Ask the Expert: Navigating and Actioning the Shift Online

Power Retail By Power Retail | 23 Apr 2021

As retailers determine the developments in business strategies, it’s imperative to understand what drives a consumer to shop online. How did online shopping sentiment change in 2020? Have comfort levels with online shopping changed in the last 12 months, and how will this impact retailers in the long run?

This week, Power Retail Editor Ally Feiam was joined by Brett Sinclair, e-commerce Specialist, Adobe & Founding Director, B2B eCommerce Association Australia, Jemima Miller e-commerce and CRM Manager from DuluxGroup, and James Horne, Director of Strategy from Balance Internet to discuss what has been driving shoppers to shift to e-commerce and how marketplaces are changing the way Australians purchase online. Here’s a wrap of the key topics discussed and insights from our panellists. 

How has online shopping sentiment changed?

The global pandemic saw a change to the APAC e-commerce industry on a never before seen scale. According to Australia Post, in 2020, more people were shopping online than ever before – up 31 percent to 5.2 million when compared to the average in 2019. Consequently, online goods spend grew by 95 percent YOY, with online purchases continuing to grow at a rapid rate. 

We asked our panellists how they thought customer sentiment toward online shopping had changed over the past 12-months, with research showing that some 82 percent of consumers now have some level of comfort shopping online.

People now feel that it’s more convenient to shop online. It’s important to note that ‘convenience’ can mean many things across the variety of products available, varied delivery options and customer service support options for the pre-sales process. Convenience was cited as the highest contributing factor for shopping online, accounting for 57 percent of responses when participants were asked about reasons for shopping online. 

“I think that once it became a necessity, the sentiment toward online shopping and adoption changed reasonably swiftly. Once customers had increased their online shopping habits or even started shopping online for the first time, I believe they became much more comfortable with it,” explains Horne.

Is the shift online here to stay?

Our panellists were highly optimistic about the shift to online shopping and its longevity in the Australian market. Despite predictions that the transition to online will plateau as we continue to open up again and head into a post-pandemic shopping normal, there is evidence to suggest that much of the adoption from the previous year is here to stay.

Research from McKinsey shows that digital and omnichannel adoption continues in most online shopping categories for Australians. This shift is likely here to stay, with more consumers shopping online and adopting many digital replacements for out-of-home everyday activities.

“Retailers and brands who can offer something unique, by merging their products with an accompanying service, have the best chance of being successful at maintaining growth in online sales channels and capitalising on the opportunities available,” says Miller.

“I do think the growth pattern will flatten slightly, there was an enormous growth spike out of necessity, but as things open up again, a lot of the people who found themselves shopping online will potentially continue to do so in some form,” Sinclair explains.

“Certainly consumer intent changed throughout 2020 and into 2021. The decisions and actions towards purchasing which may have previously been research-online purchase-in store, became research-online-purchase-online, purely out of necessity,” says Horne. 

Taking action – what can retailers do now to maintain growth?

We asked the panellists about the challenges and opportunities around keeping customers engaged with their brands online shopping channels in the year that we are all coming out of the pandemic.

“I think there’s a real potential for retailers and brands to diversify what they offer customers through e-commerce. By growing their offering to include products and services, brands can maximise the growth of the e-commerce channels. For example, personalised services as add ons to products, and concierge-type services to accompany a sale,” Miller tells us.

“There’s a huge opportunity to utilise the customer bases and customer data that was built up over the past 12-months. Being able to really focus on engaging those customers who came and shopped with you last year will be key. And not in a one size fits all way; personalisation will be key to making that relationship last,” says Horne.

Are online marketplaces the way of the future?

“Marketplace participation uptake has increased over the last 12-months. [Balance Internet] has seen many of our clients eager to get involved, mainly due to the shifts caused by the pandemic. We are also seeing a lot of organisations get involved in creating their own marketplaces. So, there are undoubtedly different approaches available for those who want to participate and those who want to create a marketplace,” explains Horne.

“[Adobe is] getting a lot of businesses coming to [them], really excited about the opportunities marketplaces present for their organisation. Those who choose to ‘create’ a marketplace can offer consumers more flexible offers and provide their customers with a broader range of their niche product categories. It’s an excellent opportunity for a lot of organisations,” says Sinclair. 

“Consumers are shopping on marketplaces because of the sheer breadth of products in a certain category available. They can be less brand loyal and mimic the in-person browsing experiences a shopping centre might offer,”  Miller adds. 

Missed the webinar? 

If you weren’t able to join the live webinar, we encourage you to watch the recording, click here. 

About the Panellists

James Horne, Director of Strategy, Balance Internet

James is a digital commerce innovator and thought leader with a deep passion for driving business success from digital commerce ecosystems. He has become the “go-to guy” for online commerce and marketing.

Brett Sinclair, E-Commerce Specialist, Adobe & Founding Director, B2B E-Commerce Association Australia

Brett is an eCommerce specialist at Adobe and Founder of the B2B e-commerce Association of Australia. Brett has been in the e-commerce field for over a decade and has managed first-hand all of the functions of e-commerce, including web merchandising, digital marketing, user experience, technology selection and implementation, customer support, fulfilment, and other operating areas.

Jemima Miller, E-Commerce and CRM Manager, DuluxGroup

Jemima is a strategist, change agent, digital performance marketing and e-commerce professional with 11+ years of experience scaling business growth in the online arena. As an e-commerce pioneer, she has operated as an ‘intrepreneur’ within traditional retail businesses instrumental in educating teams and driving the customer experience across the online path-to-purchase.

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