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Aussie retailers should fight harder to win online dominance

Australian retailers need to pick up their game if they want to dominate the online sales market, a QUT academic says.

Adjunct Associate Professor Joanne Jacobs, from the Creative Industries Faculty, writes in academic opinion website The Conversation that overseas online sites are using social media and customer incentive schemes better than the current Australian online marketers, and are therefore experiencing stronger growth.

“The first (reason for higher growth) is a strong integration with social media, and a highly personalised viewing experience,” Assoc Prof Jacobs writes.

“Rather than abandoning the user to a mercurial search engine and a complex category search, these sites force users to enter via a sign-in process that maintains a `memory’ of user preferences and (where relevant) Facebook likes, to generate a featured product viewing experience.

“Most Australian online retailers tend to allow shopping without logging in to a site, and they will have limited engagement with their community on social channels.

“Even if goods can be shared through social channels, the engagement with these social sharing triggers is low.

“There are few incentives to share and engage with the firm; social is considered an add-on, rather than a deep element of the sales experience.”

She also busts several myths about Australian retailers online, including that it’s harder to operate an online business in this country because of local trade laws.

“The evidence of online sales research is demonstrating that Australian customers are seeking local traders – and are willing to pay additional taxes – in order to get access to their goods more quickly,” she writes.

“The relative ease with which online sales can operate is reflected in the relatively high number of small to medium enterprises that sell online when compared with larger businesses – 58% of SMEs currently sell online and 70% receive online payments.”

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