The Internet is by no means new, yet it continues to change the way we behave.

I might be biased given my profession, but there’s no greater example of this than the ecommerce industry. And whether it’s retailers driving consumer behaviour, or vice versa, what’s important to note here is the number of ways we can now shop. The ecommerce space continues to evolve and change, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity for Australian retailers.  

With the number of channels now available to consumers, retailers need to make sure they’re on their A-game at all times. The shopping experience has expanded, just as the world has shrunk in size. Assuming they’re happy to cover the cost of GST (and wait for delivery), Australians now have access to a multitude of global retailers.

Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have also set up shop on our shores, connecting Australians with smaller independent retailers both domestically and abroad.

Lastly (but by no means least), the success of platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram have given rise to yet another ecommerce opportunity, social selling.

But what does this all mean for consumers in Australia, and how should retailers be responding? We recently commissioned research looking at the shopping behaviours of Australians, Americans and Brits, which revealed a number of key local trends:

eBay still on top when it comes to online shopping

While Amazon’s global presence continues to grow, its influence in Australia is still far weaker than in other regions.

According to our research, 78 per cent of shoppers in the US, UK and Australia made a purchase on Amazon in the last six months. However, look at Australia in isolation and only 24 per cent of respondents admitted to having made a purchase on Amazon in the same period.

eBay, on the other hand, is thriving in Australia. Sixty-three per cent of Australian respondents said they’d made a purchase on the marketplace in the last six months, only two percentage points lower than the number of respondents (65 per cent) that made a purchase in a physical store.

However, things might be about to change on that front. It’s recently been announced that Amazon will be re-launching in the Australian market, with an expanded range of branded products including TV’s. We’ll have to wait and see how things pan out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big push by Amazon as it enters the most lucrative sales period of the year.

Aussies sticking by local retailers

The reason for Amazon’s slower growth in Australia has been attributed to many different factors, but a possible one could be that Australians tend to support local brands and businesses over global giants. The majority of Aussie respondents (57 per cent) felt the presence of more global retailers entering the market did not impact their decision to buy from local merchants, which is perhaps why new arrivals like H&M and Zara aren’t having the same strong impact as predicted.

However, this doesn’t mean Aussie retailers should be resting on their laurels. These new market entrants boast sizeable marketing budgets, competitive pricing and slick omnichannel strategies to reach their target customers, wherever they happen to be browsing. Aussie retailers should be seeking to compete on all of the same fronts, to ensure they facing down the challenge from global retailers and making the most of shifting consumer habits. Australians are increasingly blurring the lines between bricks and clicks, but both still have an important role to play.

The end isn’t nigh for stores

In Australia, it appears that in-store experiences are not falling victim to the rise of online shopping. Instead, the two appear to be coexisting peacefully. At least for now.

According to our research, Aussie consumers rely heavily on digital tools to aid decisions before making the journey to purchase in-store. Insights from the survey indicated that nearly half (48 per cent) of Australian respondents visited a brand’s website before making a purchase in store, and another 28 per cent read online customer reviews about the brand or product.

What this all means for Australian retailers is that it’s more important than ever to connect with consumers across different platforms simultaneously. In order to truly maximise this opportunity and to compete in the ever crowded retail market, all Aussie retailers should consider having an omnichannel solution. Utilising all touchpoints — from bricks-and-mortar to ecommerce sites including social channels and bigger marketplaces — will give retailers the best chance of succeeding in the Australian market and globally.

By Jordan Sim, Group Product Manager — BigCommerce