Australian retailers are failing to keep up with consumer use of mobile technology, according to Google retail industry leader Ross McDonald.
While Australian retailers often like to compare themselves to those in the US and UK, McDonald told an Australian Information Industry Association event they should instead be looking at how Australian consumers compare to their offshore counterparts.
“Australia has amongst the highest smartphone penetration in the world … we have the highest tablet penetration in the world…so we can’t actually wait to see what’s going to happen out of the US or copy best practices in the UK,” McDonald said.
He said despite Australians’ rapid uptake of mobile devices, Google research showed just 55 percent of the websites of Australian businesses could be seen and navigated on a mobile device.
“How high do these smartphone penetration numbers have to get before we have 100 percent of businesses that can have their website viewed on a mobile device?” McDonald asked.
He said retailers could benefit from tailoring the appearance of their website depending on the device being used by a customer
“Big screens - tablets and TVs are for entertainment, laptops and desktops are goal-oriented … and smartphones are very goal-oriented and often the device that links all the other pieces together.
“The way you might want to appear on those different screens might differ.”
McDonald said “couch commerce”, a spike in tablet use after 8pm at night, was an opportunity for Australian retailers.
“Those retailers who optimise their presence for that tablet format will often see double the conversion rate on that particular device compared to other devices.”
McDonald said it was important to design mobile offerings depending on the context.
Retailer Big W is one organisation experimenting with contextual-based mobile applications, with an app that allows consumers to scan products in a competitor store and find the Big W price.
A recent global survey found Australians prefer to visit a website via their mobile device when in a store, than talk to an in-store salesperson.
Big W director Julie Coates told a conference earlier this month that 500,000 people had downloaded the app.
“We have 80,000 people who use that app regularly, when I say regularly I mean three to four times a month.”
Coates said 10 percent of the retailer’s online sales were currently coming via mobile devices, both through the app, and direct.
Australian consumers have high expectations of how websites should work on mobile devices, said Pedro Santos, mobile global vice president of Akamai.
“They expect to pull up a website on an iPad or iPhone or Galaxy S3 and they just expect it to work. They expect it to perform well, they expect to get the right content."
He said Australian companies were rapidly shifting towards creating a dedicated mobile experience for customers, with responsive design taking off, despite some companies struggling to manage the amount of code required to cope with the different browsers and devices being used.