The last year catapulted us into a new reality unlike any other. Besides radical changes in how we live and work, the COVID-19 pandemic also changed the trajectory of Australian e-commerce forever.
Over the past year, online purchases grew by 57% and more than 1.3 million Australian households bought on the internet for the very first time. This enormous surge in demand comes on top of already rapidly evolving customer expectations, largely tracing back to the advent of the smartphone. Customers want every part of a website to be mobile-friendly, loading within split seconds and without distractions such as long-form fields, password prompts, or endless scrolling.
The outlook is clear: no matter the size of your business or the industry you are in, if your e-commerce store or online marketing channels can’t compete with the standards set by giants such as Amazon, you will get left behind.
And make no mistake: Amazon is counting on Australian retailers to lag behind consumer expectations. The American online behemoth isn’t being subtle about it either. Amazon is currently building both the largest warehouse in the southern hemisphere and a lavish headquarters in Sydney. Amazon is building the infrastructure to fully invade Australia and completely change our e-commerce landscape, just as they have done in the U.S. and Europe. At their current rate, Amazon is predicted to dominate our e-commerce market by 2030, with many sellers feeling the painful effects of this much sooner.
It’s not too late for Australian retailers to meet this challenge, but the time to act is now. If your online store was set up 10 years ago, you can’t just replace it overnight and expect the transition to be smooth. Patching an existing system with new features or add-ons comes with its own pitfalls too, as they can be incompatible with the old technology and ultimately might do more harm than good.
A more realistic path towards a future-proof e-commerce experience is a step-by-step approach. Start by focusing on the one area of the customer journey that promises the biggest reward: online checkout. If done right, a state-of-the-art checkout system removes friction, offers maximum usability and data protection. It will convert more customers and lead to larger transactions across all channels.
One of the best examples of this is headless checkout, which has started gaining significant traction in the U.S.. American online retailers are realizing that they can get the benefits of a modern interface with features like one-click checkout and the opportunity to sell products across many different channels, without changing their entire underlying technology.
Headless checkout will revolutionize every channel a company sells through. One example is affiliate marketing, a channel that hasn’t seen true innovation in years: Imagine you are a retail company selling dresses.
Currently, if an online magazine writes an article about the twenty best dresses of the season and includes your company’s dress, the reader can only buy the dress after being re-directed numerous times through third-party websites, ultimately landing at your own web store. Once arrived, he or she still has to enter the credit card info, still has to put in the delivery address, and more. Those are a lot of steps for a process that should be so simple. Many customers drop off along that journey without making a purchase, and who can blame them.
With headless checkout, none of this is necessary anymore. You can have the checkout button placed directly on the online magazine’s page, allowing your customer to buy the dress in just a few clicks while they are still scrolling through the article. It’s about meeting the consumer where they are, instead of sending them on a wild goose chase of endless clicks and sites.
My own company, Fast, has developed a headless platform designed to help companies of all sizes – from the smallest online shop to massive multi-billion-dollar corporations – increase their sales beyond just their own digital four walls.
The 7% of the Australian adult population who shopped online for the first time over the last year won’t just abandon this convenience once the pandemic is over. The numbers will never go back to pre-pandemic levels. This is an irreversible trend that will only continue to increase. In the years to come, online will no longer be one of many sales channels, but the sales channel of relevance.
There might have been initial tolerance given by consumers to Australian online sellers with a cumbersome buying process, but that grace period is over now. The opportunity is massive, and Australian shoppers are expecting you to be ready.
Domm Holland is CEO of Fast.