Survey slams Aussie retailers’ online apathy

By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: Bricks and mortar retailers are being blamed for stagnation in the number of Australian consumer buying online in new research released today by consultancy firm the Leading Edge.

The group is accusing Australian retailers of ‘standing in the way of their own success’ and ‘short-changing consumers’ by neglecting online sales in favour of traditional shopfronts.

A survey of 1,215 Australian consumers conducted by Leading Edge reveals the number of consumers buying online has stagnated, and those who are yet to buy online are showing little sign of starting.

In a stinging critique launched yesterday, Leading Edge director of retail, Phil Bonanno, said Australian retailers are depriving the online environment of serious investment and focus.

“Few sell anything online and most offer no integrated services between stores and sites,” Bonanno said.

“Most websites lack innovation, fail to engage the consumer and offer nothing new or exciting. In effect, Australian consumers are being short changed and given no reason to alter their purchasing habits and spend more online.”

Bonanno criticized the major retail websites in Australia for being little more than catalogues online.

But Phil Moujeas, general manager of New South Wales-based retail chain and Narta member, Bing Lee, argues it still makes sense for big-box electrical retailers to divert consumers into stores – for the retailer and the consumer.

“For us, there is still such a huge investment in bricks and mortar stores so anything we would do needs to complement that,” Moujeas told Current.com.au. “We need to drive customers into our stores.”

The retailer updated its website last year but has no plans to introduce online purchasing.

Moujeas said identity fraud was still a concern for retailers operating in the online environment, particularly for those selling high value items like plasma TVs, which generate a lot of transactions.

And far from ‘short-changing consumers’, Moujeas believes most customers shopping for major electrical goods still prefer the in-store experience.

“There’s no doubt that more people are doing research on the internet and a good percentage of customers who come into our stores have already narrowed down their choice,” he said.

“But they still want to view the product – to touch and feel it – before they make the investment.

“Service and aftersales support is still critical for many customers too. We’re not selling books – they don’t break down, but fridges and TVs sometimes do.”

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