E-FILES: Have realistic expectations

Dick Smith Electronics uses its Web site to provide support to the existing retail business.


In the real world, Dick Smith Electronics (DSE) has a wide range of competitors in many market segments. In the online world, it believes most of those competitors don’t have a comparable Web presence.

Despite being one of the early adopters, however, the company is realistic about e-commerce. Greg Clare, who is in charge of the company’s e-commerce site, advises those contemplating an e-commerce initiative to be realistic in their expectations.

“You should regard it as cream,” he says. Still, he regards the future of electronic commerce for DSE as “bright”.

DSE has stores nationwide in both Australia and New Zealand and stocks over 8000 items including communications, computers and entertainment appliances, as well as electronics.

DSE has had a well-supported mail-order facility for many years. Set up for the specific purpose of handling mail-order customers throughout New Zealand and overseas, Direct Link has a national distribution centre in Auckland. Most items are dispatched within 24 hours of ordering.

The Web site is hosted by Xtra and utilises that company’s Business Builder and InterShop software. Clare says the purpose of the site is to provide support to the existing retail business. At the moment any direct sales sourced from the Web site are incremental.

“Benefits to having a Web presence are ease of access for the customer, especially outside business hours. New products, promotions, pricing and product availability are all instantly available,” says Clare.

Currently most customers who visit the site are New Zealanders, but Clare says there are a small percentage of international visitors.

The site carries information and purchasing options on over 8000 products. Many of them have images of the product and additional information. In addition to the shopping facility, the DSE site also hosts Dick Smith’s annual catalogue and technical information on electronic products. Supporting information such as satisfaction guarantee, back orders and returns and privacy and security issues is also provided.

“[The site] reinforces our image as a company that gives information and advice in the electronics/technology area,” says Clare.

Marketing the site is currently a low-key affair. There are no specific marketing strategies until more history on the site is available. The URL is listed on all existing advertising and Clare says they occasionally do specialist Web advertising.

Clare says the biggest challenge in designing and building the site was getting the content together for 8000 stock items.

DSE site won a SODA (Site of the Day Award) in November 1998 and the site has been significantly revamped since then.

“Since our Internet site was first launched some time ago, we have been refining it to make it more user-friendly and informative for people who access it,” says Rob Forman, general manager, New Zealand.

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