It was a historic Christmas for Australian e-commerce with PayPal reporting record online sales jumps for retailers such as Dan Murphy’s and Toys “R” Us.
If the Christmas 2011 shopping period is anything to go by, the turf war between online and offline retail may soon be a thing of the past – at least according to PayPal. The payments provider has observed that Australia recorded the busiest online shopping period in history last year with many big brands seeing earlier investments in e-commerce translate to increased sales. Christmas 2011 saw Australian customers abandon the long queues, chaos and parking lot battles associated with holiday shopping in droves, in favour of fuss-free online alternatives.
Elena Wise, Acting Managing Director of PayPal Australia said that most of it merchants experienced the most dramatic increase in online trading this Christmas, with sales peaking on December 5th. She predicts that although global competition will intensify in 2012, the fact that Australian shoppers prefer to shop domestically offers local retailers a powerful advantage.
“Emerging retail models be offered by Aussie retailers, such as ‘buy online, collect in-store’, provide a customer-centric approach that engenders brand loyalty and is hard matched by overseas competition,” she said.
Toys “R” Us reported a dramatic jump in online traffic and sales compared to 2011 with the biggest peaks seen in mid-November and mid-December. It also noted that the hottest online sellers included big-ticket outdoor products such as trampolines, swing sets and pools, proving that size is no obstacle to the power of e-commerce.
“Our customers love the convenience of shopping online, with the added bonus of not needing to worry about getting a 16ft trampoline in the back of their car. Toys”R”Us shoppers use the online store to research their purchases with our Top 10 Toy List particularly popular with mums and dads wanting to know what the hottest toys were for Christmas,” said Beth Glancey, the retailer’s Marketing Manager, Online and E-Commerce.
“Toys”R”Us launched an e-commerce site in October 2009 and made significant updates to the offering in September 2011. The investment into building a bigger and better platform has proved to be highly beneficial for Toys”R”Us as we capitalise on the bigger range and expanded deliver. We’re finding that customers are becoming more demanding in the way they shop, needing to interact with a brand through multiple channels be it the brick and mortar stores, online, Facebook or through more traditional media channels and if you’re not playing in that space there’s a good chance they’re going to shop somewhere else,” she said.
Glancey says that this investment is part of Toys “R” US’ commitment to becoming a true multichannel retailer and ensure that customers are met with an online experience that equals, or surpasses, in-store.
The retailer rolled out a series of customer service, and fulfilment strategies to cope with increased demand throughout the season. “The fulfilment chain was monitored closely to ensure the e-commerce store was always in stock. We increased our customer service coverage both in numbers and operating hours to ensure customers were being responded to both in person and through our online channels such as Facebook. And as we drew closer to Christmas we even organised express couriers for some customers where it looked as though our regular fulfillment channels may not have delivered before our guaranteed dates – just to be safe.”
Martin Smith, General Manager of liquor merchant Dan Murphy’s said that multiplying the options available to Christmas shoppers helped the retailer make the most of the seasonal sales surge. He also observed that more customers were conducting pre-shopping research online and demanded up-to-date stock information before visiting physical stores.
“Our customers demand information at their fingertips, whether they are planning to make their final purchase online or in a store and over the Christmas period we saw an uptake in customers using our ‘Find in Store’ option to search for products online before they buy in store, highlighting the value of our online channel to not only drive sales online, but also offline,” he said.
Wise said that retailers that cater to the newly agile Australian shopper are best placed to benefit from online growth. “Retailers that deliver great products and customer service across multiple channels are ultimately those that will reap the rewards of the new retail environment,” she said.