Big retailers go online in Australia

16 March 2011

SYDNEY: High-street retailers are attempting to enhance their position in Australia's ecommerce sector, but still lag behind established specialist operators like eBay and Amazon at present.

Nielsen Online, the research firm, estimated that ecommerce now takes around 7% of all domestic retail sales, a figure expected to expand further in the future.

The company reported that eBay received visits from 5.5m unique browsers in the opening month of this year, beating Amazon's 2.1m, Woolworths' 1.4m, and JB HiFi's 916,000.

Mark Higginson, analytics director for Nielsen Online, told Smart Company: "eBay has long been a category winner. It empowers individual sellers and businesses to set up their own stores in ways that are attractive to customers.

"But one of the interesting things we're seeing is that their popularity is actually tracking down - their traffic is down from last year. Not by much, but it is a slow downward trend."

DealsDirect posted a total of 802,000, the only other member of the top ten - also including Big W, VistaPrint, Dick Smith, Officeworks and Kmart - to cross the 800,000 barrier.

But the highest acceleration rates were attributable to well-known high-street brands, as Woolworths logged a 48% leap, Kmart's audience climbed 46% and JB Hi-Fi enjoyed a 42% jump.

"We've seen massive growth in online, and the mainstream retailers have gotten to a point where there is so much going on they can't ignore it," said Norman.

"Even things like the group buying category would prompt them to come online. It's suddenly a huge business model and shows how this all really works."

Forrester analyst Steven Noble suggested traffic does not automatically equate to completed transactions, meaning there is no inevitability about major offline chains strengthening their grip.

"Certainly a number of larger and more traditional retailers have come online recently, or will do so in the near future, and they are taking a share of online sales," he said.

"They will continue to do that, but at the same time, overall online sales are growing rapidly and the pie is getting larger."

Data sourced from Smart Company; additional content by Warc staff