Australian e-commerce: Time to lift our game!

Written on 20 June, 2010 by Jonathan Crossfield
Categories E-commerceTags small business

Come on Australian business - pull your finger out! This is where I sit you down like a tired team at half time and pour the cold water of reality over you before rallying you to do better, try harder and win the long game! It's all to play for but we need to focus – not only on ourselves but also our opponents. It is often said that Australian businesses are running years behind overseas online trends and, in my experience, such statements are usually scoffed at. But if you want proof that we really need to lift our game, here's the current score.

According to a report due to be released next month by market researchers Frost & Sullivan – and discussed over at ecommercereport.com.au - 40% of Australian online expenditure goes to overseas websites. With Australian e-commerce currently worth $12 billion this year, that's $8 billion of potential business we're letting slip! $8 billion worth of missed opportunities! Should we be happy with that? I don't think so. We're getting creamed on our home ground. And the figures get worse when we look at the away games.

By comparison, at last week's Experian Hitwise Online Performance Awards it was revealed that online shoppers in the US only send 10% of their expenditure overseas. You can bet only a fraction of that comes to Australia. A similar figure applies to the UK. But although business trends and results vary wildly between local and abroad, consumer expenditure is more or less consistent. In $US, per capita spend in Australia is $459 in 2010 which isn't that far behind the US at $491. So if local consumers are spending almost the same, Australian businesses are letting the side down.

I hear the argument time and time again. Local businesses are content to market themselves to a local audience. “I offer the best value whatchimacallits in Australia” they say, content that they are a big fish in a small pond. That might be valid for some businesses but certainly not for all. Businesses defend their parochialism by pointing to our geographic distance from the rest of the world, conveniently forgetting that distance didn't prevent Aussie consumers from buying overseas. Others fall back on the mantra of the local market being somehow ‘different'. Is it? And if so, are you meeting that difference in a way that overseas businesses can't?

It would seem not.

We're not in a pond people! It's a lake that spans the globe and your big fish is barely a tadpole by comparison! What is the point of being the best value in Australia when the web makes it possible to get even better value from the US or Europe with just as much convenience? Why should we be patting ourselves on the back about local e-commerce growth when we're letting so much potential flow overseas?

So here's the rallying call! Let's hunker down. Forget the little league games we've been playing up ‘til now. Forget competing with the guy down the street and start thinking about the guy on the other side of the world. Australia can boast some of the most creative, hard working people in any industry. We know we are world-class. The game is there for the taking - $8 billion of it in fact.

  • Stop waiting for others to succeed before you decide to investigate what they did. Leaders lead from the front.
  • Stop thinking that “best in Australia” is good enough if you have competitors overseas.
  • Stop trying to bend the internet to fit outmoded Twentieth century business models and let go.
  • Start experimenting, testing and innovating, not merely replicating what worked for someone else two years ago.
  • Start targeting overseas customers where applicable. Let's chip at their score!
  • Know your customers. They aren't clicks or numbers on a spreadsheet. They have motivations, needs, emotions, relationships and ideas.
  • Your website is about them and not you. Make sure they know that.
  • Start thinking ‘content' and not ‘advertising'
  • Start thinking ‘communication' and not ‘promotion'.

We are winners! There is no way we will allow ourselves to be beaten. We have the talent, the skills, the ideas and the creativity! Now is the time to put it all out there on the field instead of being timid and cautious! Come on, Australia! The second half whistle is about to blow, marking a fresh financial year. Let's smash that score and show the rest of the world what we're made of!

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie…