Interview by Aimee Chanthadavong

Change is happening in retail whether retailers like it or not. The main driver for this is the introduction new technologies in the space, which has altered the way consumers consume.

To find out what retailers can do ensure they're on top of it all, we spoke to Mark Gray, managing director of ChannelAdvisor Australia/Asia Pacific, to hear his thoughts on the topic.

What does omni-channel retailing mean to ChannelAdvisor?

For us it’s pretty much an overall approach as to how retailers operate. It’s not just about looking at online but the retail business in its entirety from manufacturing, to data and even the experience that is provided to the customer. We help retailers get onto as many online channels as possible so they can get in front of as many set of eyes to increase brand awareness and conversation rates. Most importantly, this helps them stay in business.

What are some of the trends you’ve seen in the online space?

Over the last 12 to 18 months we’ve seen a huge trend of people moving into the online space. Everyone has been talk about the opportunity for years but we’ve only really started to make the move recently and do so successfully. I think we’re seeing a paradigm shift in how retailers are putting their products in front of buyers. It’s much easier for buyers to find products because they now have access to information all the time whenever they want it. 

I think we’ll continue to see it happen, especially in Australia where the market is gaining traction and maturity at a rapid pace. This is mainly being driven by the adoption of technology.

But of course bricks and mortar stores will still always be around and it will continue to evolve to provide a much richer experience for buyers.

How has technology changed retail operations?

Retailers are facing one of two problems. It’s not so much the technology that is the problem itself but the ongoing international communication between the IT and marketing team. Historically, they’ve butted heads where marketing teams have always had the ideas and relied on the IT teams to execute those. Now, technology such as the cloud is empowering marketing teams with tools that they can use without having to communicate with IT. This also allows them to be more agile to respond to consumer demand and trends. But that’s where ongoing education is a challenge.

What tips can you offer to retailers considering enhancing their online operations?

Fully embrace multi-channel retailing. Gone are the days where retailers can’t afford going online. There are options like eBay or online comparison site where retailers can list their products. The key takeaway from this is that people use to think listing them on those sites would devalue the brand but really if you don’t take that step you’re losing out on visibility and essentially sales.

You do need marketing dollars but the great news is that’s why we exist. We see a lot of retailers spend money really quickly. So what we try to do is automate the process so that you’re not spending money where you don’t need to be.

This is certainly the reason why Australia as a country and region we’re still on the cusp of growth. It’s not too late for businesses to get online. While there were complaints the strength of the Australian dollar was hurting local retailers that’s projected to weaken and hopefully make Australia more competitive. So the challenge here in Australia is trying to take advantage of that.