Paul Oberin opened Paul’s Ski Shop back in 1979. He talks about his experience developing an online store.
Tell us about your business.
The business was started on a small budget in a seasonal business that relied on good snowfalls, as well as good economic times.
Paul Ski Shop – 50% of retail business now done online
Initially we hired snow ski equipment during the winter, but we then branched out into into water sports equipment and we are now open all year round. Prior to the internet we relied 99% on the local market and did ok in good years, struggled in bad snow years or when the weir was down to below 12%.
Launching my online shop saw a huge change to our customer base as my customer base was now Australia-wide and even though many of the locals now shop online and my bricks and mortar shop is quieter with walk in traffic, we are doing well online.
I see my biggest challenge is keeping my prices low enough to get the sale, yet keeping profit high enough to afford the promotion of the online shop, it is a fine line, and the goal posts keep moving.
What web technologies do you use in the business?
We use an online shop to sell our products online. Our shopping cart along with PayPal allows us to process all of our payments online.
As we also do specialised boot fitting, ski hire and snow tours, so our site contains pages with detailed information on these services.
I need to be able to make changes almost every hour of every day, so first of all I had to have control of the domain for my website, I had to find and learn to use file transfer software, image editing software, and to a small degree how to write code (initially in HTML now I use Php to make minor changes). The benefit of learning these tools is that I keep costs down as I don’t have to pay a web developer everytime I make a change. It also means I can make changes to products and prices often and promptly many times every day. This is crucial as the website must contain accurate and uptodate information in order to maintain the trust of customers.
I understand my business better than anyone else, so therefore I am the right person to make these changes.
How do you plan to use high speed broadband in your business when the NBN arrives?
Higher speeds will offer me many advantages, the main one will be managing my online shop much more efficiently due to the quicker speeds. In addition with faster speeds I can offer video clips instead of photos for my ski equipment tuning section, and my ski boot fitting.
My shop security system, runs off a web-based monitoring system. However the images are low quality and high speed broadband means greatly improved images and flow of motion, meaning better security for my business.
I use email now as my main method of contact between my suppliers and also my customers. Sending pictures or getting images of product is very slow at present – with the NBN this will no longer be an issue.
What advice do you have for other businesses who want to maximise their use of web technologies?
- Get a lot of good advice before jumping in.
- Speak to similar businesses that have a system in place that works well
- Do not wait until NBN is here, you can still get many benefits right now and will also be more aware of what can be done, when the faster speeds are here.
I am currently doing around 50% of my retail sales online. A huge number of retail outlets in Australia do not even have an online shop. They are missing out on a lot of business in my opinion.
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