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Who is the typical Aussie online shopper?

The third annual Global Online Shopping Study from Pitney Bowes has been released, revealing an updated snapshot of the typical Aussie online shopper.

According to the survey results, the typical online shopper is more likely to be male, aged 25-35 years old. He prefers to shop with brands he trusts, although this doesn’t necessarily preclude international e-commerce stores, which he probably buys from. When he pays, he prefers to use an e-wallet, and he’s more likely to use a computer than a smartphone to complete the transaction.

This is an amalgamation of the key findings from Pitney Bowes’ survey of approximately 13,000 adults across 13 countries including Australia about their perceptions, habits and preferences for making online purchases. The survey was conducted by ORC International.

While Australian millennials clearly drive online shopping, with 96 per cent of this age group using e-commerce, older generations are not far behind. The vast majority of respondents aged between between 35 and 44 years have shopped online (92 per cent), followed closely by 45 to 54 year olds (87 per cent) and over 55 year olds (81 per cent).

Across age groups, Aussie shoppers are some of the most likely in the world to buy from online stores in other countries. In the US, just 45 per cent of respondents said they have made cross-border purchases, while 86 per cent of Australian respondents said the same.

“Cross-border shopping has quickly become a common occurrence for Australians,” Pitney Bowes’ vice president and managing director for Asia Pacific software solutions and global e-commerce David Hope told Internet Retailing.

“Seventy-eight per cent of Australians said they bought online cross-border in the last month and in the last year, meaning Australia has the largest percentage of cross-border shoppers in the world.

The survey also uncovered the trend of people shopping instore on their overseas holidays and then buying from those foreign retailers online after they have returned home, Hope said.

Globally, 63 per cent of surveyed cross-border shoppers do this, which presents a huge opportunity for Australian retailers and brands, with more than seven million international travellers visiting Australia in the previous financial year, according to AusTrade.

“They need to be thinking about how they welcome visiting shoppers and capture data like email addresses, which allows them to market to visiting shoppers once they return home,” Hope said, explaining how retailers can take advantage of this trend.

“As a retailer you have to be ready for global shoppers and the complexity of cross-border selling, shipping and regulations. You have to be aware of international taxes, fees, tariffs, and shipping restrictions,” he said. “That’s a lot even for retailers who have mastered domestic online selling.”

The cost of shipping and security concerns are the main reasons Aussie online shoppers choose to buy domestically rather than cross-border, the Global Online Shopping Study found. In line with this, 74 per cent of Australian respondents still rank Australia as the safest online shopping option, followed by the US and UK.

But it’s up to individual brands or retailers to earn the trust of consumers, since almost half of Aussies favour individual retailers over marketplaces, compared to a global average of 24 per cent.

This preference changes for cross-border purchases, with about one-third of Australian consumers buying directly from online retailers and one-third going to online marketplaces. Retailers should consider a broad presence and multiple channels to reach global shoppers.

One of the most surprising findings of the survey has to do with mobile commerce. “The mobile buying segment is growing, but not as much as we thought it would,” Hope said. Approximately one in three Australians will complete a purchase on their mobile phone, but 70 per cent of Australian respondents still use their computer to complete a purchase.

“We anticipate that the mobile buying percentages will keep growing as retailers make the mobile experience better for browsing and buying.”

Results also uncovered new insight into how consumers are finding products domestically online. Shoppers in Australia are likely to choose search engines (52 per cent) and online retailers (52 per cent) equally. Other popular discovery tools include email messages (24 per cent) and online marketplaces (41 per cent).

Social discovery is not yet the norm in Australia, with only 14 per cent of Aussie shoppers finding new products through social media, compared to 45 per cent in Hong Kong. But Hope expects that number to go up. “If retailers refine their social messages, there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Meanwhile, the percentage of Australian consumers discovering new products through email messages is higher than in most countries, so effective email outreach is still important, Hope said.

When asked about the most important factors in selecting a payment option, Australian consumers cited service fees/total cost of purchase (31 per cent), offer of a purchase protection plan (32 per cent) and value of the purchase (24 per cent), as the most important considerations. Retailers must offer a breadth of payment options, including e-wallets, to avoid alienating would-be consumers.

Online shipping and returns continue to be a major pain point for consumers, especially during the holiday season. One-third of Australian survey respondents said they had experienced related challenges when shopping online for the 2015 holiday season.

Basic elements of the customer experience such as shipping the right item; accuracy in address and tracking; a transparent returns policy; and proper duty and tax were all cited as challenges.

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