Australian traffic to ecommerce sites continues to accelerate despite local consumers being largely free of lockdowns from the start of this year, according to data from web analytics and traffic intelligence platform, Similarweb.

When comparing online traffic to Australia’s top 100 ecommerce sites in Q1 2019 (pre-COVID) to Q1 2020 (COVID), there was an increase of 10.5%.

“Under normal circumstances, an increase of more than 10% in traffic would be remarkable… but it pales in comparison to the increase on the other side of COVID, which saw Australian ecommerce traffic surge by more than 42% in the first quarter of this year,” Similarweb vice president for Australia and New Zealand, Emmanuel Heymann said.

“Not only has traffic increased, but so has the conversion rate which is now more than 6.5% higher than it was 12 months ago.”

More Australians are shopping online, and purchasing more online than ever before, so where, and how, are consumers finding what they’re looking for?

More than half of all customer journeys now begin at the search engine. Traffic acquisition – through both organic and paid search channels – increased when compared to pre-pandemic levels. The only other channel to grow compared to pre-pandemic was referrals through affiliate marketing, with declines in the traffic from display ads, email marketing, direct traffic, and social media.  

“These trends seem to be saying that over the past 18 months, online shoppers are now more proactive – preferring to research products or categories themselves, rather than being enticed with more direct marketing tactics,” Heymann said.

When it comes to search engine behaviour, there’s an important trend developing which could be useful for all ecommerce operators.

“The relatively recent introduction of ‘Shopping Ads’ to the top of search engine results has impacted user behaviour. With image-based shopping ads now appearing before both Search Ads and Organic results, Australian consumers are starting to adapt with click-throughs from these ads growing more than 50%.

“This also includes ads listed in the ‘shopping tab’ under Google searches which Google made free-to-use for Australian merchants in October last year, highlighting how important every bit of digital shelf space, regardless of which online sector an eCommerce business serves.”

Another important trend Similarweb data uncovered was behaivoural shifts in how Australian consumers are paying for online goods.

“Over the past year there has been an increasing appetite for buy now pay later services, which we can see by comparing the traffic to the sign-up pages of the four top BNPL players against credit card application page traffic to the big four banks. While more people visited credit card sign up pages overall, traffic declined 2.61% over the period. Buy Now Pay Later, on the other hand, surged by more than 20%.”