Buying from an Australian online store has many potential advantages: postage is cheaper, it's easier to deal with returns or other issues, and you're supporting the local economy. However, when it comes to offering features beyond click-here-and-order, it seems local sites aren't doing so well.
Picture by yewenyi
An analysis of the local online retail market by Steven Noble from Forrester Research suggests that Australian online stores are still relatively unsophisticated when it comes to taking advantage of the web medium. Here's some of the areas Forrester highlighted that need improvement:
Reliance on search engines to generate traffic. There's nothing wrong with placing a heavy emphasis on using search techniques to attract potential buyers — there's plenty of evidence that suggests people use search engines as their main way of navigating the Internet. However, sites which rely on attracting traffic this way often neglect other features, making them less pleasing for regular shoppers.
Lack of user reviews. User reviews are a mixed bag — visit the page for any pop culture product on Amazon and you'll run into lots of fan-driven arguments. If you already know what you want and are just shopping on price, then they're also irrelevant. But if you're trying to choose between rival models, then getting an outsider perspective can be helpful. Most local retailers have been slow to adopt user reviews, but one-third of those interviewed by Forrester say they'll d so in the next year.
Lack of product images. The retailers Forrester talked to said that providing multiple product pictures was the single most effective way of helping convince people to buy. However, 37% hadn't yet adopted that as a strategy.
What features are most important to you when you shop online? Do you favour overseas stores, local stores, or let the price lead you? Tell us in the comments.
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