Sunday, 5 January 2014

Shopping the Advantage

Christmas is packed away for another year but I will be looking back on 2013 as a year of unprecedented gift-giving success. This year, more so than any other, I felt totally satisfied that I had selected presents that each recipient would love, and as an added bonus, I ended up spending less than ever before, all thanks to the wonder of online shopping. 

I have arrived relatively late to the world of internet consumerism, always assuming I’d  prefer the buzz of a boutique to the faceless transaction of an online store. My conversion has been a gradual one prompted initially by necessity (finding affordable books in Melbourne, even a good book store come to that, is growing evermore challenging) but it is now, I confess my preferred method of shopping.

With online sales increasing by 11.9% between March 2012 and March 2013, I am not the only one changing my shopping habits. Australians who haven’t bought anything online in the last three months are now in the minority. With a global range of brands and the most competitive prices all available without the inevitable fight for a car-parking space and tedious queues at the checkouts, it’s easy to see why people are starting to favour e-commerce.

Cheaper than comparable Australian high street brands, Next offers free express shipping and competitive prices to appeal to the Australian market.

Figures reported in Roy Morgan’s State of the Nation Report in June 2013 show that shoppers who bought online in the last three months are increasingly less likely to go to an actual store. With the numbers of Australian’s purchasing online now in the majority, this is a worrying trend for the retail sector. 

The ABC has revealed that retail sales did indeed decline in the run up to Christmas with sales across all retail sectors down by 0.2%. The fashion sphere did fair better than most however, with footwear and accessories sales up by 4.2% and clothing up by 1%. Although with gift-giving being the primary reason for a seasonal spike in sales, the strength of these areas could be a reflection of the convenience of the returns policies of high street stores over the returns procedures of online sites.

Undoubtedly, traditional retailers have some advantage over their internet counterparts. The opportunity to try before you buy for example, avoiding the need for costly returns which, especially when returning goods to overseas companies, can actually cost more than the item itself! Despite our increasing reliance on the internet in our daily lives, 56% of Australians still don’t feel comfortable giving out their credit card details online, and then there is the question of customer service and expert advice, which retailers no doubt site top of their competitive advantage. Although, if my recent shopping experiences are anything to go by, helpful customer service on the high street is a thing of the past. 

There is however, much to be said for brand familiarity. My first online purchases were from the websites of stores I know and love, and whilst I do venture elsewhere, those sites are still my first port of call. It would seem this is a common pattern too, with two thirds of us only buying online from retailers we know. 

Two thirds of us only buy from retailers they know - are Australian retailers missing a trick?

With this in mind, Australian brands could be missing a trick. A recent Deloitte survey of retailers revealed that Australian sellers are lagging behind global companies who bolster their sales through online platforms. A quarter of respondents expected to generate no online sales in the lead up to Christmas. With no online channel, these retailers are missing out on their share of the $285 each person in Australia spends online every week.  

Times they are a changing and it’s not just retailers that need to adapt. The internet and most significantly, the social media phenomenon is not only opening the individual up to a wider range of global brands and products, it is allowing us to share our discoveries with our friends. 78% would trust the word of their peers above the 14% who trust advertising so it’s easy to see why businesses big and small are encouraging us consumers to become an active part of their marketing strategies.

Interact with social shopping site 'Motilo'

‘Social shopping’ sites such as Polyvore and Wanelo are growing increasingly influential. Not only can we ‘share’ our purchases or ‘likes’ with our social media network but thanks to these sites, we can also generate conversations with our friends and ask their advice on potential purchases. Increasingly too, we are being invited to give our comments and review our purchases to help inform other shoppers. The power, it would seem, is in the court of us the consumer. 

That is not to say retailers cannot and are not capitalising on this power swing. If there’s a win for the consumer then there must too, be a win there for the retailer as well. The retailers who will succeed as technology continues to evolve will be those who think outside the box and who develop accordingly; it will be those with the ability to spin their perspectives who will ultimately capitalise. As a consumer however, I will continue to shop my advantage for as long as it may last. 


AT HOME: Love shoes, love TONY BIANCO. The online shopping site offers free shipping over $80, access to online discounts and member loyalty points.

ABROAD: I love my UK high street brands and am always poised ready for their free shipping offers. My online favourite all year round is NEXT, which offers affordable on-trend fashion of a quality that lasts. Prices are charges in Au$, express shipping is free on orders over $30, deliveries arrive in under a week and returns can be posted to Sydney.

SOCIAL SHOPPING: Solve your shopping dilemas with MOTILO. Interact with their stylists and read up on the latest trend with their fashion editorials.

JUST FOR FUN: Shopping site DRESSIPI creates your own 'Fashion Fingerprint' to present a daily edit of pieces that best suit your shape and style - this is online shopping personalised for the individual.

SOURCES:, British Vogue,, NAB Group Economics,,

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