Australian Retail Sites Don’t Stack Up with US Counterparts at Easter

By Chris Morley | 25 Mar 2013

In comparing Australian retail sites against their international counterparts, Chris Morley reveals a distinct paucity in local offerings this Easter.

Religious holidays are an interesting thing in modern day Australian society.

People aren’t going to church in the numbers that they have in previous years and – generally speaking – Australians aren’t as religious as our USA brothers and sisters (who, after all, have ‘In God We Trust’ on their bank notes). So when Easter rolls around each year and we get ready for Good Friday and Easter Monday holidays, as well as the store closures that go along with Good Friday, you would imagine the same happening across the Pacific – not so.

Good Friday isn’t a Federal public holiday in the US, with only 13 states making it a state holiday. Easter Monday also is not a Federal public Holiday. So, how are these very different nations merchandising online during this period?

Toys are becoming an increasingly popular gift for children on Easter weekend. Parents and families are moving away from the traditional gift of chocolate – toys, books and games are beginning to be gifted more often, which prompts me to think: how is the major toys retailer, Toys’R’Us embracing Easter online?

Toys'R'Us Australia

Toys’R’Us Australia offer a “free Easter activity pack” as their holiday promo.

On the homepage things start out pretty well. The Easter activity pack and a countdown to Easter are featured on the front page as part of their rotating banner. Countdowns are great as they can induce a sense of urgency in a shopper. But upon clicking through to their Easter promotion I become a little disappointed, to be honest. Toys’R’Us provide a downloadable activity pack only. I download the five page pack, a little underwhelmed (this is a good start, but where are products? This is Easter after all, and I need gifts for the kids!).

The US version of Toys’R’Us offers a homepage that features an extremely similar link to its ‘Easter Shop’. However, this is a permanent link and not part of a rotating carousel. Here, the US brand is doing a ’35 percent off’ sale as well.

USA version of Toys'R'Us

Toys’R’Us in the USA are at least offering me a reason to buy something in time for Easter.

Pressing through to the Easter link and I’m rewarded with the same activity pack as in the Australian website, however this one is presented better alongside actual products and specific Easter offerings. This is where Toys’R’Us Australia and others need to get to.

Without dwelling on one brand for too long, I figure it’s time to move on to examine Kmart‘s Easter promotions. Locally, I am immediately presented with an Easter catalogue on the homepage.

Kmart Australia Easter catalogue

Kmart Australia has an Easter catalogue! Now, if only it were transactional…

Nice idea, but upon clicking through to the catalogue I realise I cant actually buy from it. Instead, I am just virtually flicking through an electronic version of the same junk mail I have already flipped through on my couch. What is this – 1999? Uninspiring and boring from Kmart Australia.

US Kmart website Easter promotion

Kmart in the US is ready for Easter with a range of themed products ready to be purchased.

Upon landing at the US Kmart website, I’m immediately informed that “great gifting starts here” – and indeed it does, with pre-organsied searches based on a set budget, in addition to free colouring pages – just the kind of offering I was hoping for in the first place.

Then there was Target. In appraising the Australian Target’s site, I’m not sure if they realise Easter is just a week away – no mention of it at all. UPDATE: Since writing this, Target Australia has added an Easter promo to its homepage carousel, explaining that customers can win  “1 of 20 $50 gift vouchers” if they can find hidden Easter eggs on the website. I guess that means it’s time to give the kids the credit card and let them go nuts!

Target USA Easter promo

America’s version of Target is drumming up Easter hype.

Now, let’s compare that with Target in the US. Its website knows Easter is nearly here and it tells me to “get a hop on Easter”, which is presented along with terrific merchandising and pre-organised search functionality.

At this point I’m definitely seeing a trend in comparing local vs. US websites for holiday promotions, but admittedly we haven’t yet had a look at the gastronomical element. Certain foods are essential during Easter, and they can vary significantly between cultures – with fish being the order of the day for many.

Woolworths Easter

Woolworths demonstrate their connection with traditional Easter cooking by promoting fresh fish.

Locally, Coles and Woolworths couldn’t be further apart in terms of presentation and merchandising – Woolies appears streets ahead.

While Coles may be pushing a valuable fuel offer, which is certainly important during Easter weekend, but for a supermarket who have had Easter eggs on display in-store since just after Christmas, it doesn’t feel nearly consumer focused enough.

