Online users abound, but Aussie eBusiness needs growth

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Online users abound, but Aussie eBusiness needs growth

Gone are the days of physical shopping excursions; the Internet is the shopping mall of the future according to online retail comparison site Getprice.

As some of Australia's large companies such as Coles and JB HiFi set their sights online, electronic shopping has become more prevalent in the national culture.

According to Chris Hitchen, managing director of Getprice, online stores can offer greater convenience, larger inventories and better opportunities for customer retention than their physical brethren.

"In Australia, all the tools are there," he said, pointing out huge opportunities and a lot of current investment in retail Web sites.

"You just have to do your research and the market will come," he said.

Citing 2006 research results, eBay's marketing manager Daniel Feiler estimates that more than 62 percent of Australian Internet users shop online.

The online auction site currently boasts five million Australian members exchanging goods that range from books and CDs to automotive vehicles.

The growth of online shopping is also reflected in the users of eBay subsidiary, Paypal, which have grown to number 8.5 thousand Australian merchants since the service was launched in 2005.

"The worth of ecommerce [in Australia] is around 12-13 billion dollars," Feiler said. "But Australian retailers have traditionally held back from going online."

Getprice's Hitchen agrees, citing the example of Harvey Norman, which last month announced that it would not be investing heavily on an electronic sales channel.

Observing that the electronics retailer might fear a disruption in its franchising model, Hitchen said that existing sales models could and should be updated to capitalise on the eBusiness opportunities.

"Online shopping should be an opportunity, not a threat," he said.

But local eBusiness still has a long way to go, Hitchen said. He explained that as part of Getprice's dealings with some 400 retailers in Australia, he has witnessed a number of poorly designed shop fronts - including one Web site that failed to include a 'buy' button.

"It's surprising that so many businesses are failing dismally at the basics," he said, urging businesses to improve their search engine indexability, shop front design, conversion architecture and advertising.
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