Australia is “caught in the shadow” of other nations with better IT infrastructure, according to a report into the nation’s digital economy, but SMEs have an equally big challenge of connecting with a new type of consumer who will not wait around for them to succeed.
Ernst & Young’s 2017 Digital State of the Nation Report highlights Australia fell two spots in the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index, and is now placed 18th out of 139 countries.
“Comparative international data shows that Australia is caught in the shadow of other nations that have a similar level of economic maturity, but which are well ahead in terms of digital infrastructure. As the thirteenth largest economy in the world with an AAA rating across all major rating agencies, the ability to keep up relative to other countries is an emerging vulnerability,” the EY report states.
While there are concerns about the ability of a country the size of Australia building infrastructure that will adaptable long term, the business community also has to face the social change that has now taken hold in a digital-first world, the report says.
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Thirty percent of Australians are approaching ‘addiction’ to their smartphones, while at 88% the country has one of the highest smartphone usage rates in the world.
These facts have led to the creation of a “promiscuous digital consumer”, EY analysts explain, with more than one third of the 1,700 survey respondents saying they have researched a product online at the same time as standing in front of it in a store.
With this new set of expectations in play, here are three attitudes SMEs need to grapple with:
1. A hatred of ‘friction’
Australian consumers are currently ‘mercenary’ in the short-term but tend to stick with brands if they provide a hassle-free experience, the report suggests.
Forty percent of those surveyed reported walking away from a company if it didn’t offer a good digital experience, while ease of purchasing is a key part of keeping a customer for life. In this landscape, businesses that can’t create the sense of an individual customer experience in the digital space could fall behind.
2. Customers want conversation
Shoppers are happy to give good feedback to businesses, so companies should be ready to take it. Despite fears of social media backlash, EY says consumers had more often than not delivered positive reviews to companies over the past year.
Close to one third of respondents had given feedback to an organisation via social media, and companies that are willing to engage with more of it can use it to inform better decision making down the line, the report suggests.
3. The market is saturated
… for apps, at least. Your business might want to build an app to connect directly with customers, but you should know the average Australian uses six or seven of their 24 apps each day, according to the survey.
EY says smartphone users are overwhelmed by the number of app programs available to them, suggesting mobile-optimised websites could be all you need. Keeping in mind how you want to connect with customers through mobile will help guide decisions on what software you build, the report suggests.