Coles Easter website

Coles’ website – definitely not as geared up for converting during Easter compared with Woolworths.

On the other hand, Woolies’ brilliant use of side real estate is theme merchandising 101 and presents a standard that all retail sites should replicate. The carousel on the Woolworths page highlights some Easter deals and offers – this is a long way ahead of their rival’s presentation in terms conversion opportunities.

Merchandising is something of a science – you only need to listen to brand managers, marketers for FMCG companies and big retailers themselves to know how much time, effort and energy goes into presenting products. In fact, there are plenty of statistical merchandising formulas that are worked on by highly paid marketers in many large retail businesses.

Local retailers should (and probably do) have as much merchandising knowledge as their overseas counterparts – yet they aren’t applying it online. Why is it that the local big stores continue to miss opportunities?


7 thoughts on “Australian Retail Sites Don’t Stack Up with US Counterparts at Easter”

  1. Hi Chris, maybe it is not necessary for Australian businesses to blindly follow what retailers in the USA do. Australia has some religious, and other, holidays that in general the USA do not follow and in the reverse they have holidays, like Thanksgiving, which we don’t care much about. Unfortunately the bloody turkey has now turned up everywhere. In my opinion having a couple of days holidays that are not a retail adventure is a good thing.

    Bottom line I don’t really think we should compare ourselves with the USA. It is interesting to watch trends and technology but lets not create a culture that blindly follows.

    I am all for businesses getting into online retail and selling online, hell that is what our business is all about. But how can we do it the Australian way and improve on what we see overseas as opposed to copy it. Australian businesses have always been pretty innovative but recently we have seen a trend of large overseas online retailers coming to Australia and shoving a business model down our collective throats. Some of those models have definitely come off the crest of the wave and are ready to dump. So they see Australia as a late life kicker for their business.

    Lets ask what Australian businesses large and small can do to be innovative and support Australia’s culture and unique demographics. Rather than importing overseas concepts and processes.

    Anyway in the old US of A vernacular “you have a nice day and come on back…”.

  2. Chris Morley says:

    John thanks for comments – the comparison to the US is based on that market being the industry leading eCommerce market; the examples are designed to show merchandising and how retailers here who have great merchandising experience in store – for Easter – fail to capitalise on this experience when presenting online. Coles is a classic example – Easter Eggs on every isle end, dedicated Easter isles in store don’t happen by accident – yet their online presence fails to use the same principles it applies in store.

    The ToysRus example is another great one – both are promoting Easter yet one does so with a view to sell online – we can learn from that. Retailers focus needs to be on selling.

    I think some of your points on Americanisation of Australia may be relevant – I don’t like blindly following US Culture sacrificing our Australian way of life and business – but that isn’t what the article was designed to talk about. I find the religious comparison between the US and Australia an interesting difference hence why they were mentioned in the lead in.

    The way Australian businesses target religious events, sporting events, yearly events like mothers day in store shows the knowledge and experience is there – we just don’t apply it online like other markets.
    Would you prefer next time we look at the UK Market for inspiration?

    1. Not the UK please not the UK…..:-)

      The core issue for large brands in Australia is that the in-store marketing and the online marketing tend to be done by different parts of the organisation. The in-store is also part driven by associative buying habits e.g your kids picking up an Easter egg at the checkout. You also see this in the isle placements. That does not really happen online although it might be interesting to figure out how you could do that (collaborative online shopping!).

      I think you will also find that smaller more agile online retailers do adjust content and offers around holidays and special events.

      Australia has little competition to the two larger retailers and that is reflected in their approach to the market. In my opinion they spend more effort marketing against each other than to the buying public.

      Anyway I do like your article it stimulates a different approach to look at our online retailers and sellers. But I can’t always agree with you that would be no fun at all.


      1. Chris Morley says:

        We may not always agree John- I am sure we have the same intention at the core though – to grow eCommerce Australia.

        1. Grant Arnott says:

          I’m happy to referee the showdown.

  3. “Slapdown” more like it. If we are going to get there lets do it properly:-)

    1. Chris Morley says:

      Hmmm what am I getting myself into??? Since when did eCommerce become so violent – i thought we were a peaceful industry 😉

Leave a Reply

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