It’s evident that online is changing the way consumers are shopping. But relative to some other developed economies, the e-commerce market in Australia is still a fairly young one, according to a report from IBM.

According to the IBM Coremetrics: Australia Online Retail Q1 2012 report, while there has been a spike in the number of people shopping online, discriminating visitors are spending less time browsing retail sites than they did a year ago (average online session length dropped from 5:37 minutes in Q1 2011 to just under five minutes in Q1 2012). In comparison with the global average, Australian online shoppers spend nearly 2 minutes less than the rest of the world.

“This is likely an indication that consumers are shopping more surgically; zeroing in quickly on the items they want. It is likely also an indication of the increase in visitors going to sites via their mobile devices. The average session length for mobile is nearly half that of traditional online channels,” IBM reported. .

To counter these trends and shrunken windows of engagement, IBM has suggested retailers may want to consider redoubling efforts to make sites personalised and compelling.

“Use of personalised product recommendations, product review sections, and social media are generally accepted as good techniques to lengthen site visits Retailers should also revisit fundamental web analytics and A/B testing to help optimise site navigation and the overall experience,” IBM said.

The report also found Australian shoppers have taken to mobile online shopping and is outstripping similar trends being seen in other parts of the world.

Sales via mobile devices in Australia — at 5 per cent of all site sales in Q1 2011 has now exploded to drive more than 20 per cent of online sales in Q1 2012. A similar, but slower and smaller trend is evident in the rest of the world where mobile devices doubled from being 7 per cent of sales in Q1 2011 to over 13 per cent in Q1 2012.

“This take-up rate in Australia is impressively high and illustrates that consumers are using iPhones, iPads, Android and other tablet devices for more than just finding directions to a store,” IBM said.

However, retailers continue to face the challenge of being able to keep consumers engaged on a site once they’re there. One measure for this is the bounce rate and historically Australia had a much higher bounce rate than other parts of the world, the report indicates.

This trend may be due to the slow take up and low experience levels of the online marketers in Australia. There appears to be a marked improvement in this measure as local experts emerge, learn from the overseas experience and employ smarter tactics (like personalised cross sell recommendations) to engage website visitors.