Australian retailers laggards in online retailing

Australian retailers are failing to capitalise on sales that could be gained from online retailing, while industry experts remain at odds over just how significant the mobile phone will be in the future shopping experience.  

The way in which technology will impact how people shop was a key discussion point among the panellists at the Mumbrella Question Time forum.

Peter Bray, The Brand Shop general manager, pointed to the phenomenon of “web-to-store” – a trend which he said is yet to be understood by Australian retailers.

“If someone has done their research online first, chooses your product then goes into the store to buy that product the volume of their purchase, the dollar figure they spend will be higher than if someone has just gone into your store without doing their research first,” Bray said.

“Online retail has not taken off in this country. The few retailers who actually take the lead and really integrate the digital channel as a direct sales channel and take advantage of it will be miles ahead. But for some reason it hasn’t happened.”

Jeremy Nicholas, BMF executive planning director said conversely, another trend is the way in which are consumers going into stores to shop around and then going online to purchase the product at a cheaper price.

He pointed to one case in the UK, where retailer Dicksons last year launched an ad campaign centred around this idea. Its ads, created by M&C Saatchi London, alluded to popular retailers where consumers could visit, such as John Lewis, and then go to its website to purchase it at a cheaper rate.

Nicholas said however, while online catalogue shopping has long been popular in markets such as the UK, Australians are “rubbish at it”.

The discussion over technology also brought up the role of the mobile phone within the shopping experience.

Bray conceded that while mobiles will be useful in helping navigate people on where to shop and provide them with locally-based services and information as they are walking past a store, the mobile will not be “the answer to everything”.

Roger Camplisson, Initiative chief executive, added if it can be used to improve the shopper’s experience and save time then mobile “technology has a role”.

Meanwhile, Iain McDonald, Amnesia Razorfish creative director and founder, said the next ten years will see a transformation in the way people shop.

He said the agency has rolled out the Microsoft Surface in AT&T stores in the US. They are multi-touch point tables consumers can use to compare prices of mobile phones, replacing the need for face-to-face interaction with a sales person.

“Not everyone wants to be hassled by a sales guy and we’re starting to get measurement around this and see how we’re uplifting sales by not interrupting with the face-to-face experience,” he said.

In Australia, ANZ is trialling the Microsoft Surface at its sponsored events. It is being rolled out by M&C Saatchi in in conjunction with the developers at Object Consulting.

McDonald added the future will see a more dynamic shopping experience.

“We’re not using technology at the moment to change the pricing dynamically for instance. That’s something theoretically we should be able to click a button and adjust the prices of products – the same way petrol changes its pricing. I think we’ll see more of that in probably among FMCG products, as we know people are more likely to buy washing powder on a Friday for example.”

McDonald predicted: “Ten years from now we’ll probably be having a bit of a laugh at some of the ways we’re shopping today.”


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