By Aimee Chanthadavong

A recent survey showed 70 per cent of Australians still prefer to shop locally. But the problem many online retailers still face is that they have not equipped themselves with the right solutions to provide the information and products customers are after.

Given that customers now have the ability to access product information more easily wherever they are, retailers have the responsibility to invest in scalable platforms that can support their growing online business, which can be accessible from multiple touchpoints – desktop or mobile.

Salmat Digital ecommerce principal consultant Ross Bark told RetailBiz retailers should be asking themselves two key questions when it comes to reassessing their online business, particularly at a time where brand loyalty does not exist.

“Two key points retailers should ask themselves are: ‘do you have an understanding of who are your customers?’ and ‘what journey do you want to take the customer on?’ If retailers can answer those questions and have the technology to help them they certainly will be able to lead in the space and we’re seeing a few examples of that already,” he said.

“I think the reality comes down to making sure they invest in the right platform that can support the business in its growth journey, which is what I think that has been really lacking here. That makes it difficult for retailers to keep up because then they’re always going to be playing catch up.”

The time to catch-up with the most up-to-date systems is even more crucial now that Christmas is just around the corner. It is a time where consumers are searching most for products and are either more likely to buy or abandon their cart and buy elsewhere.

According to Bark, the top two reasons for cart abandonment are unexpected delivery charges (65 per cent) and the lack of product information available (57 per cent). This suggests people shop with a retailer for various reasons and not solely on price — which is what a large part of the industry still believes.

At the same time, retailers need to create compelling and personalised experiences through the use of what Bark refers to as ‘smart data’ and not ‘big data’.

“At the end of the day it’s how you use that data to provide benefits to your customer and to be able to have consistent conversations and conversion rates,” he said.

“Streamlining the back-end processing is also another important point that will give retailers the ability to manage their products as they grow.”

One company that has been able to successfully bringing consistency to its customers is fashionable exercise retailer Lorna Jane, which recently launched a US website that is being managed in Australia. While it offers totally different products and has a completely different look and feel to the Australian website, the company’s online business still operates as one entity whether they’re accessing the website on their desktop, smartphone or tablet.

Another is retailer is Dick Smith where one in five of their customers use ‘click & collect’ when making a purchase. Since November last  year compared to November this year, the company’s online revenue has increased by 60 per cent because the average order value increased “quite significantly” as a result of being able to promote the right things to the right customers.

However, Bark admits it’s not an easy task to overhaul a system, which is why many retailers struggle.

“It’s not easy to implement an end-to-end system that offers personalised experiences for each customer,” he said.

“This is why it’s important to invest in very significant systems that are able to help you with it. A lot of retailers have been looking at these things and now through the acquisition of Netstarter we now have further capability to provide the end-to-end solution offering."