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Aust e-commerce needs export focus: Fahour

Australian businesses are too focused on the domestic market rather than bigger markets overseas when it comes to making the best of opportunities in e-commerce, says Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour.

“I’m still somewhat surprised, if I can be critical of our country, how poorly we have taken advantage of the trillion dollars of cross-border buying of e-commerce from Australia to the rest of Asia,” Fahour told the Boao Forum for Asia on Thursday,

Fahour said Australian businesses have the advantage of the lower value of the local currency against the US dollar, which makes Australian goods comparatively cheaper for overseas buyers.

“Yet, for whatever reason, Australian small business still tend to be domestically-focused and not export-orientated despite magnificent (e-commerce) platforms available to them, like Alibaba and others,” Fahour said.

Also, Australia needs to develop its e-commerce sectors. For example, the grocery and food sector in Australia was not as developed as that of Japan.

In Japan, said Fahour, 30 per cent of e-commerce transactions related to food and groceries, but in Australia it was only 10 per cent.

The co-founder of luxury fashion online retailer Net-A-Porter, Megan Quinn, said too many business had a fear of the unknown.

She also said that government could help grow e-commerce by ensuring that businesses could get connectivity to high-speed wi-fi.

Furthermore, businesses needed access to information on the differences between e-commerce platforms, and even social media platforms, in different countries.

Even in online shopping, consumers overseas had different expectations of price, and packaging, and had different cultural needs.

James Li, chief development officer of China’s Didi Chuxing, the world’s largest ride-sharing company, said services were likely to be the next growth area in e-commerce.

“We are growing much faster than any other e-commerce company in China.” Li said.

Chemist Warehouse chief executive Damien Gance said businesses aiming to make sales on China’s big e-commerce platforms had the mistaken belief that because China was such a big market, all they had to do was plant a flag there.

“If you go there (China), you need to engage in all the things that you did when you grew your business in Australia,” Gance said.


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