It’s time for Australian retailers to get on their online bike. As lawyers specialising in internet and web services we see many IT trends years before they become common knowledge in the market. For example we’ve noted for years that Australian marketers of apparel will miss potential sales if their brands have a poor online presence.

We now have more statistical evidence supporting our view on IT and marketing trends relating to retailing of apparel.

The statistical inspiration for this post is a Hitwise March 2009 blog post by Sandra Hanchard, Senior Analyst. Hitwise is a web traffic advice business which measures what people search on the web. Hitwise was a successful Australian start-up sold to American interests a few years ago.

The neat Hitwise data visualisation below highlights the fact that apparel retailing was a growth area in Australia in late 2008. The visualisation appears at the end of Hanchard’s post. Lightbulb has been impressed before by Hitwise data visualisations.

In the visualisation, apparel is in a blue field and its a reasonably large field. Both those facts are significant. Hanchard explains why: “More ‘blue’ rectangles represent sub-categories with high growth, while more ‘orange’ rectangles represent sectors with higher rates of decline.”






Web 2.0 – for the apparel business

A website is not enough.

As lawyers we act for many manufacturers, retailers or other intermediaries involved in the apparel business. They include makers of shoes, swimwear, hats and handbags. In 2008 many got busier in improving their website.

There’s plenty of room for improvement if you think beyond a website and think of improving online presence. Only the rare Australian apparel business is using Web 2.0 features in their online presence.

Call for a referral if you need a developer or a team, technical or consultancy, who can do such things as improve your site with such Web 2.0 features as:

  • internet video
  • audio streaming (eg Podcasts)
  • blogs
  • tag cloud
  • rating or polling
  • comments
  • forum
  • social bookmarking
  • RSS
  • mash-ups
  • games and animations
  • keyword improvement and other techniques for search engine optimisation

As they say in Silicon Valley, “We eat our own dog food”, meaning we use what we recommend or make.

So on our website we have most of the above Web 2.0 features in operation. It’s not expensive, it’s most about business foresight, business thinking and translating all that into visual design.

If you want to market better and drill down on that last paragraph then call for a conversation.

Various combinations of the above Web 2.0 features create the technical infrastructure for social networking (eg via Facebook, MySpace, Linked-in).

IT facilitating collaboration – for the apparel business

Other combinations can be built into an intranet (ie an internal network for an enterprise). A different configuration helps build an extranet (ie a network that is still controlled by the enterprise but provides managed access by permitted third parties, eg external consultants or contractors).

It sometimes makes sense to have your own set up even though generic offerings might exist via Facebook, Linked-in, Google, Yahoo! and a host of others provider of social networking, intranet or extranet-like functionality.

Higher returns can be achieved if a website, as part of an IT system, has an intranet or extranet feature. They can facilitate:

  • improved collaboration with suppliers and others
  • improved collaboration between internal staff and contractors, eg via an intranet or an extranet
  • improved workflow, encompassing project management and process management

We work with suppliers who can also assist for these needs. It’s increasingly clever, but simple technology; it does not necessarily need a big hammer IT consultancy firm.

The business benefits of the Web 2.0 tools extend beyond marketing. They overlap with needs relating to knowledge management, asset management and speeding up communications to cope with the accelerating pace of work.

Minimising legal and business risks

However, many public and private companies and organisations fear the perceived or added legal exposure and potential business issues that might be caused if the above improvements are added. They should not. There are easily implemented solutions. The media thrives on scare stories, they help glue freaked eyeballs onto advertising-sponsored screens. Don’t believe their hype.

Certainly, a Web 2.0 online development project is never dead simple. Online business design and online visual design of a website are both needed and time consuming.

Additionally, to support both, there should be a legal strategy. For example, appropriate legal arrangements for ownership or control of key intellectual property assets such as copyrights, domain names, trade marks and logos. For risk minimisation there should also be a customised terms of use. An e-commerce site in particular should have specific customised terms of use.

The legal and business problems you may read about from time to time usually arise in circumstances where too little has been thought through and little has been documented or documented well, in practical documents let alone legal documents.

The thinking in this post applies to many types of businesses and organisations. On that point we’ll end where we started, here are some Lightbulb’s observations, combined with bullet points from Hanchard’s post:

  • Auctions was the biggest online shopping search category (note the size of the “Auctions” box). Shoppers hunt for second-hand products during a downturn.
  • Appliances and electronics was the fastest growing retail category
  • Apparel was close behind Electronics
Noric Dilanchian