This experience puts him in an ideal position to comment on the place of ecommerce. He spoke at the Retail Australasia Summit at Auckland’s Hilton hotel yesterday.
In his talk, Buxton said online sales started with a flash and a bang, but as the market matures, growth is flattening out much faster than experts predicted three years ago. However, Buxton says this slow-down does not mean brands should place less importance on this aspect of business.
“Ecommerce is not just about online sales, it’s about digital representation of the brand.”
Buxton says that due to New Zealand’s geographic isolation, retailers used to be able to get away with a store offering which differed from that of overseas retailers only by its location, but Kiwi sellers were now up against global brands.
“You’re never going to be able to compete on economies of scale. What we’ve got to compete is [being] local.”
Buxton says that for New Zealand retailers, connecting with their local community will help to insulate them from the effects of globalism.
He said that there is now “one global price” for a number of products, including the ubiquitous iPhone, as customers know they can order it online, so retailers have to leverage off factors other than price to remain competitive.
“I think there’s a long way to go in New Zealand. The opportunity is there to do omnichannel really well, but we’ve got to leverage off our local brands, our local stores.”
Buxton identified a “gap in the market,” saying not enough New Zealand retailers made sure that local customers who shoppped at their bricks and mortar stores were aware that they could also buy from the same retailer online.
He also took a moment to warn Kiwi retailers off embracing ecommerce too rapidly by building specialist distribution centres. Unless a business is operating on a massive scale, Buxton says, building a distribution centre rather than fulfilling orders from existing stores is “just not economic.”