Dick Smith Electronics claims its three-year-old website can attract 100,000 visitors and direct local sales of around $50,000 a month. This is peanuts compared to the millions turned over in its 30-odd electronics shops and allied distributors, and translates to 50 cents for each visitor. But DSE IT manager Greg Clare is relaxed about admitting that not a great many people who go to the site, actually buy anything.
At the end of the day the site is not necessarily focused on online sales, he says. A lot of the company's customers go to the website to research their purchases – the company’s full catalogue, now comprising over 9000 products, has been online since day one -- but still go to a store to buy the products, he says. Many visit DSE stores armed with printouts of the company's web pages.
Moreover, a lot of in-store specials, he says, are not advertised in publications. They are, however, on the website. "Basically, everything we sell and every bargain we've got is on the website," says Clare. They're in the “Reduced to Clear” section and in many cases they are below cost because they're being cleared out to make way for new stock.
After FlyingPig failed people said online retail was just not happening, he says, but as a start-up e-tailer it didn't have the bricks and mortar stores DSE has. "That's what it's all about," says Clare. " They had to get online sales but for us it's more a case of educating our customers."
Nevertheless, purchase value and the number of visits when comparing this October and November to last year’s the figures show an increase of around 80%, he says. The number of orders has grown a little less than the value of the products sold which suggests people are spending more online, he says.
Little things are important. The company has ensured that festive decorations appeared on its website at the same time they were put up in stores. Free-gifting wrapping and free freight for orders over $100 are recent innovations.
As to the future of DSE's online business, Clare says in general he thinks it will be a case of proceeding with caution. "You know there's a lot of hype and that sort of thing in terms of online business," says Clare. "Since day one we've been steady as she goes."
Basically, the company had tweaked and fine-tuned its website over time and he guessed that would continue. But technology is always changing. "When the opportunity is there we'll look at it and take it on board if it looks like a good thing," says Clare.