Sunday, 27 February 2011

Advice to SMEs - look at off-the-shelf and open source solutions rather than developing bespoke platforms : Peter Lilley,MD TrueShopping

Trueshopping has a goal of bringing aspirational products at affordable prices direct to consumers.
Since 2006 the company has grown exponentially and now operates 12 different websites under four brands into nine countries and in six different languages.
Speaking at the Insights Conference on Day One of the Internet Retailing Expo, Lilley will be exploring the importance of choosing the right ecommerce platform, and evolving your business in line with growth.

Trueshopping Ltd began trading as Trueshopping.co.uk in 2006 with the goal of bringing aspirational products at affordable prices direct to consumers.
Since then the company has grown exponentially and now operates 12 different websites under four brands into nine countries and in six different languages. “Our product offering is quite diverse, as is our multi-nationality customer base, but our objective always remains the same – bringing aspirational products at affordable prices, directly to consumers,” says Peter Lilley, Trueshopping’s managing director.
Speaking at the Insights Conference on Day One of the Internet Retailing Expo, Lilley will be exploring the importance of choosing the right ecommerce platform, and evolving your business in line with growth. “Choosing your platform is certainly a critical decision but unfortunately there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer,” he says. “For example, a major online retailer who also has a High Street retail presence has different objectives, and budget, to a pure play online SME retailer who again has different requirements to a one person start up.”
Lilley’s advice is to not rush into anything, tightly manage costs and don’t assume that because something is more expensive it is better. “Very top line, my advice to SMEs would be to look at off-the-shelf and open source solutions rather than developing bespoke platforms as they can be much more cost effective and future-proof than building your own platform. My advice to a start up would be to consider if they’re even ready for their own platform. Using Marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon is a fantastic way of testing demand, obtaining data to analyse and testing merchandising techniques for your products without incurring high up-front costs and is something you can generate profit from before even launching your own website”
What does Lilley think are the challenges and opportunities in the current economic climate? “It is certainly harder to win customers’ business but this in itself is an opportunity as we need to be continually improving and innovating to ensure customers choose Trueshopping over the competition,” he says. “In terms of trends, apart from the cornerstones of price and product offering, we’re seeing a shift in consumer behaviour with mobile appearing as a viable sales channel for the first time last year and this is a big part of our strategy moving forward.”
With the competition fierce, the service and delivery promise given to customers is also critical, says Lilley. “Speaking very generally, we’re seeing big demand for immediacy from our customers, whether that be slick access through mobile devices or delivery in terms of getting products to customers as soon as possible. Customers’ expectations when shopping online have never been higher and retailers must continually evolve to lead and keep pace with that,” he advises.
For entrepreneurs just starting out, what advice can he give? “I think it’s a great time to be starting out. Of course the economic landscape is challenging but the opportunities in ecommerce are unlimited and the proliferation of access through broadband, mobile and access devices increases the audience by the second. There is no better place to be.”
In practical terms, start-ups should ensure product can be sold profitably, and that costs can be managed. “Then prioritise and stick to a few core objectives,” he says.”Work smart by choosing partners on performance-related deals to help you grow profitably, analyse results and negotiate everything!”
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