One-third of Australians anticipate their online spending to increase in the coming months with a similar proportion (32%) believing they will continue shopping online over the next six to 12-month period, new research from global information services company Experian has revealed.

This aligns with the trend in ABS figures showing a rise in online retail sales month-on-month for July and August 2020, and a 74.5% surge in September 2020 compared with the same time last year.  

However, over half (53%) of Australians have higher expectations in online digital experience now compared to pre-COVID. One example is the speed of online transacting, with less than half willing to wait more than 60 seconds before abandoning an online transaction.

Positively, 9 in 10 consumers surveyed said businesses have met their expectations thanks to a greater amount of information online enabling more opportunities to self-serve and reducing the need to contact customer service teams.

Access to real people has also improved, with a fifth of respondents thinking it is easier to speak to a call centre now compared to pre-pandemic. Australian consumers also feel they now receive quicker responses from customer service representatives (27%) or there is now a seamless way to connect with someone who can help (31%). 

“Almost all businesses, regardless of sector, had to step up and offer flexibility and empathetic service this year, with many revising the way they communicate and serve their customers,” Experian general manager for decision analytics, Mathew Demetriou said.

“Many brought call centres back on-shore at the start of the pandemic or worked on ways to free up their call centres, and our data captures the positive affect these changes have had on the customer experience.”

The study also highlighted how three in four Australian businesses have plans in place to help customers out of arrears. This comes as 43% of Australians are having difficulty paying their bills for credit cards, utilities, mobile or internet as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 24% of people saying they have reduced their spending altogether.

A further third of Australians have reduced their discretionary spend in order to manage their finances while 1 in 10 have started to put more cash away in an emergency fund or developed a personal budget to control cashflow. 11% reported having cancelled subscriptions or memberships.

“With this knowledge, Australian businesses need to understand their customers more than ever to avoid putting additional pressure on those already feeling the financial burden of COVID-19.”