Online shopping: a new playing field for retailers

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Competitive prices and fast, reliable delivery top the list of ‘must-haves’ for shoppers on online retail sites, according to a new survey.

The EY Customer Experience Series™ – Online Retail found online sites must get ‘the fundamentals’ right to be successful including ‘prompt delivery’ (30%), ‘good deals / prices’ (18%) and ‘getting orders right first time’ (14%). If the site doesn’t deliver the basics, one in four shoppers will abandon the purchase immediately after their initial search for information.

The online shopping survey is the third in EY’s Customer Experience Series™ developed to investigate consumer decision-making in key sectors focusing on the pain-points and opportunities. The results draw upon comparisons with the findings of the same survey conducted 12 months ago.

Consumer expectations around ‘getting the basics right’ applied regardless of whether the site was Australian or international.

Supporting local online stores just lip service for Australians

However, the idea of supporting Australian-based online stores is paid lip service, with Australians not automatically defaulting to shopping from domestic online sites.

This is mainly because it is not simply a case of ‘if we build it, they will come’. Online shoppers can be unforgiving. If you don’t have the basics right at the outset, people will abandon your site at the very first step - and you’ll have to work doubly hard to get them to come back.

The survey found 57% of Australians agree they would prefer to support local sites, however, 43% either didn’t agree or didn’t care. However, 46% agree it doesn’t matter whether the site is Australian or international.

The research confirmed that while Australians felt the origin of where something was made or where the business was based was important, value for money always won out.

When judging the reputation of a business, 47% of Australians considered value for money number one versus 24% who believe ‘Australian owned’ is most important. The same values could apply to shopping online from Australian retailers as opposed to overseas ones.

Previously ‘Australian Made’ would invoke an element of national pride, but it has a different transactional value now.

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Increased transparency upping the ante

The very nature of online shopping means there is a new transparency in global pricing for Australian consumers. There is now a great deal more insight into how much things cost in global markets, so Australians are less willing to put up with significant disparities in cost.

While the gap is beginning to close, we can’t continue to underestimate the importance of competitive prices and value to the Australian consumer. This is as relevant now given continued volatility and low consumer confidence as well as during good times.

Australian shoppers now have a more global mindset and see online as a ‘level playing field’ with 54% believing Australian retailers should offer the same prices as overseas.

While clearly important, price is not the end game. Whether local or overseas, the successful sites will tick all the boxes when it comes to the basics, but will also engage with consumers at an emotional and more personalised level.

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Lifestyle trends are changing the retail landscape

Key lifestyle and leisure trends emerging over the past decade had contributed to the adoption of online shopping. And while only 60% of Australians had taken the plunge online, undoubtedly the growth of online continues to soar.

Australians are time poor and they’re feeling an increasing ‘lack of control’ over their lives and don’t like complex decision-making. This means they default to the simplest tools that help them in their everyday decisions - such as online shopping. Given financial pressure, it makes sense that money is a key motivator for both researching and purchasing online.

Australians have always strongly adopted technologies which make life easier, be it for convenience, money and time saving as well as affording people more control.

While online shopping was perceived as more time-saving than ‘going to the shops’, time continued to be the main stumbling block to uptake. The key ‘sticking points’ were searching for information and the first contact made with an organisation online.

Time is both a key advantage and a key barrier to online.

Shopping online doesn’t fulfill consumers’ need for ‘instant gratification’ and that will be an ongoing challenge.

It’s a double-edged sword. While Australian consumers are demanding more choice they’re also paralysed by it. The allure of the ‘virtual shopping centre’ is in its excitement, convenience and the fact it offers a break from a generally homogenous retail environment in Australia.

The online retail findings are based on both quantitative and qualitative data collected from 625 respondents across Australia. The Series draws upon the findings of a 20-year Australian social values study, AustraliaSCAN which identifies key social trends and cultural change.

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For more information please see EY Customer Experience Series™ – Online Retail.