The federal government has given $2.1 million to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to track spending from domestic and overseas online retailers, as well as 'multi-channel' retailers that sell online and from traditional bricks and mortar outlets. 

In its 2010 report into retailing, the Productivity Commission found that while the proportion of retail spending undertaken online remains relatively small, at around six per cent of total retail spending, it is expected to continue to grow over time as consumers and retailers become increasingly comfortable doing business in an e-commerce environment.

Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said this data would help inform public policy and followed on from the inaugural meeting of the Retail Council of Australia, which he chairs.

"This funding will allow the ABS to track trends in online sales growth and provide better data to the Government and industry," he said.

"The retail sector is a major employer and contributor to the Australian economy. While it faces a number of significant challenges, online retailing presents enormous opportunities for traditional bricks and mortar retailers to expand and innovate.

"It also provides Australian consumers with access to greater choice and competitive pricing."

Domestic online shopping figures will be reported on a monthly basis, as these will be collected as part of the existing ABS monthly retail trade survey, while it is expected that figures for online purchases of imported goods will be reported annually, based on data provided by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, and Australia Post.

It is anticipated that an information paper will be published in early 2013 to provide a snapshot of some preliminary survey results on online retail spending, while the first full data set is expected to be published in November 2013.