The wait for Alibaba and Amazon in Australia is almost over. While their entry into the market will undoubtedly change the face of Australian ecommerce and retail in general, the desire for Aussie brands, stores and marketplaces hasn’t diminished.
The big question for Australian retailers is how to thrive when these marketplaces are known to dominate online sales, manage incredible global growth, and deliver excellent customer service experience using cutting-edge technology.
Retailers in Australia can adopt the following strategies to succeed among the new online giants:
Start with your strength: Australian customers
Physical experience and personal service in bricks-and-mortar stores still give an advantage to Australian retailers. Established physical retailers already understand the tastes and needs of Australian shoppers and can more easily convert in-store shoppers to online buyers with an easy-to-use website that mimics the in-store experience.
Creating an in-store experience can help build brand loyalty. Hosting workshops to engage shoppers—such as a home goods store offering design workshops and organisation tips or cosmetic stores providing make-up clinics—draws customers closer to brands through highly-valued experiences.
Use data to better blend physical and digital
Retailers need to assess how effectively they match the ease and joy of an in-store experience to a customer’s different online shopping experiences. When customers check your store on their phone, does it cater to their browsing needs? Or does the mobile shopping experience inadvertently steer them to a competitor?
According to the 2016 Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Study, 36 per cent of Australian consumers say they are likely to use a mobile device when browsing but only 29 per cent use mobile to complete their purchase.
It’s important to assess data collected through online interactions with your brand as it becomes an invaluable learning tool to enrich your customer experience and target key customer groups. There’s a lot of powerful information behind candid customer comments about your offering as well as competitive marketplace reviews and social media channels.
When it comes to harnessing the full potential of digital channels, Australian retailers should be mindful of the channels they invest in for advertising. Morgan Stanley recently noted that on a global scale, Australian retailers have been considerably slower to transition from traditional media to digital, online and search advertising. Retailers need to recognise the decline in consumer attention to traditional advertising and capitalise on the reach of offered by online ad metrics.
Think about choice
Customers can already buy an item on the web, on their phone or through an app, but can they select from a variety of delivery methods? Click and collect in store, home delivery or delivery to another location are all popular among shoppers, but many retailers are not taking advantage of offering that wide range of choice because it requires additional technology to power seamless transactions.
Orders and fulfilment must flow freely between bricks-and-mortar stores, warehouses, shipping and delivery partners to optimise the customer experience. And while the technology behind that level of choice can put pressure on the margins of retailers, less expensive, cloud-based solutions are growing in popularity as the cost of not having unified commerce becomes the deeper growing threat.
Greg Buzek, president of IHL Group, put it this way: “With so many retailers having to close stores, retailers must turn their stores into distribution points. At the same time, these retailers need to expand their customer base beyond their traditional geographies to grow.”
Become a global brand
Unified commerce takes every retailer one step closer to going global—an opportunity that Australian retailers can’t afford to overlook. Australian products and services are trusted throughout the world and the right technology and customer experience presents an unprecedented opportunity for domestic retailers to participate in the impending ecommerce revolution.
Australian retailers have the added benefit of being surrounded by some of the savviest cross-border shoppers in the world. Top countries for cross-border shoppers include Singapore, Hong Kong and China, which has the biggest market for ecommerce in the world. In 2016, there were over 410 million shoppers in China who shopped online internationally, a number set to exceed 740 million in 2018.
Opening up your brand to powerful cross-border shopping neighbours and the rest of the world allows you to grow your business overseas even with a challenging domestic market. And while there are many complications when selling overseas, the opportunities presented by cross-border customers is compelling enough for Australian retailers to seriously explore.
To find their place in the changing ecommerce landscape, Australian retailers should look to provide a blended physical and digital retail experience for domestic shoppers, give consumers flexibility, and reach markets outside of Australia. It’s time for Australian retailers to stop worrying about being crushed by a global ecommerce wave and get a plan in place to ride it.
Jeremy Crooks is the managing director for global e-commerce at Pitney Bowes ANZ.
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