By Aimee Chanthadavong

There is just over a month to go before Christmas Day and the Christmas shopping rush has already started – online.

Research from IBM shows Australia has consistently the UK and US in mobile traffic to retail websites for the 12 months ending March 2013, reaching a high of 30.2 per cent of all site traffic in December 2012 and March 2013. Australians are also more so keen on using their smartphones and tablets to visit retail sites to browse products, compare pricing and availability, and purchase goods than UK and US shoppers.

But in terms of sales over mobile devices, Australia lagged behind the UK, though it was ahead of the US. As of March 2013, mobile devices accounted for 20.1 per cent of all online sales in Australia, compared to 23.5 per cent in the UK and 17.7 per cent in the US.

Ian Wong, IBM Solutions retail, told RetailBiz Australian retailers clearly have opportunities to take advantage of the national penchant for mobile usage.

“When you think of mobile there needs to be an integration of the customer experiences across all devices, not just mobile. But in saying that, a mobile site needs to have the full branding and off the full range so it acts as an extension of the brand promise,” he said.

The research of the second annual Australia Online Retail Holiday Readiness report also showed Australia lags substantially behind the UK and US in conversion. For instance, Australian retailers converted just 0.9 per cent of site visits in August 2012, nearly five times less than the 4.7 per cent conversion rate in the US that same month. Conversion performance in Australia picked up after August 2012, however, rising to 2.3 per cent in March 2013.

“All the hard work has already been done in preparation for this Christmas,” Wong said.

“For example, over the past year the two department stores have offered click and collect as an option while another one offers same day delivery. By seeing greater capabilities in delivery methods and fulfilment we’ve seen an increase in ranges online. So what they’re doing in the back end is being integrated also to the front end. This will really drive mobile shoppers because you want a range that means something you.

“Also, you need to build trust so you need to offer deliveries of consumers’ purchases in ways they want it, whether it’s picking it up in-store or delivering it to their home.”

At the same, Australian shoppers have averaged about four items per order since September 2012, which is slightly ahead of the UK but well off from the US where a record high of 10.5 items per order was recorded in March 2013.

Wong suggests a key strategy to increase basket size is to offer free shipping on orders.

“Checkout is just the start of the shopping experience,” he said.

“The shopping experience timeline starts at marketing upfront to communicate the range, then there’s a brief moment spent online and then there’s the process of picking, packing and shipping it to the customer.

“So what free shipping does is adds value to shopper experience and that’s what shopping is about an experience.”

As for those who will be doing the shopping online, Appliances Online annual Online Christmas Shopping survey, conducted by Galaxy Research, show men, baby boomers and low-income households are experiencing the biggest spike in the intention to purchase online. 

Peter Harris, Appliances Online COO, said the online retail sector could experience strong sales for November and December, as more Australians choose to shop online this Christmas.

“Our research reveals that online retailers can be quietly confident this Christmas, as more Australians are seeing online as a reliable and efficient way to shop. Between work celebrations and seeing family and friends it can be difficult to make time to get to the shops at Christmas. So it’s no surprise that a record number of Australians, from all ages, states and incomes, are embracing the choice, convenience and flexible delivery online retail has to offer.

“It’s clear older generations are becoming more confident shopping online and although Gen Y will continue to be the largest online shoppers this Christmas, the number of baby boomers planning to shop with online retail outlets is at an all-time high.

“There will also be a significant increase in the purchasing power of men and Australians living outside of metropolitan areas, who are embracing the virtues of online shopping this festive season. It’s also interesting to see that amongst all household incomes, those earning $40,000 and below have experienced the largest increase up 16 per cent from 2012. This suggests price conscious consumers are increasingly looking online to save money.”

To encourage and make shop online simpler, eBay consumers will be driven to a dedicated Christmas website,, to see the top keyword searchers and the products that are suggested to find inspiration this Christmas.

The company expects that for Christmas 2013 the vast majority of presents from will be brand new products in the ‘buy it now’ format from well-known retailers such as General Pants, Super Cheap Auto and Dick Smith.

But with all this talk of Christmas online shopping, cybercriminals see this is as the opportunity to steal personal information, earn fast cash, and spread malware, warning retailers need to ensure their customers are protected this holiday season.

“The potential for identity theft increases as consumers share personal information across multiple devices that are often under protected,” said Sean Duca, Enterprise Solutions Architect, McAfee APAC.

“Understanding criminals’ mindsets and being aware of how they try to take advantage of consumers can help ensure that we use our devices the way they were intended – to enhance our lives, not jeopardise them.”