Frost & Sullivan have identified the Australian consumer ecommerce market as being undeveloped and lagging both the US and UK markets by approximately three years.
The market is expected to reach $12 billion for the 2010 calendar year. This figure excludes online services such as online ticketing and events, travel, music downloads and financial services. It equates to per capita expenditure of approximately $536 per year, which is slightly behind the US and UK markets.
The report, Australian Ecommerce Market 2010, analysed consumer online purchasing of tangible products. It included the results of a survey of more than 1000 active online consumers in order to provide purchasing information relating to five product categories: electronics, computers, books and CD/DVDs, jewellery and fashion accessories and clothing and footwear.
A key reason suggested for the lag in local activity is the lack of online presence by many of the large retail chains and department stores. Online retail consumer spending in Australia is expected to account for approximately 5% of total retail sales, however if spending overseas is excluded this could drop to about 3%. Despite initiatives shown by stores including Big W, JB HiFi and Dick Smith, the small number of ecommerce participants and a lack of sufficient internal support from senior management continue to inhibit progress in this area, according to the report. Frost & Sullivan suggests that the Australian market needs to see the online launch of several retail chains within the next 12 to 24 months.
Further inhibitors to the development of a local ecommerce market included the strong physical store presence in the major cities, as well as Australian consumers’ limited acceptance of the typical online precursors such as mail order and catalogue sales. Security concerns were also mentioned, as one in 40 of the survey respondents indicated that their credit or debit card had been stolen in the last 12 months.
An Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA) study has found Australians non-voice/text mobile use is growing rapidly.
The report, ‘2009 Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index’, revealed 77% of respondents use their mobile phone for a purpose apart from texting and/or voice. The report suggests that once a service is trialled, it becomes integrated into normal usage:
61% of those that used MMS, used MMS at least once a month
62% of those that used email, used email at least once a month with almost 42% of these respondents using email daily
37% of those that used video calling, used video calling at least once a month, and
85% of those that used social networking, used social networking at least once a month, with 46% of these respondents using it at least once a day.
The study found market share remained consistent year-on-year for Nokia (47%) who is trailed by Sony at 12%, Samsung was third place at 11%. For the first time, Apple entered the report at 9% share.
Carrier satisfaction was high, said the report, with 90% of respondents satisfied with the service provided by their carrier. The cost of accessing data is the area in which most respondents were dissatisfied (51%), with just under a third saying their plan included a data allowance and only 43% had more than 50 megabytes allowance.
The report claims the Australian market is growing up in terms of knowledge and understanding of mobile phones and mobile services, with 63% of respondents revealing they had a 3G or 3.5G handset. Further to that point, 71% said they had used their mobile phone to access information and entertainment content at some point in the last 12 months. As for mobile ecommerce, 25% had used their handset for banking in the past year and 19% had used it to make payments in the last 12 months.
“Despite the global economic uncertainty of the past 12 months, the uptake of mobile services in Australia has not only survived but has grown in spite of it. Mobile phone services have now truly entrenched themselves as a commodity in the lives of many Australians,” said Dr Marisa Mackay, report author and director of m.Net.
Sportsgirl, in collaboration with digital agency Citrus, has launched Australia’s first online retail community.
As part of Sportsgirl’s ‘Speak Up’ campaign, the retail community is an attempt to socialise the ecommerce experience by providing customers with a voice. The creators are hoping the community will be a destination for discussion on fashion, style and culture. Users have interactive tools such as forums, blogs, vlogs, vox pops and polls.
The community aims to reinforce the online store, deepening brand engagement and encourages consumers to ‘stay and play’. The relaunch is supported by an in-store and external marketing push attempting to drive customers online.
“Building an online community is a key brand initiative this year and represents the merging of online and retail. It’s a great platform for experiencing the brand and we want to ensure we remain relevant with our customers and the way we communicate with them,” said Elle Roseby, CEO of Sportsgirl.
The site has been designed with a low barrier to entry in mind, allowing users to share content across other social media platforms.
Australian retailers must learn from the mistakes of their US counterparts if they are to reach and retain consumers online, according to Paul Marshall, executive director of Salmat DigitalForce.
Presenting at the Retail World Summit, Marshall warned retailers risked market share if they failed to synchronise across channels.
Some major American retailers faced negative consumer sentiment after establishing their online businesses as siloed operations. Separate management teams with different strategies and profit and loss statements lead to numerous customer service issues.
US retailers faced specific problems with customers attempting to return items bought online in-store. Unintegrated loyalty card programs also created issues when customers assumed their online purchases could generate rewards.
Marshall warned it is crucial not to lose sight of customer needs and that consumers have become channel neutral.
“The secret to succeeding in multi-channel is to take a holistic view of your customer that spans across channels and products… Taking a customer centric view in your strategies will ensure you don’t make similar mistakes that retailers have made in the US,” Paul said.
Ecommerce in Australia is expected to turnover approximately $18 billion this year.