One in two retailers (50%) expect a slump in sales revenue as consumer spending dips and 91% of online retailers fear a raft of business challenges are set to strike, according to a new survey commissioned by CouriersPlease.
In addition to 50% of retailers expecting a drop in sales, two in five (40%) expect sales to stagnate and just 10% expect an increase in sales.
By business size, the data showed that small retailers are the most concerned about inflation and rising interest rates with 57% anticipating a drop in sales. Medium-sized businesses are the least concerned, with 42% saying the same. Large businesses are the most confident about a sales revenue jump, at 18% of respondents. 
Across all businesses, the report found cash flow availability ranks as the biggest concern among retailers, with more than one-third (36%) of online retailers saying a drop in customer spending would exacerbate this challenge. 33% expect to face customer retention challenges, while one in three (29%) anticipate overhead cost struggles.
CouriersPlease CEO, Richard Thame said, “Our research highlights some of the major pain points plaguing retailers, particularly smaller retailers. It comes after recent data confirmed inflation declined in the December quarter by slightly more than had been expected which was largely due to the slight dip in non-discretionary spending – a dip that might steepen over the coming year.
“That 10% of all retailers surveyed don’t expect an increase in sales this year tells us that Australian businesses are indeed bracing for impact; we know that appetite for online shopping remains strong and there are tools businesses can embrace to ease that strain. 
“While small businesses naturally fear being hit the hardest, our research shows they in fact have a unique opportunity to more than just survive the economic rollercoaster, but thrive with the help of AI technology and a better understanding of evolving shopper habits.”
Five tips for online retailers looking to fuel ecommerce success  
Social media and technology will be key to retaining consumers and boosting cashflow in the coming financial year, according to Thame, encouraging micro and small businesses to embrace social platforms.

  1. Know who is shopping and when – and what those buyers want: Consumers are buying more during the day than ever before, with most online shoppers purchasing from 2-5pm and Australians now spending an average of four hours online shopping a week. Shoppers also value sustainable retailers and Gen Y customers (aged 27-43) spend the most. Retailers should boost sustainable practices, offer click and collect options, easier returns and shorter waiting times.
  2. Strategically time your sales with the help of AI: Leverage data analytics to find the best time to run a promotion and tailor the deals to maximise relevance and engagement. This can be done quickly and cost-effectively with AI sales tools. For small businesses with limited resources, AI for content marketing is a game-changer for writing copy, creating images, scheduling time and more.
  3. Boost customer retention with loyalty programs: Don’t have a loyalty program? Then get one. Figures show that 95% of Australians are members of one or more loyalty program, with 18% reporting increased usage over the past year. Another 45% say loyalty programs make them visit retailers more. Loyalty program software is a way to implement this cheaply and easily. Small businesses could offer rewards for members who make fewer returns, for example.
  4. Get an omnichannel presence through pop-ups: Social media is king for ecommerce retailers with Australians shopping through social media channels more than ever. A pop-up store can help businesses get a physical presence without immense overheads, as well as test potential new markets. Create a unique point of difference – such as a freebies or Insta-friendly photo opportunities – can build brand recognition. 
  5. Use final sales as a cost-saving strategy: Buyers love a bargain, and final sales are a way to help savvy shoppers nab a deal and for businesses to clear inventory. Industry data shows only one-third of businesses utilise this tactic but it’s important not to throw sustainability out the window. A lot of businesses have a ‘no returns’ policy with final sales but this adds stress to customers. Consider bringing back a customer and environmentally friendly refund policy and offering rewards to customers who trade in pre-loved items.