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Net secrets take time to untangle

Earlier this year I attended Drapers’ ecommerce conference in London, which was brilliant, with some fantastic speakers who spoke openly and honestly about online retailing.

Chatting with some of the other retailer delegates, I found that many were in the same place I was before we launched our website a year and a half ago – thinking that we’d spend all the effort building the site, launch it and then sit back as the orders came flying in. It would all work like a dream. Well, I was wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me – the website is doing great and the growth is fantastic, but the one thing we underestimated was the sheer effort that an ecommerce site demands in addition to running a shop.

The original system we were given to work with was horrendously manual, and it took us a while to tweak and build our own processes and interfaces to get it working – when we launched the site I realised we had created a monster to administer and run.

The major risk is that you end up taking your eye off your core retail business. Online is a very different model to bricks and mortar retail, but it is hugely exciting and opens you up to both national and international markets.

For retailers going online it is a steep learning curve, and it is very easy to put a huge amount of focus on building the site and what it will look like. But if you neglect the back end and logistics, it will drain time to run it.

We’re now relocating our head office to Glasgow to run the online business from there with a much larger stock room, and are looking at the next phase of online development.

Clare Thommen is co-owner of Boudiche in Edinburgh, Drapers’ Lingerie Boutique of the Year

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