What took them so long?

News yesterday of the long awaited launch of the Zara online fashion store.

The launch follows similar recent moves by the Gap and Banana Republic and signals quite clearly that no serious retailer or brand in today’s market can afford not to be selling online.

The question I’ve heard from a fair few friends who are partial to splashing their hard-earned cash online on high street labels is quite simply – what took them so long?

The online retail revolution has been in unstoppable mode for the last 3 years, with year on year sales growth outstripping that of the high street, regardless of weather or economic conditions. Combine this with the international reach and the lower overheads that an online store can offer, and the business case for entering this channel is bullet proof.

Large high street brands who are late to launch online stores and develop their online brand are at an immediate disadvantage against those brands who were early movers. The latter already enjoy successful ecommerce solutions,  established online customer bases, long established search engine optimization and google rankings, and the trust and loyalty of their online customers.

Though it may be a challenge for online marketers to overcome these late entry disadvantages as fast as possible, the demand for buying high street brands online is strong and the challenge is surmountable – particularly with the power of social media behind them (Zara have in excess of 4m facebook fans) and the flexibility of today’s ecommerce solutions.

So congratulations to Zara for entering the game. And to my friends who are impatient to get online and shop at H&M’s, the good news is that the long awaited H&M store is due to open this month too.

And what of Primark and Benneton, to name just 2 other major brands yet to become e-tailers? With Zara’s online sales predicted to soon surpass those of its average high street store, it seems unlikely we will have to wait too much longer to see the last of the die-hard bricks and mortar retailers going boldly online.

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