Australia stalls with online retailing

Australia is lagging the rest of the world when it comes to shopping on the internet.

That is the finding of a new survey from consultancy The Leading Edge, which showed online retailing had failed to take hold amongst Australians. The survey surveyed 1,215 Australians.

The reasons for the slow adoption of online retailing? Depends who you ask.

Director of Retail at The Leading Edge, Phil Bonnano believes that retailers have failed to adequately invest in online shopping and attract consumers to the net.

“Many Australian retailers have deprived the online environment of serious investment and focus. Retailer sites in Australia are little more than catalogue pages on the web. Few sell anything online and most offer no integrated services between stores and sites. Most websites lack innovation, fail to engage the consumer and offer nothing new or exciting,” he said.

Mr Bonnano adds that Australian retailers are being left behind by e-tail innovations in the rest of the world where online retail growth is strong.

“Overseas, Tesco, Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Costco are leading the way with online sales exceeding $US1 billion per year. These smart traditional retailers have perfected the on-line off line integration where customers can buy on line and pick up/return in store.”

Chris Hitchen, from online site Getprice told iTNews last month that, “It’s surprising that so many businesses are failing dismally at the basics.”

But Australia’s retail bosses stress that there is simply not the demand for online shopping. Harvey Norman boss Gerry Harvey described internet sales as a “waste of time” in February.

The Leading Edge’s Bonnano disagrees: “Respondents to the survey demonstrated a willingness to consider purchasing more strongly in categories that are more ubiquitous and don’t necessarily carry a tactile need to drive purchase. Those categories include whitegoods, electronics and furniture.”

Getprice’s Hitchen estimated that ecommerce in Australia was worth $12-13 billion dollars a year, and is an opportunity for websites tailored to meet consumer needs.

The Leading Edge survey found that the main barriers to consumers shopping more online are confusion over returns’ policy, delivery headaches and a preference for physical sampling.

Ideas for online retailers:

· Utilize existing platforms such as the popular EBay site or Amazon, rather than developing stand-alone operation.

· Target specific products which customers will be comfortable with buying online.

· Easily searchable product lines.

· Strong integration with brick and mortar stores – ease concerns over delivery & returns.

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