Why online retail in Australia is lagging the world

Australians are spending considerably less shopping online than other countries, according to a global digital study by market information group TNS. The Digital World, Digital Life study, which investigated online behaviour in 16 countries, found that those Australians who shop online spent an average of $760 in the past month compared to the global average of $3160.


Director of technology research, TNS Sydney, Marcus Pritchard says the proportion of Australians shopping online is similar to global results, with more than one in two having made a purchase in the past month.


But there are huge variations between different countries when it comes to the dollar value that is being spent online. 


“Australia is one of the countries at the lower end of the scale; it appears other countries are making big ticket item purchases online, inflating their spend over the past month,” he says.


Britain and the US are also spending very little, with online shoppers spending only $290 and $230 in the past month.


The most common items bought by Australians who purchased or ordered something online were electrical goods (25%), books (22%), clothes (18%), and tickets to theatre and cinema (17%). Britons are mainly spending on books and music and most of Americans’ online spend is on books and clothes.


“These figures suggest that people are still not entirely comfortable buying high price-tagged items over the internet,” says Pritchard.


“However, computer hardware and software is a different matter, with around 15% of those surveyed purchasing computerware in the past month.”


Four in five (78%) of those who bought a PC online stated that researching on the internet played a “crucial” or “important” role in the buying process.  The internet also plays a crucial or important role for a range of other categories, such as travel (86%), mobile phones (66%), TV/DVD/stereo (66%), fridge/washing machine (66%), and cars (62%).


“Australians are relying heavily on the internet to research products before buying them,” Pritchard says.


He says the main reason Australians who don’t buy goods or services from the internet is they want to see the product in person first. They are also worried about the security of their personal information when carrying out transactions or communications online.


He says web retailers need to provide greater guidelines around return policies, guarantees to alleviate these concerns.


He says online grocery purchases are not yet being embraced by Australians, but in countries such as China, Korea, Japan, 20% to 30% of the population had bought their groceries online in the month prior to the study.


But Australia does sits above the global average for regular online banking use, with  79% of those surveyed banking online in the four weeks prior.




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