Written by Jill Watkins
E-commerce, the buying and selling of goods and services on the internet, is rapidly becoming the 'new normal' with many of today's shoppers opting to rarely set foot in a physical retail space. Through the ubiquity of online purchasing, everything one desires can be delivered to your doorstep, often at a lower cost than at your neighbourhood shop. Once you've gotten used to the convenience and multitude of options found shopping electronically, it can be perhaps be difficult to go back to the hassles of purchasing at a brick-and-mortar establishment. Even when one does choose to engage in commerce in a physical store space, chances are that the internet in the form of e-commerce portals has been used for advance research and thus e-commerce has had a tangible influence and impact on the final purchase.
Last year over two-thirds of Australian consumers made at least one online purchase and in a typical month a quarter of Australian shoppers made between $200 and $499 of online purchases. The latest figures show a 2.2 percent increase from last year in traditional retail sales, yet a whopping 26 percent growth in e-commerce sales. Over 90 percent of the Australian population reports having internet access and over three-quarters say that they go online daily for activities such as social media and online shopping, spending an average of 100 minutes per week engaged in online shopping and associated product research. Being so connected, it's hard to imagine not examining one's possible choices when debating a purchase.
Social Media Drives E-Commerce
Social media is a major driving force upon customers in their online research process for products and services and often the primary motivation for subscribing to a company's social channel is to receive discounts and product news and promotions. Over a third of Australians report searching for products via social media prior to making a purchase and nearly 10 percent of Australian consumers mention social media specifically as a strong factor in making purchase decisions.
The other huge motivator in the continued growth explosion of online sales is the increased prevalence of mobile phones amongst Australians. An impressive 94 percent of Australians said they had a mobile phone as of 2011, making Australians some of the heaviest smartphone users in the world. Australians also download and use a high percentage of phone apps, many of which are shopping assistant programs specially designed to facilitate e-commerce, such as store locators. In a recent survey done by Paypal, 70 percent of participants said they expected to use their phone for purchases, transactions, and payments in the upcoming future. In addition, the sale is often a multi-step process wherein the initial research is done through a phone app or mobile website and the sale then moves to a computer or retail storefront for the completion of the transaction.
Maximise Your E-Commerce Site’s Potential
Australian retailers have been traditionally slow to embrace the e-commerce model and develop web storefronts, yet as this channel of distribution only increases its market penetration, it becomes inevitable that they must adapt to survive in the global electronic marketplace lest they be surpassed be easily and cheaply acquired goods from outside sources such as eBay. Crucial components of a successful e-commerce portal include a well-developed and information-rich visual product catalog, as well as a user-friendly 'shopping cart' mechanism and a secure payment system. A well-designed e-store needs to provide an integrated and seamless shopping experience for the customer. While this may seem like an extra burden to develop and operate an additional store online, once established an e-commerce portal will only enhance one's website and overall electronic presence, thus providing a value beyond the sales directly received through the site.
When an e-commerce store is provided by an Australian company, nearly three-quarters of consumers will prefer to use the Australian site, citing factors such as service, communication, and delivery- even more so than price. In addition, nearly a third of consumers who research purchases online will then search for their nearest location to complete the transaction in person. In other words, Australians want to purchase from Australian companies provided that those companies provide the e-commerce capabilities that customers prefer.
For Australian retailers, the conversation should not be about 'if' they want to develop an e-commerce site, or even 'when'. Rather, they must be on a course for 'how' or find themselves quickly removed from consideration by their e-commerce savvy customer base.
About the Author
Jill Watkins is a blogger, a traveler, a tour leader, and a mom. With a background in sales, customer service, internet marketing, and social media, she has her finger on the pulse of today's trends- as well as tomorrow's. When she's not out on tour, she's often found writing articles for businesses such as Automatic Upload, who exemplify how a personal touch is needed into today's electronic world. Located in Brisbane, Automatic Upload makes things easy with their integrated approach to web design, social media, SEO, e-commerce, and all components of an online marketing strategy.www.automaticupload.com.au.