Many Australian retailers are beginning to realise the importance of the web as a distribution channel and lucrative revenue stream. Only a few organisations are currently benefiting from an early adopter advantage in the online marketplace whilst the masses are still in the starting blocks paralysed by their lack of website investment. Hitwise research confirmed this trend in August 2008 when it highlighted that in the Australian marketplace pure play online businesses are streaks ahead of the competition in the online space.
The Facts – Online Consumer Spending in Australia
If your organisation is yet to be convinced by the opportunity, the following statistics demonstrate the value of an online distribution channel;
– Australian shoppers spent an average of $1,097 buying products online in 2008, with the forecast for 2009 set to defy the offline recessionary trends.
– Despite the current economic conditions, online spending in Australia is set to increase by 12 percent in 2009.
– According to IBIS World, online retailing is forecasted to be $15.8 billion in Australia. In 2006, online retailing was $11 billion – which equates to 44% growth in 3 years.
Getting Ahead of The Competition
If your organisation clearly understands the opportunity and is looking to seize the potential of the online channel, it is important that you are not only playing catch up. To be successful your organisation will need to build a presence that will outperform the influx of new competition that I believe is on the horizon in the next 12 months.
I have detailed 3 of the most important considerations below that I feel are pertinent for successful websites wishing to gain drive significant levels of revenue from the online channel over the coming years.
Portability relates to the ability for site users to take your content and move it into their own online environment. As the internet has evolved users are becoming accustom to the many social tools available to share content freely. Thus it is important for organisations to determine how their consumers and the brand can benefit from content portability. At a very basic level content can be made portable through social bookmarking or by offering code for videos or blog articles that users can embed into their own blog or online environment to share with their network. As a more advanced approach, sites may create widgets (that deliver content) which can be placed on users social network pages or start up pages ie iGoogle or PageFlakes. This type of strategy provides users with more frequent brand exposure and provides the opportunity for organisations to benefit from viral distribution of content through user networks.
With Australian consumers spending an increasing amount of time on the web and less time on corporate sites, personalisation of the web experience is of increasing importance.
Personalisation is not a new concept but its lack of deployment has left most sites with a static and unengaging experiences. The BBC.co.uk demonstrates outstanding innovation in this field enabling users to create their own personalised home page. As the site is built with widgets users can re-arrange it to inline with their “news preferences” thus users are served with the content they want to see – boosting interactivity and engagement on the site. Personalisation also extends to delivering tailored content based on a users onsite behaviour.
But personalisation does not need to be so elaborate, serving users with content or products based on a users profile, geographic location or prior transactional history is a step in the right direction for many static sites. In addition organisations can use basic cookies to remember previous search queries so users are not faced with repetitious tasks like continually specifying their search query. Sometimes these subtle differences can make a world of difference when it comes to improving the user experience.
Community & Collaboration
The web is now characterised by many communities working collaboratively to share and exchange ideas and solve problems – so why can’t users do the same on your site. In the retail space, consumers rely on other consumer experiences to drive decision making for purchases. Many sites lose significant levels of traffic as users go in search of knowledge and assistance provided by the many opinions and reviews online. As a result it is important for organisations to consider how the community and collaboration element can be built into site architecture.
Does this mean you need to build a forum or integrate review functionality into your site? Not necessarily, for example many travel websites have benefited from integrating reviews from TripAdvisor into their site rather than building their own. The benefit of doing so is that many of these brands will never have the rich content offered by a leader in the travel review market. Brands which can integrate community elements or build partnerships to deliver this to its users will be able to add a further dimension of engagement which is needed to compete in the web 2.0 space.
Do you have any additional trends that you wish to share, why not do so below.