Back in July 2012 Webeality hosted a table of our e-commerce clients at the Chamber of Commerce monthly lunch meeting.
The guest speaker that day was Martin Blackwell, Chief Executive of the UK Association of Town Centre Managers, and his speech was called ‘Are High Streets becoming Obsolete?’
Martin spoke very well, mainly on the challenges and opportunities in the physical environment for conventional retailers.
When the time for questions came, I asked about the interplay between the online and offline worlds, lamenting the shortage of local Jersey retailers trading online. I offered £20 to anyone who could name ten, and the reaction at the time and in conversations after the meeting showed that others struggled as much as me to come up with even that many local retailers with an online trading presence.
Fast forward now to 19 March 2013, and the launch of ShopJersey.je.
This is the first stage in the development of a new brand that aims to connect Jersey shoppers with Jersey online retailers.
It's a joint venture with Jersey Post, who share Webreality's enthusiasm for the support and development of Jersey's local market e-commerce sector.
After we'd designed and built the website, with a design that responds to the device in use to make it lovely to use on your smartphone, we embarked on the process of loading up the list of online retailers who would be displayed at launch.
It was no more scientific than pooling the brains in the office (a process which quickly came up with about 30 names!) and then some desk research with Google, Twitter and Facebook which elicited a further 25 or so.
We were amazed.
In the end, we launched the website on 19 March with 56 local businesses listed, every one of them meeting our entry criteria of being locally owned, independent, and offering the ability to shop 24/7.
So, how come it was so hard for people to come up with even 10 local online retailers back in July 2012? It certainly wasn't because they all started up after that month - many have been operating online for years.
The conclusion we've drawn is that the retailers have not been putting enough effort into marketing their online offerings to make sure that local consumers know they exist.
To be fair, a large proportion of them (over a third) are clearly targeting the off-island audience before the local consumer, and are therefore no doubt targeting their marketing spend in that direction.
But the majority of the businesses listed are local businesses with a primarily local market, and their online trading capability is just not well enough known.
So we hope that ShopJersey.je will start to address that problem for retailers and consumers alike.
As I write this, the number of listed businesses is well over 60 and growing. If I offered my £20 again in a couple of months, I very much hope that I'd lose it!