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E-commerce leaders stick to script of cautious optimism

Representatives from Australian online marketplaces, including MyDeal, Redbubble and Deliveroo, talked at length about customer acquisition and retention at last week’s Australian E-commerce Marketplace Summit in Melbourne, but when it came to Amazon, they stuck to a script of cautious optimism.

Variations of the phrase “the rising tide lifts all boats” were uttered by more than one person in a panel discussion. Australia Post was a notable exception to the chorus of carefully neutral statements.

“I think [Amazon] is a fantastic opportunity for Australian merchants and a brilliant outcome for customers,” Marc Gauci, head of e-commerce business development at Australia Post, said.

“Service levels across the total e-commerce spectrum will rise to new levels. And in our world, it’s a great opportunity to use delivery as a point of difference,” he said.

Those hoping Gauci would shed some light on a launch date, however, were left disappointed.

“We’ve had a contract with them for a number of years now. They’re very discreet and guarded about their business plans, which we respect,” he said.

Amazon’s launch date

Indeed, Amazon has remained tight-lipped about its timeline for Marketplace, but at least one person Internet Retailing has spoken to is convinced Marketplace will launch in time for Christmas trading.

As CEO of an agency that helps brands launch on Marketplace, they are familiar with Amazon’s operations in the US, and say the e-commerce giant is in talks with several major brands about selling on the platform.

Sister publication Inside Retail Weekly last week revealed that PVH Brands Australia, the local licensee for Calvin Klein, Van Heusen and Tommy Hilfiger, is undertaking negotiations with Amazon to potentially launch its products on Marketplace.

This poses a significant threat to marketplaces like MyDeal, which offer a similar range of electronic goods, home and garden items and clothing.

MyDeal CEO and founder Sean Senvirtne, who hosted the event, said the company’s culture of innovation will help it survive in the months ahead.

Speaking on a panel, Senvirtne said online retailers must “innovate or evaporate” and pointed to his own company’s evolution from the group buying model.

MyDeal recently relaunched its marketplace website with an eye to bring on board larger Australian retail brands.

Global art marketplace Redbubble, which has been competing with Amazon in the US for 11 years already, revealed its three-pronged approach to fending off competition: timely, affordable, personalised.

“We have to make sure our products get to consumers in a timely fashion. Prime is a day or two hours in some cases. How do we make it affordable? Compete on price and negotiate with sellers. Then personalise. That is really our unique selling point. We can surface [a piece of art] that is truly personalised for every single person in the world,” he said.

One way Redbubble does this is through its mobile app, which it uses to offer personalised discounts to customers based on their browsing history.

Redbubble recently launched an augmented reality feature in the app, which lets customers visualise products in their own homes.

Meanwhile, Deliveroo is investing in new delivery methods to bring its product (restaurant food) to customers quicker. General manager of Deliveroo Australia, Levi Aron, said the company is currently testing drones for delivery and is building delivery-only kitchens outside urban centres to reach more customers.

“E-commerce manifests as the delivery of technology services to the consumer,” he said.

From left, Levi Aron of Deliveroo, Mark Gauci of AusPost, Ben Chan of Envato, Murray Howe of Adobe, Nick Kenn of Redbubble, Sean Senvirtne of MyDeal, Justin Armsden

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