2012 – Online Retail Year in Review

Where the hell did 2012 go?

It flew by for this hard-working crew, but not so fast that we can’t reflect on some of the key events and trends we saw in another frenetic year for the online retail sector. Got any to add? We welcome your thoughts in the comments below.

E-commerce Continues to Evolve Rapidly

Expansion and investment continued its explosive growth from 2011, with web developers, agencies and solution providers slammed with briefs and orders. This year SurfStitch won top honours at the Online Retail Industry Awards, but across the whole industry we saw significant improvements and some impressive site launches and relaunches. Australian retailers can stand proud and claim some truly exemplary online retail businesses, with more raising the bar every day. The perceived gap between local standards and best practice international standards is beginning to close, and expect a whole lot more exemplary work in 2013 as experience and expertise grows.

Catch Us If You Can

Catch of the Day continued to establish itself as the force of online retail in Australia, its aggressive growth plans evident. In the past 12 months, the Catch Group acquired Vinomofo, launched Mumgo and Eat Now, while continuing to expand its established brands. This year Catch of the Day celebrated its sixth anniversary, a meteoric rise with a possible public float mooted earlier in the year.

The trend will continue into 2013, not only with the Catch Group but we’ll see greater consolidation across the industry as more mergers and acquisitions occur with businesses moving to shore up competitive advantage. Private shopping site brandsExclusive had a breakout year, securing a partnership with APN in another sign of the potential media interest in e-commerce.

Group Exodus

The group buying phenomenon has quickly run out of steam as the market has been flooded with entrants and consumers show signs of deal fatigue. Global Groupon CEO Andrew Mason has been named the Worst CEO of 2012 by CNBC – not a good look for Groupon who in 2010 declined a $5 billion offer from Google. Group buying, though always controversial, was the darling of the industry a few years ago but the shine has worn off, and former stars like Living Social and Spreets (which Yahoo7! acquired for $40 million in 2010) are now laying off staff.

The Net-AS-onic Effect on Fashion

Online fashion retail has become über-competitive, as a slew of new entrants and international brands converge on the local market. ASOS and Net-A-Porter, more than any others, have become the benchmarks for local retailers to aspire to in order to remain competitive. This has spawned a rush of investment and interest in raising the bar on the local online customer experience to counter the impact of competitors like these and others. Locally, the impact of The Iconic has been undeniable as the fast growth fashion retailer’s aggressive marketing push has rippled across the industry. Backed by controversial German powerhouse Rocket Internet, The Iconic has become one of the most talked about brands in Australian retail, winning Best New Online Retailer at the Online Retail Industry Awards this year. It’s put a rocket (pardon the pun) up the industry, as established brands up the ante on range, pricing, content and marketing to cling to market share before digital upstarts take control.

Omnichannel spin and bullshit

The one buzzword lauded and ridiculed in equal measures for 2012 was undoubtedly ‘omnichannel’. It kept analysts and thought leaders busy for the past 12 months, as the loosely defined term crept into speeches, statements and strategies from traditional retailers seeking credibility in the digital market. Always good for a soundbite on online retail, the indomitable Gerry Harvey called it as he saw it, referring to ‘omnichannel as ‘spin and bullshit’ designed to keep investors placated. David Jones made some huge calls earlier in the year on its omnichannel ambitions, and though it’s got a vastly improved site up and running in time for Christmas, the retailer has a long way to go. At least the journey has begun, more than could be said for David Jones’ initial foray back into online retail two years ago with a seriously sub-standard store.

Nonetheless, ‘omnichannel’ served to help focus strategy on the changing customer, who wants the same experience across channels in-store, online, mobile and tablet. Those who do win the omnichannel race will have a major competitive advantage.

Click Frenzy

Yes, this was our intiative but no missive on online retail in 2012 would be complete without talking about Click Frenzy. The event attracted incredible national exposure and shone a spotlight on Australians’ appetite for online shopping (with Australian retailers) like nothing before. In fact, there was a little too much interest, and the site crashed at opening time, but the following 24 hours delivered a major sales boost for online retail. Quantium data showed an increase of 2.5 times across the board for participating retailers, echoed by payment gateway eWay which recorded a 240% increase for its retail customers who participated.

The halo effect also brought along other retailers for the ride, and the hype around Click Frenzy sparked plenty of ambush activity, sending customers across Australia into a spin, both positive and negative. You can read the inside story here.

Merry Christmas from the Power Retail Team

It has been another massive and exciting year for the team behind Power Retail, with highlights including the launch of Power Up: The Online Retail Entrepreneur’s Guide, our involvement in Online Retailer, the Online Retail Industry Awards and Click Frenzy, and most of all being abreast of the fantastic stories, issues and events in the most dynamic industry in Australia.

Thank you all for reading this year – we’re on a break until January 2nd and from all of our team, have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Taken July 2012 at the ORIAs
The Power Retail/Media Pad crew at the Online Retail Industry Awards.


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