Australia embraces online shopping

Nearly a third of Australians will never again shop the way they did before COVID-19, according to a survey from Cashrewards.

The Cashrewards On-line Shopping Survey analysed current shopping habits and future intentions. Cashrewards spokesperson Bernard Wilson said female seniors, though reluctant to embrace online shopping, “increased their tendency to shop online more than any other group”.

“They still strongly prefer to touch and try items before they buy them and they have more time on their hands, so convenience is much less a drive for them than the ongoing threat of COVID-19 should it become a seasonal threat,” said Mr Wilson.

Australian ecommerce spending increased 29 per cent from March to April this year when lockdowns began, reported It confirmed that there were over 200,000 new online shoppers in April 2020 and more than a third of them purchased items online more than once.

The Conversation reported that in April online sales made up 11.1 per cent of all physical retail sales, compared with 7.1 per cent in March 2019.

Prior to the pandemic, Australians preferred “bricks and mortar” shopping rather than waiting for deliveries. But the pandemic has changed everything, with 30 per cent of 1200 consumers surveyed in September saying they’ll never return to their previous shopping patterns. Popular reasons for continuing to shop online included ease in price comparison (76.2 per cent), convenience (68.9 per cent) and not missing out on coupons and cashback offers (33 per cent).

A stunning 68 per cent of consumers intend to use new brands and retailers they engaged with online during the pandemic.

“Some groups of shoppers, particularly busy mums and younger and middle-aged men buying bigger items like tech, sports and outdoor goods, have really enjoyed the benefits of increased online shopping during COVID-19 and they are most likely to continue their higher levels of online shopping,” said Mr Wilson.

The survey revealed that 85 per cent of Australians will be avoiding “unnecessary public place shopping” while the pandemic continues.

More than half of Australian shoppers are still avoiding physical stores (57 per cent), suggesting it will take more than the removal of lockdowns to rebuild consumer confidence in shopping at stores.

But many retailers are embracing opportunities offered by the changes.

“A number of retailers have made once-in-a-generation investments in their online shopping and delivery capabilities, which have transformed convenience for customers. Whatever their motivations, whether positive or due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, it seems clear that Australians have experienced a permanent shift to online shopping,” said Mr Wilson.

Jamarr Mills, head of business planning at Essence, agrees. He told Adnews that despite the pandemic-created recession, this is an “exciting time for business” because the growth in ecommerce has caused “an influx of new customers, new product category insights and new purchase behaviour data”.

“No matter how retailers return, ecommerce will have more value for businesses and consumers post-lockdown than before.”

Online shopping during the pandemic fuelled a huge rise in the use of buy now, pay later (BNPL) services such as Afterpay and Zip, which were preferred to credit cards (down 7 per cent) and cash (down 37 per cent).

“Afterpay enjoyed its best-ever quarter as locked-down shoppers flocked to alternative payment services during the pandemic,” The New Daily reported. 

Australians bought $2 billion of the $3.8 billion of goods and services purchased with Afterpay in the three months to the end of June. That was a 127 per cent sales increase on the same period last year.

Afterpay customers bought home, entertainment, and fitness-related goods at the onset of the pandemic, furniture and home office supplies in April and clothes and jewellery in May.

Sally Tindall, research director for consumer comparison site RateCity, said Australians preferred BNPL services because of their interest-free repayments.

“Platforms such as Afterpay have been an extremely attractive choice for younger Australians who are wary of credit cards,” she told The New Daily.

“With no complicated sign-up process, no interest charged and no fees to pay if you meet your instalments, these platforms are likely to keep on growing.”

A Credit Simple survey found 36 per cent of respondents were using BNPL for the first time during the pandemic, and 64 per cent said they would continue using BNPL services after the pandemic.

Many categories previously underrepresented in online purchases have boomed during the pandemic. There was a 600 per cent increase in spending on sporting goods in March, when social isolation measures kicked in. The big rises in April were consumer electronics (up 108 per cent), home improvement (up 76 per cent), and beauty and personal care (up 45 per cent).

Have you shopped more online since the pandemic?

Will you go back to shops as much once the pandemic is under control?

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Written by Will Brodie


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