Cyber Monday, and some frustrations of shopping online from Australia

Cyber Monday continues to grow around the world. It’s the largest online shopping day in the US, being the first working day after the US Thanksgiving long weekend. It’s a day also known as “Black Friday”, when the majority of US retailers turn a profit for the first time in the year.

That statement, and my experience sitting on boards of companies that own retail stores, never ceases to amaze me. Many retailers in the Western World trade without turning a profit for 10 months of the year and then make all their return in the last two months. That’s why the last 10 weeks of the year is always so frantic in retailing.

Added to that, we now have Cyber Monday, which is becoming a great way to encourage shoppers to make a purchase at favourable terms for items they know they want or need by Christmas Eve. Lead times for shipments before the holidays, the ability to browse a wide assortment of items and free shipping to home or the recipient of the gift are all contributing factors as to why this date has become important in the US. Similar online shopping dates have also become big in different markets in Asia and Europe.

Cyber Monday has caught on here in Australia too, and not because it’s a “me too” marketing gimmick. Many Australian shoppers are now in their third or fourth online pre-Christmas buying season, and a wide repertoire of US sites are on their list. Online shoppers are used to seeing specials and deals available in the run up to Cyber Monday, so it’s only natural that Australian retailers offering online shopping do this too. And, it’s a good thing, as the Australian retail industry is now firmly in catch-up mode with almost all of our major retailers now offering full-service online shopping.

Don’t worry or complain about how long it’s taken; we can’t change the past. It’s here now and it will only get better. If you do want to complain about anything online I’d love to hear from you about the US and European sites that are blocking purchases online by Australian shoppers.

My anecdotal experience and feedback is that more and more Australian credit cards and addresses have become blocked by US and European manufacturer’s sites when the product online is sold via an Australian distributor. I was in the US for a month earlier this year and tried shopping for a sailing shoe brand I like, which is still twice the price here than in the US. I couldn’t find them in any of the stockists listed on the manufacturer’s website. I even tried the Mall of America, the biggest shopping mall in the world!

So, I went to the manufacturer’s website. I put in my US hotel address as the “ship to,” but my credit card wasn’t accepted. I subsequently phoned the customer service number and spoke with a representative in the north-east of the US.

We had a strange conversation. We shared that my wife, son and I had been consumers of their brand for many years. We agreed that having walked to several stores in several states listed as stockists on their website, I couldn’t find their shoes. We agreed that the three pairs of shoes in the styles and size I wanted were available in the warehouse behind his office. But because I had an Australian credit card they would not sell them to me, even if I had them delivered to a US address.

I have heard similar stories across many product categories sold online by US or European manufacturers. If it is a manufacturer’s policy, it is a strange one to pursue. As a shopper and a consumer it leaves you with a feeling that you are being let down by a brand you have supported for years. So you leave the brand. That doesn’t help the manufacturer or the Australian distributor, but it does generate trial for new brands or brands loyal consumers haven’t shopped before…

As CROSSMARK CEO, Kevin Moore looks at the world of retailing from grocery to pharmacy, bottle shops to car dealers, corner store to department stores. In this insightful blog, Kevin covers retail news, ideas, companies and emerging opportunities in Australia and across the world. His international career in sales and marketing has seen him responsible for businesses in over 40 countries, which has earned him grey hair and a wealth of expertise in international retailers and brands.

CROSSMARK Asia Pacific is Australasia’s largest provider of retail marketing services, consulting to and servicing some of Australasia’s biggest retailers and manufacturers.

 

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