Retailers can learn much from how the push to deliver far more public services online plays out.
It was revealed at the weekend that the present Government has ambitions to move much more of the work of the public sector online.
Irrespective of the outcome of the election, this push to allow citizens to interact more with Government agencies using the internet is already under way and the billions that could be saved are too attractive for any political party to ignore.
What will be interesting is how quickly consumers take them up, and what happens to those without internet access in their homes.
Watching which of these online services consumers become comfortable using is important to the retail industry as it will provide guidance on how they could be interacting more with their own customers in these more cost-effective ways.
The Cabinet Office estimates that each telephone transaction moved online saves £3.30, and each mail transaction moved online would save £12.
Retailers already know that dealing with customer queries and service through online channels is cheaper; but many have been meek about encouraging customers to communicate in this way, wary of a backlash if customers can’t talk to a human being.
And it’s true that sometimes your customers do just want to be able to pick up the phone or walk into a store, and be dealt with in-person. But it’s also the case that self-service and internet options are attractive too. For instance, Nectar’s managing director told me a few weeks ago that it handles 10,000 web chat sessions with cardholders each month.
At the same time any move to make government services web-only would require investment to bring all those without internet access online. But a PricewaterhouseCoopers report for the Cabinet Office has also shown that £900m in government spending could be saved by providing internet access to those who currently go without it.
Innovation in service delivery by the public sector can only be a good thing for online retail. And all the free education the process of government moving these services online will provide is a bonus for the retail industry.