short+Hot Keys... and now tips
This time we have ALT shortcuts for Excel and Access;
  • Access "Expand a list inside a table" ALT + DOWN ARROW 
  • Access "See more Help topics" ALT+DOWN ARROW 
  • Access "Go back to a Help topic you viewed previously" ALT+LEFT ARROW 
  • Access "Go forward to a Help topic you viewed previously" ALT+RIGHT ARROW 
  • Access "See previous Help topics" ALT+UP ARROW 
  • Access "To open a combo box" F4 or ALT+DOWN ARROW 
  • Excel "Display the AutoComplete list" ALT+DOWN ARROW 
  • Excel "Open the selected drop-down list box" ALT+DOWN ARROW 
  • Excel "See more Help topics" ALT+DOWN ARROW  
  • Excel "Ungroup rows or columns" ALT+SHIFT+LEFT ARROW 
  • Excel "Ungroup selected PivotTable items" ALT+SHIFT+LEFT ARROW 
  • Excel "Group rows or columns" ALT+SHIFT+RIGHT ARROW 
  • Excel "Group selected PivotTable items" ALT+SHIFT+RIGHT ARROW 
  • Excel "Close the AutoFilter list for the current column" ALT+UP ARROW 
  • Excel "See previous Help topics " ALT+UP ARROW
Hot Linx
Wanting to know more about e-tailing from the pointy end of the stick? Check out the following sites for on-line shopping (I have tried them all and swear by them);

Books, magazines and gifts at the Whitcoulls site on-line

Books, CDs, videos and you-name-its at or

AUctions for those of you looking for that nostalgic movie, music or read that can no longer be purchased... try searching for a preloved version at  

More music to buy at CD Now

Software, hardware, dics, phones and other paraphenalia at Dick Smith Electronics 

Computer manuals, information and ezines Woodys Office & Windows Watch 

EVERTHING you can think of at K-mart in Australia (don't think the Enzed division is doing e-stuff yet)

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here