Retailing on the Internet need not be about consumer spending. Last year, Brisbane-based network integrator Netwise teamed with Web developer Orli-Tech to bring online retailing to the corporate market. Twelve months on, Nick Day talks to Georgina Swan about moving into online salesARN: How did two channel companies end up in online retailing?
Day: Basically, we were very frustrated with the amount of information that was around at the time. The online procurement Web sites that were available didn't work properly and couldn't process payments. So we set out to develop what we felt was the best IT online store in the country. Given that, we approached Web software development company Orli-Tech in Brisbane, with whom we already had a business relationship. It was a 50/50 joint venture for the Web site. It took a bit longer to get going than we anticipated but the end result is its now one of the better sales sites on the market.
Who is your target market?
We don't go in for spending large amounts of money advertising the site like our competition - it is not sustainable and as soon as the venture capital dries up there is very little positive outcome.
Instant IT targets the corporate market. Our main market is not the end user. Retail sales are increasingly strong in the corporate market.
How are you able to offer such an extensive product range?
The backend is the Tech Pacific distribution network. We also work closely with Express Data so its products will be available on the site in the very near future - the integration of the systems is almost completed. So between the two we have access to a very large range of equipment.
How does fulfilment work?
Tech Pacific handles the shipping and distribution from its warehouse in Sydney. I realised when we set it up that to make an online store profitable, you need as much automation as possible. Basically, the corporate business needs a fast central service. The search engine is probably the fastest online. The site is very much aimed at people who know what they want anyway. They can purchase through credit card - we take American Express now as well - and the orders are then automatically e-mailed to Tech Pacific. An e-mail is sent back to the person confirming details of the order and Tech Pacific then ships that product, usually overnight, sometimes the same day, to anywhere in the country. The order goes directly into Tech Pacific's system and the goods are shipped with the Instant IT logo on the box.
Who handles customer service?
We have a lady at Orli-Tech who handles the calls we do get. Surprisingly we don't get as many calls as some of the other sites. A lot seem to encourage people to ring up which to my way of thinking is really no more than an advertisement on the Web.
How do you structure your price list?
Pricing is very competitive without being ridiculous. For corporate clients we do offer a commission - a percentage back on sales. Not only do they get the percentage back, but it also encourages loyalty and volume. The more they put through, the higher the discount. Clients can nominate sister companies or partners to use their account, so they get kickback from those purchases as well.
Do you have affiliate partnerships to drive customers to your site?
We do have partnerships with a number of associations. Also directorclub.com is a very new entity and LexisLegal is a new legal portal with over 8000 law firms going through there daily. Instant IT is the only IT site listed there.