​Online sales predicted to grow by 20 percent in 2016: CommBank

A retail report by Commonwealth Bank has indicated that there are still plenty of opportunities for retailers when it comes to growing their online sales.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

There are still opportunities for retailers as Australia's online shopping behaviour continues to mature, according to the first CommBank Retail Insights report.

The report showed that even though the average transaction frequency was down by 4 percent, consumers were spending more online as basket size increased by 14 percent year on year for the 12 months to March 31, 2015. The data showed the average online transaction increased from AU$37 to AU$42, while total average annual spend per shopper went from AU$627 to AU$692.

On a sector by sector basis, the report showed smaller, regularly purchased items such as music and books, were overtaken by sales of categories such as high-end fashion, technology, and appliances, even though they were purchased on a less-frequent basis.

Jerry Macey, Commonwealth Bank Retail Industry national manager, said the attributing factor to why shoppers continue to shop online is because of trust.

"Convenient returns [is an] important driver of online shopping confidence. With two-thirds of retailers now offering delivery and collection options, it's likely that consumers feel more comfortable buying bigger ticket items, knowing they have the option to return them if they're not fully satisfied," he said.

At the same time, the study revealed 90 percent of shoppers transact with three or fewer brands each quarter, and two-thirds of customers are shopping online for just one category of goods, signalling their commitment to brand loyalty, according to the bank.

When it comes to looking at which demographic is shopping online, the study points to the under-30s, who are not only accounting for the highest share of online spending, but the fastest rate of spending growth as well.

The report also highlighted that customer experience is key to driving sales online, with Macey saying that retailers are responding by maintaining or boosting investment in technology and introducing new digital channels to capture substantial expected sales growth.

CommBank also highlighted that at the same time, technology and marketing costs remain key barriers for retailers when it comes to growing their online sales.

But 43 percent of retailers remain optimistic and said they were going to increase technology budgets in the next 12 months. However, only 11 percent of retailers said they plan to invest in mobile, despite the fact that the proportion of online sales is tipped to double to 36 percent, and retailers believe the biggest threat hindering growth in mobile commerce is competition in the next 12 months.

"Those who have invested in mobile are targeting significant growth," the report said. "Almost one-third of retailers expect to make more than half of their online sales via mobile in the next 12 months. Overall, 41 percent of retailers say more consumers are using their mobiles to buy more often on mobile devices."

CommBank also showed that 74 percent of retailers believe that integrating physical, online, and mobile channels is critical to business success, yet only 11 percent plan to increase investment in channel integration in the next year.

Another aspect of online commerce the report looked into was the impact of data analytics. It showed that only 36 percent of retailers said they are effectively harnessing big data to drive marketing decisions.

Macey said while retailers have an understanding about big data, they don't know how to go about implementing it.

"Retailers are acutely aware of the role that channel integration and big data can play in enhancing the customer experience; however, currently few are planning integration as a priority for investment," he said.

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