Conroy admits Australia ‘lags’ in online retailing

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has claimed that Australian businesses are behind their overseas counterparts when it comes to online retail.


Conroy was speaking at the federal government’s online retail forum, which featured speakers from major industry players including eBay, PayPal and Grays Online.


“Australia lags behind our international competitors when it comes to online retail. We know that 58.5% of Australian small businesses do not have a website and 72% do not offer sales or transactions online,” Conroy said in a statement.


Cameron Poolman, chief executive of auction site Grays Online, said the NBN would have a positive effect on the online retail sector.


“The NBN will be highly beneficial to the online retail industry. You have to have rich content and video on the internet – the NBN will be a game changer,” Poolman said.


According to PayPal, the Australian ecommerce market can expect another year of double-digit growth in 2011, while Forrester Research predicts the ecommerce market to reach $36.8 billion by 2013, up from $27 billion in 2010.


eBay Australia and New Zealand chief Deborah Sharkey and PayPal managing director Frerk-Malte Feller both spoke at the forum in attempt to dispel the myth that all online sales happen offshore.


“In 2010, the top 2000 sellers on had an annual turnover starting at over $120,000, with the top seller reaching more than $12.6million. The top 2000 sellers’ turnover grew 38% in 2010 year-on-year on,” Sharkey says.


“We are at an inflection point in Australian retail where millions of Australians are increasingly choosing to shop online instead of going into a store.”


“Smart local operators acknowledge that consumer behaviour shift and are adopting multi-channel strategies to succeed in ecommerce, as well as using the strong Australian dollar to import more and pass those savings on to their customers.”


eBay spokesperson Daniel Feiler says eBay can be an ideal platform for retailers looking to establish an initial online presence or expand their existing one.


“eBay is often seen as a secondhand auction site and although we’re really proud of our roots, we’re also invested in the future,” Feiler says.


“Today, 78% of all items available online are brand-new, so the site is increasingly being used by professional retailers, which makes it an ideal place to start.”


“For those who are already online, it highlights the importance of accessing multiple channels. Ultimately, you need to be where your customers are, which includes eBay.”


Feiler says the site is heavily invested in the plight of small businesses, with mobile innovation the company’s current focus.


He says many Australian retailers make the mistake of assuming their product is only of interest or value to an Australian audience, which is why so many lament over the competition they face from foreign retailers.


“Once you’re online, you have no choice – that instantly turns your domestic market into a global market, which is a very exciting opportunity for Australians,” he says.


The purchasing habits of online shoppers were also discussed at the forum, with PayPal providing insights based on the activity of its three million-plus Australian active account holders.


Feller says the sheer number of shoppers continues to increase and those already shopping are now shopping more frequently.


“In the last six months of 2010, 500,000 new customers signed up for a PayPal account and began shopping online,” he says.


“This in turn is driving growth for Australian online retailers and we are seeing that on average the transactions of our 35,000 merchants accepting PayPal are growing at 19% year-on-year.”


Feller says the forecasted growth in online retail suggests retailers that innovate and meet consumer demand will very quickly differentiate themselves from their competitors.


“As consumers spend more time researching and identifying products online and through their web enabled mobile devices, and as the line continues to blur between offline and online, it will become increasingly important for retailers to offer a range of secure payment solutions across multiple touch points,” Feller says.


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