Australia experienced a huge shift in the way it purchased goods and services in 2020. According to Australia Post’s December Inside Australian Online Shopping, November was the largest online shopping month ever recorded in our country with online purchases up 20.8% compared to the same time in 2019.
This trend is set to continue this year.
Further research released in Experian’s second Global Insights Report indicated a third of Australians anticipate their online spending habits will increase over the next 6 to 12 months.
For brick and mortar businesses the challenge has, and will continue to be, how to migrate the real-life experience to a virtual one.
Bringing the physical online
The logistics may on paper seem straightforward, but for independents and large retailers alike, the focus should be on consumer experience. Our research shows with increased online traffic, the bar has also been raised with just over half of Australians saying they now have higher expectations of their digital experiences. A virtual experience that matches, if not surpasses that of real life, is what could make or break a sale.
Let’s take a jewelry store for example. How best can they capture a wonderfully designed showroom filled with beautiful pieces sparkling brightly on a web page; how can a welcoming smile be built into a chat bot; and how can deep product knowledge and a considered, tailored recommendation be delivered online? Or an electronics store, transferring the guidance of a sales assistant online for when the choice of products can be overwhelming, and customers rely on humans to help navigate their decisioning process.
Consider the customer’s transition journey
If a customer doesn’t know a business exists online, they won’t be able to find it. Furthermore, those who are familiar with brick and mortar may have difficulty navigating to online pages or using them effectively. It’s vital to consider a strategy to migrate these existing customers over to the online platform by raising awareness and offering instructions on how they can engage with the virtual brand.
Speed is key
When a customer enters a store, they see the item they want, they purchase it, they take it home. With online there is a delay, and not just for delivery. Our research has shown that less than half of Australian consumers are willing to wait more than 60 seconds before abandoning an online shopping cart. It takes only a click and they can shift to a competitor. Having a robust user experience from the home page to payment to delivery is essential to attract and retain customers.
Lastly, as consumers and businesses increased their reliance on online throughout 2020, we have also witnessed an increased number of cyberattacks on companies and individuals. This shone through in our research – 43% of Australians said they felt like they were more of a target for online fraud now than pre-COVID.
While businesses can be perilous to the more complex cyberattacks, protection against the smaller scale fraudsters at each stage of the customer lifecycle is entirely possible, and crucial. At the end of the day, mutual trust is required to forge healthy, long-term customer relationships and an incidence of fraud can undermine this trust and have irrevocable impacts on businesses.
Making predictions for 2021 feels little novel given what happened with 2020. However, the statistics say online spending will only increase, and those businesses who can blend their brick and mortar with a virtual presence and continue to invest in this experience, while ensuring the best online security for themselves and their customers, will set themselves up for success.
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By Mathew Demetriou, General Manager Decision Analytics, Experian A/NZ
 Australia Post’s December Inside Australian Online Shopping update report