Click the halls for Christmas commerce, tra la la la la, la la la la

Online shopping enjoyment at Christmas

The joy of online shopping – another box of goodies arrives

With online sales up 25 per cent Australiawide, smart retailers are either lifting their in-store service levels to provide a compelling alternative or they are moving into the online space themselves to be where the action is.

What smart retailers are NOT doing is belly aching about competition from overseas retailers. And there is good reason for this more rational position:

MOST Australian online sales involve LOCAL businesses.

In a Marketing Magazine review of the Australian retail landscape last month, it was revealed that local retailers are securing close to 72 per cent of of total online sales, and that share is GROWING faster than overseas competitors.

From a marketing perspective, this confirms some very important insights, namely that consumers are not driven online simply to hunt down cheaper prices but rather because ordering online is more convenient.

I don’t believe consumers are necessarily going above and beyond the call of duty in trying to choose Australian retailers.

So let’s look more closely at what is happening and think about how you might plan for 2013.

What’s driving Australians to shop online?

My reflection is that as more local traders start acknowledging that more of us are browsing they are experimenting with online sales or orders.

This is urgently needed because of two phenomena:

  1. Internet usage spikes between 7pm and 10pm because that is when most people get a chance to retreat from the physical world and relax in the virtual world
  2. Screen concurrency is rife in Australia, which means many of us are in front of two or more ‘screens’ at once, whether it is a computer and a smart phone or a television and a tablet (iPad)

These two factors combine to produce the trend of online shopping happening increasingly between 7pm and 11pm, just at the time that many consumers  are flopped in front of the TV with a smart device in their hands or on their laps.

Retailers who firstly make their products and services easy to find and compare online benefit strongly from this trend, as do those who time their social media content to occur during this time slot.

This doesn’t mean retailers need to be in the office all night. Instead it means making use of tools like Hootsuite for crafting and scheduling social media content go live when the majority of consumers are trawling their social habitats.

I believe this trend is occurring because technology is becoming more intuitive and shopping time during business hours is becoming rarer due to the fact that many of us are working harder and longer hours.

The great Click Frenzy debacle last month, which had a frenzy of Australian consumers melt down an online sales website within hours, shows the hunger and interest is there.

What to ponder during the silent nights of summer?

The question worth pondering over the summer period for all retailers is: what aspects of my product/service range could I make available online for research, comparison, ordering and/or purchasing?

There are many ways to create an online sales interface without breaking the bank, and we will continue exploring them on this blog over the next 12 months.

For now, consider these two developments:

  • Only 35 per cent of Australian retailers take orders online
  • Consumers are less tolerant of bad service in store and will punish such experiences with publicity in social networks and redeployment of spending money to the online sector

The first factor shows there is still advantage in taking sales or orders online – many of your competitors don’t which means they will be excluded from the purchase decision process for many consumers.

The second factor is already evident and, as one acquaintance of mine shared in Facebook last week:

I am getting far better customer service online than in real shops. I tried to buy my wife’s perfume at a department store yesterday, and being a bloke, the perfume ladies would not serve me after 5 minutes of trying – so guess what I got it online instead – and cheaper!!!). Having spent far too much this Xmas, I must say most of my $ went online again with really good service experience (all items have arrived on time and exchanges handled pre-Xmas)…

Of course, it is not all happiness.

Warning bells, warning bells, be careful ‘fore you pay

[UPDATE: On December 18, responded to my email and has painlessly arranged a refund. Net result is that eCommerce can again hold its head high, from a consumer’s perspective.]

On April 7, 2012, I paid $105.65 to for some new touch pens (they boast some innovative features). A couple of ‘problems with production’ emails have been received since then, delaying shipping dates from May, to July, to August, but now emails to them are going unanswered and I can only fear (as a consumer) that I have been diddled.

Of course, it might all be above board, but this is the knife edge we play on as eCommerce merchants – consumers are trusting an entity they cannot reach out and touch and so any delays or ‘surprises’ are often met with anxiety, dread and, sometimes, anger.

That said, our household spends at least 50 per cent of its purchase budget online, due mainly to convenience, primarily, range, and price. And these take place without issue.

Perhaps, in the remaining days of the 2012 shopping season, the wise men and women of retailing might keep an ear out for comments by customers about convenience, features, delivery, pricing, etc, that could lead to some opportunities worth exploring in the new year.

Some might even google their types of products and services like a consumer would, to get a fresh snapshot of what’s on offer and see the world through their market’s eyes.



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