Australia has become the world’s most active online country, with almost half (48%) spending more time online this year, according to the Publicis Sapient Digital Life Index 2021.

The survey reveals that 62% of Australians searched for new products or services online, the highest in the world (compared to the global average of 55%). Respondents conducted an average 7.56 online transactions over the past three months compared to the global average of 7.05.

Despite the proliferation of mobile shopping, the desktop experience remains the top method for online shopping, with more than half (55%) of Australians preferring to shop online on websites via a desktop instead of apps.

“The pandemic has undoubtedly played a significant role in accelerating digital transformation and the adoption of digital practices within the retail sector. Investing in the digital experiences has payoffs that translate directly into sales and revenue,” Publicis Sapient head of retail and consumer products, Bradley Grinlinton said.

When shopping online, Australians are more likely to buy from a brand that offers an easy-to-navigate interface on a website or mobile app (57%), while 46% show preference for an easy way to manage returns. The top listed frustrations of shopping online are out-of-stock products, poor search functionality, slow loading time and unclear site navigation that reiterate the need for seamless digital experiences for online retail.

However, the research also uncovered a marked change in how Gen Z respondents engaged with brands online with customer satisfaction scores 34% lower on average than the other generations. Digital Life Index findings pointed to Gen Z wanting brands to nail the foundational elements of a company’s digital presence before any other offers.

Gen Z wants everything optimised and on mobile apps too as 66% of them use smartphones for majority of purchases. Four in 10 (40%) reported making purchases via social media and are most likely to research a new product via social media. Although they are using social media to purchase more compared to other age groups, they still predominantly use online retailer websites and online marketplaces.

For Gen Z, the most important factors when shopping online are fast shipping (60%) and easy to navigate website or mobile app (45%), while the biggest frustrations are slow loading times (61%) and poor search functions (58%).

Features Gen Z want retailers to provide include personalised offers based on spending preferences (45%), cashback partnerships tied to favourite products or brands (42%) and personalised content/advice to help shop (40%).

The Gen Z -specific aspects of the research indicate that an optimised digital offering makes for better consumer experiences, according to Grinlinton.

“They are placing comparatively more importance on personalisation and in-store digital experiences such as augmented and virtual reality. As the Gen Z consumer get accustomed to seamless digital experiences, they will stay away from brands whose digital experience does not meet or exceed their expectations,” he said.