What Australian Online Stores Do Wrong

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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    I have shop online in Australia and most of the things said her are very very true.
    The few things i think are more important to me are

    1.low price compare to other.
    2.free postage or min charge for postage.
    3.traching system for my order.

    I'm the biggest sceptic when it comes to shopping online. I like the idea of a bargain, but not at the expense of peace of mind. On the odd occasion that I do buy something online, I hesitate for a good three or four minutes before clicking the 'buy' button. I sit there weighing the pros and cons of the transaction in my head.

    My paranoia probably stems from a couple of bad experiences. Strangely, both instances occurred while trying to purchase plane tickets directly from the airlines' website. The first time, the website crashed while processing my payment and although the money was taken out of my credit card, I didn't get any tickets! The second time, with a different airline, I pressed the 'pay' button and the web page refreshed without telling me if the transaction had been successful or not.

    So I think online vendors need to make more of an effort to make their customers feel at ease. I want to see more information, better post-sale support, phone numbers in case something goes wrong and ecommerce systems that don't crash!

    Yes yes yes for more product pictures. But strangely enough only for small to medium items. I purchased a fridge online, but didn't really care about the pictures because, you know, I know what a fridge looks like! But I recently didn't purchase a toy figurine online because they only had 1 tiny little picture, I had no idea what it looked like. So I'll happily spend $1100 online with no picture, but not $30.

    Oh and I fully agree with past comments in regards to website stability and feedback during the purchasing process. I recently tried to purchase something from game.com.au and had it come off my credit card but the transaction never finished. They told me it was a "pre-processing" charge and it would be reversed in a few days once the car issuer realised the transaction never went through. But it's things like this that will cause me to never buy stuff from this website again, online retailers need to put a lot more care into these systems and ensure that the customer is always satisfied, there's plenty of other places to shop.

    The trend amongst Aussie online retailers is the race to the bottom. You have all these "clearance outlets" dominating the market, while the "premium" brands are roundly ignored.

    What we need is for somebody to stand up and create a quality service with a focus on excellent customer support and a well-considered product line-up. Otherwise, in this globalised economy, Aussies will simply buy from the Book Depositories, Deal Extremes, and CD Wows.

    Oh and it's freakin annoying when companies display incorrect pictures for the model of widget you're after. If you're not going to get it right - don't post pictures of your products at all!

    Postage from within .au *should* be cheaper, but it isn't.

    Look at the postage costs from places like DX or fleabay.

    My main annoyances with Australian online stores are:

    1. Most tech sites look terrible.

    2. I dislike having to create yet another account just to purchase items.

    Lack of product images isn't a big deal for me, but I am spoiled by free shipping, especially when sites like bookrepository.co.uk can manage it overseas.

    Management of most large companies are still old school and cannot imagine and haven't still realized the potential of the online market.

    They just wouldn't put any money in the IT, web design and developement.

    I recently purchased an item of clothing online via a very well-known Australian apparel retailer. It's the little things that let them down. It was only AFTER the transaction that it was made clear it was being delivered by courier and someone would have to sign for it. Had I known that I would not have nominated my home address since "undeliverable" courier items usually end up at a very inconvenient central dispatch location. So instantly the experience goes from "convenience of shopping via my keyboard" to "I would have been better off shopping in person". You get the impression that traditional High Street retailers feel they need an online presence but don't really embrace it.

      What was the online clothing site?

    Things said in the article are very very true. I usually use whatever information I can get to decide on a product/model. Then look for the cheapest I can get, incl postage, in and out of aus. If the cost works out to be fairly close between in/out of aus then I factor in how urgently I need it and possibly how reputable a shop looks if it's a rather expensive item or has a warranty, etc. I'm also more likely to give a chance to a smaller/less reputable aus shop than one from outside as I believe there is less chance of something going majorily wrong compared to a similar shop overseas. Plus it'd be easier to rectify a problem if anything did go wrong in a small aus shop than a foreign one

    Postage and shipping in Australia is overpriced! Sending a Postcard from Singapore to Australia is cheaper then sending any letter or postcard in Australia.

    When comparing the same item from multiple Shops, the cost for postage can out weigh the savings in price from a different shop.

    I've tried to buy a overland train ticket online and the system would not accept my card, I tried to inform them of the issue and their response was that I entered something wrong or my card is not working.

    I hate to say it, but shopping sites should use PayPal (or something like it). Use my email address that is used for PayPal to track my Order and the postage address option from PayPal so I do not have to enter it again.

    What shopping websites need to realize is that I want to buy something, not sign-up. When you walk into a shop, you don't tell the clerk your name, where you live and hand them your credit card before you have a look around why should you need to do any of the above online?

    Actually, I would argue that postage is cheaper when buying overseas. I've come across many overseas sites that offer free worldwide shipping on top of cheap products (bookdepository .com/.co.uk for example) while I am yet to see an aussie site that will offer me unconditional free shipping. Which when you think about it is bizzare considering how little it would usually cost to mail something within our borders. The US site will pay that $20 delivery for me, while the aussie one won't cop for $6-$10? I know where I'd rather shop.

    Sites which require you to create an account before you can browse. Sites which don't provide stock levels and expect you to wait indefinitely for them to restock an item.

    I agree with Mike. Dodgy looking or absent reporting of stock levels always turn me off. Also I hate having to sign in before I get a delivery cost.

    * Tell me what the post & handling is going to be up front
    * do not make me sign up or open an account
    * do not ignore the consumer laws
    * do provide effective tracking
    * do give a choice of payment methods
    * provide user reviews and preferably link to other review site eg Amazon
    * give me lots of information about the product
    * make contact easy if there is a problem

    Since I am disabled and housebound, I do all my shopping online, and have for years. In my experience, Australia is still way behind other countries in providing decent online shopping services.

    The comments above are spot on. We need flexibility and accurate information. Having to create yet another login is definitely a barrier. Also, Australian online sites tend to be very badly-designed. There's usually no crumb trail, you get cluttered pages and broken links and missing information.

    Some do it pretty well: for clothing, Bodywise and Ezibuy are examples, and New Zealand Nature (in NZ) is excellent. But compare Fictionwise and Borders AU for ebooks (I'm not even going to mention Dymocks). Borders actually mean well and are developing a good inventory, but at this stage they have a serious design deficiency.

    Amazon has been extremely successful because it provides the flexibility and information customers want. If our local retailers don't learn from that, they're not going to succeed online.

    Also, what's so difficult about providing online Woolworths or Coles grocery purchase in rural towns? Network your shops, and the order just comes in as another local delivery to be done.

    Too many Australian retailers are slow to catch on to the value of online access.

    * I HATE with a vengeance, having to create an account just to get postage charges. It's such backward psychology. I simply won't buy from these sites.

    Online, I have purchased books (booktopia), whitegoods (E&S Trading, amazing service) and electronic goods (Dick Smith). I only purchased these items because the websites were able to answer every question I had, and had a high level of usability.

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