The retail landscape has been heating up in Australia over the past three years and if you haven’t noticed, you’re missing out. These battles happening in the retail stratosphere are only having positive effects on our Australian wallets. Large Australian well known stores like David Jones are still somewhat reluctant to embrace online shopping in its entirety, but with increased competition it's all changing.
Other traditional stores like Harvey Norman and Woolworths, for example, have now fully embraced innovation to improve our shopping experiences. Analyst firm Telsyte’s senior analyst (Steven Noble) said that retailer's online offerings have “moved forward incredibly rapidly”, experiencing a 12% increase year on year.
Last year Australians spent $28.4 billion dollars buying goods online or through a subscription, which was a 12%, increase compared to 2014, Telsyte reported. However, eWay the global payments platform has already reported a significant increase this year, recording levels closer to 22% for the first quarter of 2015. The increase is being driven by retailers who are becoming cleverer in marketing their products and services to customers beyond the basic website platform. Innovation within the marketing space has seen large retailers target customers directly on their mobile phones and even on the latest technology, smartwatches. This news is a breath of fresh air, especially as PRWire’s recent report stated that “In Australia, almost half of consumers (47% of respondents) have shopped internationally more than three times in the past 12 months.” “If local e-retailers provide a poor experience, Australians are more likely to turn to international vendors for their shopping needs, which will impact the bottom line of local companies significantly.”
Innovation within iBeacon and RFID technology by large retailers for example can notify you when you walk past an item on your shopping list in store. Although these technologies sound interesting and very useful, it will take time before they become mainstream. So, for the time being the most popular companies today are still daily deal sites such as Catchoftheday or Living Social for example.
Roy Morgan Research’s ‘State of the Nation’ report in 2013 stated that “for the first time, Australians who don’t buy something online in an average three month period are in the minority.” The great thing about improving online experiences for customers is that it also enhances customer service. Answering questions customers may have has become easier, making information available to common questions or even having online chat staff available are all answers to so many of our needs. Dr. Sean Sands from Monash University said, “Retailers are finding new and innovative ways to service consumer demand by offering home delivery, Saturday delivery, pick-up and parcel box delivery options.” An example of this can be seen from Appliances Online who offer free delivery and collection of your old appliance as part of their standard service for online purchases. Customisation of shopping experiences has also been a big trend in Australia, enabling customers to chop and choose what they wish to receive. A great example of this is the variety of customisable packaging options offered by fresh food deliverers Hello Fresh and Aussie Farmers Direct.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, certain old-school retail giants, like David Jones, have been in less of a hurry to offer a superb online shopping experience to boost their overall service to customers. I'm sure I'm not the only one frustrated by frequent notices via their online shop indicating that certain stock is only available in-store, something I really hope we see improvement on in the near future. Astonishingly, DJ’s also still advise people online to call in and inquire about product availability, fit and style. This just indicates a lack of understanding the full value of having an online customer experience to help speed up the general shopping process for customers.
The strength of Australian dollar in the past encouraged customers to shop further afield in different countries. The benefit of the weakening dollar in recent times, however, is that local retailers are able to attract more foreign business. A recent statement by eWay founder and CEO Matt Bullock confirms just this: “With the Australian dollar down substantially on this time last year, the dollar value of physical purchases sent to international postcodes is up almost 30%.” This should improve retailer's economies of scale and allow them to provide better prices at home too over time.
The improving retail marketplace in Australia should hopefully encourage brands such as David Jones - who will this year be celebrating their 175th anniversary this year - to become more competitive. It would be a shame to see long standing brands such as DJ and Myer die out due to the Jurassic-like period they still base their business models around, something only 1930’s shopping habits would relish.