As some traditional retailers struggle with the idea of developing an e-commerce presence, shoe business Betts shows how this evolution can reap results.
More than a century ago – 120 years to be exact – Fanny and Yoel Breckler opened a shoe store in Fremantle, WA. That single store spawned a chain of 160 Betts shoe shops across Australia.
For a business to thrive for such a long time, it must be dynamic, flexible and constantly able to evolve with market needs. Four years ago, Betts proved just how good it was at evolution when it started an
“It really was natural progression,” says Gino Premici, national marketing manager of Betts and manager of the four-person e-commerce team. “We had used online for five years simply for cataloguing then we looked at the opportunity to sell.
“We realised very quickly that the problem for us would be the amount of SKUs [stock-keeping units] that we have. Even with the great logistical network that we already had in place, we couldn’t deliver every type of shoe in the warehouse in every necessary size, so we treated the site exactly as we would a new shop, with specific stock, sizes and colours, as well as its own promotions and marketing. That was the perfect way to start an online business.”
Betts already had a broad network of stores across Australia with a logistics system to match, but online allowed them an opportunity to reach customers in areas where stores did not exist. Premici says there was no resistance from within the organisation, as it is wholly owned, so they did not have restrictions that might be felt within a franchised operation.
“At store level, the site was seen as something that could cannibalise their sales, but then the managers recognised the opportunities,”
says Premici. “They realised people were often using the site to window-shop then coming in to try on the shoes and buy them. The site did not cannibalise profits at all and the store managers now fully support everything we do online.”
Premici says the site’s great success has taken the company by surprise and, as a result, management has agreed to invest even more in further building the e-commerce presence.
“We treat the site as a normal store in which customer service is just as important as ever,” he explains,
adding that the e-commerce manager is a shop manager. “Processes must be simple, customers must have
the ability to speak to someone whenever they like and, most importantly, the site needs personality, not just
“But we don’t consider the site to be perfect. We know we can always improve. We must have the right stock at the right time, just like a shop. If our product is turning up in pristine condition within a few days of it being ordered, which we’ve been able to achieve, then we’re just starting to do our job right.”
Useful tools and resources
The following Australia Post products and services can help you set up your own online shop and manage
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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