We don’t normally step into the unknown at Hobbs. Any new venture will have been researched, investigated and analysed to assist in our decision-making.
We undertake research to ensure we have a clear understanding of the expected outcome. History has shown this painstaking analysis to be worthwhile and we have had few real surprises.
In a few weeks, our website will become transactional. It is difficult to know how our customers will react, let alone forecast how many new customers the site might attract. There is little data to analyse and published information is mostly difficult to interpret.
Several retailers report that etail is the fastest growing area of their business, or say that etail has beaten all expectations. But it is difficult to draw any firm conclusion from either of these statements and, in any case, every customer group is unique.
What we want to know is whether it will work. Will we attract new customers and/or will our existing customers defect from our stores to shop online? Will the online bestsellers reflect the bricks-and-mortar business? What level of returns should we expect? Do customers return unwanted items by post or should they be able to drop them off at their nearest store? Should we provide a 24-hour customer help desk so that those browsing the web at 3am can have access to an operator?
We believe multi-channel retailing is the way forward and our stores will benefit from our transactional website. However, for the time being this is a relative step into the unknown that no amount of research can predict – and it is even more exciting because of this.
Nick Samuel, chief executive, Hobbs