Why no one shops from Aussie stores online
ASOS shopper .. Boutique owner/blogger Nicole from Sydney. Photo: via ASOS
With a federal government taskforce established to consider lowering the $1000 GST threshold on imported goods it’s time to let Australian retailers in on a little secret: internet retail is here to stay.
It’s not some passing fad, like yo-yos, pet rocks or perms, that we’ll all soon tire of then be slightly embarrassed to admit we were interested in it at all.
The strategy — if you can call it that — of some of our largest retailers seems to be to frustrate their customers online, in the hope that we’ll all flock back into bricks and mortar stores.
My worst experience recently was trying to shop online for a scooter for my three year old at MYER. I foolishly assumed that one of the oldest and largest department stores in the country would have their stock online.
But if you put ‘scooter’ into the MYER search function, the first result you get is a PDF selling MYER home insurance. The second result is a dead link. And the third result is a Transformer toy. (I subsequently worked out that you have to click on ‘Kids and Toys’ and then search — but there’s nothing to indicate this.) This returned just one model of scooter.
I gave up and used Google’s search function instead and found a second model in a product catalogue. I couldn’t buy it, mind. But I could look at it.
Under normal circumstances, I would have given up and gone to another online store, quite possibly one offshore. But lucky for MYER, I had a MYER gift card to spend which forced me into the store. Once there I discovered MYER stocked a range of scooters.
David Jones isn’t much better. I can’t comment on how extensive their range is, because the pages wouldn’t complete loading. And I couldn’t even find a search function. Users are instead forced to search through the categories set up by David Jones. I’ve got one word to say to you David Jones: ‘user-centred design’.
Kmart and Big W were more user-friendly and seemed to have a larger selection, but only a fraction of the range available in-store.
The only store that seems to have caught onto this whole online shopping thing is Target which has a decent selection and a search functionality that works.
It’s not like this whole online shopping thing sprang up overnight and caught retailers off guard either. Over a decade ago, as a management consultant, I was implementing online shopping websites with comprehensive product catalogues in Europe.
In 2002 I implemented eCommerce platforms for companies in developing countries such as Lithuania and Poland that put many Australian retail websites to shame.
Some of these online stores had tens of thousands of products available to purchase online. They had search functions that — shock, horror — served up relevant results and, among other things, intelligent personalisation features and cross-selling and up-selling functionality.
I don’t mean to be harsh to Australian retailers. I get that you’re struggling and I’m actually on your side. When possible, I try to shop local. I even have your loyalty cards crammed into all corners of my purse.
But it’s time for some tough love and to let you know that 1998 called and it wants its website back.
Putting a meager selection of your product range online and throwing up a couple of catalogues with nifty animation is the online shopping equivalent of acid wash jeans.
It’s also not a winning strategy. According to a June report by Price Waterhouse Coopers 53 per cent of Australians over 15 are shopping online. It’s reasonable to assume that frustrating users with crappy websites in the hope they’ll ditch their laptops and iPhones isn’t a winning strategy.
The retail industry can wag its fingers and stomp its feet — yes Gerry Harvey, I’m looking at you — all it likes about taxation, but until our retailers end their technical paralysis the battle against online imports is lost.
Kasey Edwards is a management consultant and the author of Thirty-Something and Over It: What happens when you wake up and don’t want to go to work ever again. www.kaseyedwards.com