Has Aussie E-Commerce Surpassed the US and UK?

By Grant Arnott | 26 Feb 2014

This topic of debate at the upcoming Ecommerce Conference in Melbourne is already raising eyebrows – what’s your view?

When the first Online Retailer Conference was held in Australia in 2009, Aussie retailers both pureplay and multichannel were widely rubbished for being years behind the US and UK markets.

In subsequent years, the ridicule became a much harder pill to swallow as the ‘advanced’ digital retailers of the Northern Hemisphere began to pick off local customers in increasing numbers. It has been a terrible awakening for many retailers, some of whom claim to have been bombed out of existence by GST-exempt foreign parcels raining down on shoppers across the nation.

Come 2014, where are we at? Australian retail has a lot to be proud of – a lot to learn, admittedly – but the needle has moved a long, long way in the last five years. The question is, have we ‘caught up’ to our counterparts in the far north? Are we there yet?

Or are we better than we give ourselves credit for? I head overseas two or three times a year and though there are some retailers who certainly rise above the rest, the ‘pack’ sits, in my opinion, in worse shape than the state of Australian retail today. I’m a proud citizen of this country, and I state with a completely biased view that I’d put a number of local retailers, online and multichannel, ahead of their counterparts in the US and UK. Local retailers are often punching well above their weight, especially considering the logistics challenges this big brown land poses to direct-to-consumer delivery. And what about New Zealand? There are some great examples of digital retail across the ditch.

Then there’s Amazon… and Zappos. And ASOS. And Gilt. These exemplars of online retail are monoliths, disrupting their markets and changing retail practices across the globe. These are the brands we look up to and revere as the upper echelon of e-commerce, but how far off are we, if at all? Amazon is an absolute giant, but as for the others, are we in the same league with some of our top local practitioners?

So on balance, all things considered, who’s better at e-commerce now? North or South? This is the tantalising subject of the debate I’m looking forward to at the E-Commerce Expo and Conference in Melbourne next month, where locals face off against international panelists.

And you? What do you think? Has the local industry come up to a competitive standard, or are we still way behind the US and UK? Who would you rate in Australia (or New Zealand) as being able to match it with any online retailer in the world?

It’s something I know is discussed a lot at industry networking events, and I’m looking forward to getting your views in the comments below.

If you want to be part of the debate and the conference in Melbourne next month, visit www.ecomexpomelbourne.com.au to see who’s speaking – dates are March 25-27.



5 thoughts on “Has Aussie E-Commerce Surpassed the US and UK?”

  1. stuart moore says:

    UK is light years ahead of Australia when it comes to ecommerce. The UK has spearheaded a massive growth in per capita spend. This is partly due to UK logistics but also due to a creative push within a well established retail space and an online savvy customer base. Knowledge within ecommerce specialists in the UK will continue to forge ahead as countries like Australia play catchup.

  2. Discopolis says:

    Is this a joke? There is no retailer here even in the same league as the likes of John Lewis, Tesco, M&S, Waitrose, Ocado, etc etc. Sure, retailers here have pretty websites with responsive designs – whoppe-doo but you still have to wait 10 days to get anything actually delivered, hardly any retailers offer click and collect services or free returns. eComm here is still light years behind. Ask again in 3 years time.

  3. Colum Joyce says:

    Perhaps Australia is on a par or ahead in relation to the percentage of total retail sales made via Ecommerce?
    US is low and the UK a maturing market (slowing growth rate).
    Equally rural basket sizes have a tendency to be considerably higher than urban ones ( In Arizona it is 24.8% higher) so if there are a lot of rural purchases made online it can make a difference

    1. DJ says:

      The UK are way ahead of AU in terms of total retail spend online at 17%+. AU are only 6.3% according to the NAB index last year (http://www.powerretail.com.au/news/online-retail-spending-hits-14bn/). The US broke the 10% mark some time ago so are ahead too.

      Online retailers in the US and UK are far more mature than retailers here.

      The advantage that local companies have had is that we’ve been able to learn from the mistakes that retailers overseas have made over the years and launch websites that convert and sell. Where they had to go through many iterations to learn and mature.

  4. I completely agree there is no way our retailers are even anywhere close to Australia. We provide an e-commerce analytics program so know the volumes etc Australia does in terms of the rest of the world.

    We have a lot of catching up to do as an industry. The benefit is our market didn’t have to wait for spenders to change their behaviour and start spending more online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *