Australian online retail sales are expected to exceed $33 billion by 2017 and the propensity for Australians to shop online beyond our borders increases the potential value. Advances in online payment convenience and security are also evolving with the advent of digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Apple’s newly launched contactless payment technology.
In Connected Life 2014, TNS found 45 per cent of Australian shoppers use the internet weekly to conduct product research but just 28 per cent actually purchase those products online.
Moving from online research to online purchase ought to be seamless, because when the hard work of gaining consumer attention and engagement online is done, the decision to purchase has largely been made.
So what is stopping people from purchasing online?
The key barriers to online purchase in Australia include concerns about product quality, the costs of delivery, a preference to actually touch products and a desire to have things immediately. Despite the advances in online payment security, 53 per cent of shoppers still cite this as a major concern. In many other cases, there is simply no e-commerce solution offered, or consumers are researching on mobile devices but prefer to transact on their PC.
So with just about everyone with an online presence jostling for elbow room, it will be the brands and retailers who offer solutions that anticipate and address these barriers who will greatly expand the range of shopping missions that e-commerce can meet and so capture the sales growth.
Different categories, different gaps
Unfortunately, where e-commerce is concerned there is no true one size fits all solution, with barriers varying significantly across categories.
To showcase the importance of specific category insights in order to close the e-commerce gap, let’s consider two major categories: financial services and technology.
When looking to purchase financial services products, 64 per cent of Australians identified trust and security concerns as a key barrier, while just over half cited “personal experience”.
While the industry is making strong inroads into security solutions, the opportunity to move customer service onto digital platforms will give a considerable competitive advantage to those providers who convince customers that their digital interaction delivers a comparable experience to branch or telephone engagement.
In the technology sector, 60 per cent of Australians who recently purchased a smartphone conducted online research in anticipation of their purchase. In addition to security concerns, the key to closing the e-commerce gap for technology products lies in addressing quality reassurance, which is a concern for a quarter of Australians, and cutting down on delivery costs for bulky items, an issue that undermines the perceived benefits of buying online for 24 per cent of shoppers.
Mind the gap
Retailers and brands are on the cusp of huge growth potential if they review and prioritise their e-commerce strategy, address category barriers, and motivate those engaging with their website to complete their purchase while already in the online store.
The Iconic, an Australian-based online fashion retailer, has a clear understanding of its market and what motivates customers to purchase online, while Dick Smith has implemented a ‘scan to buy’ app from its catalogues – a tech solution from the ‘techsperts’.
Those that succeed in closing the gap will be those that build an e-commerce environment that offers a seamless but engaging experience, is trustworthy, delivers transparency in payment security, offers good delivery options, and creates a good experience across all devices (computer, mobile and tablet).
In addition, those that best understand the very specific remaining barriers for their category and customers and adopt appropriate solutions will ensure greatest success as online shopping continues to mature.
Peter Firth is a director at TNS, the world’s largest shopper insights agency. He advises on growth strategies around new market entry, innovation, brand switching and stakeholder management.