The retail sector is experiencing a dramatic shake up with massive growth in online shopping indicating a shift in how consumers interact with products, sales and spaces.
Recent figures speak for themselves. Domestic online sales represented more than 50% of 2017 total retail sales growth in Australia as opposed to three years ago when they accounted for less than 10%.i
This rapid growth is staggering in a sector that has otherwise been sluggish of late. But what does it mean for consumers? With Christmas just around the corner, now's the perfect time to look at current trends in online shopping, what to watch out for, and how you can bag a bargain while saving a heap of time in the process.
A few years ago mobile commerce represented a very small portion of online sales but as retailers have embraced app culture and made their websites mobile compatible, we've seen large growth in the sector. The main benefit for consumers is the ability to shop on the go. Rather than wait until you get home to make a purchase on your desktop, you can do it on your lunchbreak, on your commute, practically wherever you have your mobile.
Shipping costs can be a snag for shoppers hoping to score a bargain online. But retail forecasters are predicting a big increase in the number of outlets offering free shipping in the lead up to Christmas.ii
Do your research here and make sure to plan well in advance. Retailers are unlikely to bear the costs of express post.
Marketers have really been pushing online sales events in recent years and most of these work on an American calendar. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Click Frenzy and Boxing Day are the big ones, and having an awareness of where they fall could save you a bunch. It also gives you a deadline to have your shopping decisions made. There's nothing more stressful than leaving your entire Christmas spend until the 23rd.
Things to be aware of
The biggest thing to be careful of when shopping online is how it can eat into your budget. It's a lot easier to get carried away sitting on your couch than braving the crowds running from store to store.
Online marketers know exactly how to entice us too. Algorithms can recognise your behaviors and direct you to other items you are likely to be interested in; countdowns on carts create a false sense of urgency; free shipping on items over a certain amount encourages you to buy more than you need. Knowing your budget, doing your research and a healthy dose of discipline can help here.
Buy-now-pay-later plans have been on the rise recently especially amongst younger consumers. Afterpay in particular has seen huge growth since it listed two years ago. More than 15 per cent of Australian millennials are already using it.iii
If you are considering Afterpay, make sure you know you have the cashflow to pay off the purchase in the ensuing months. Otherwise you could be hit with significant fees.
Unfortunately amongst the genuine online retailers there is the occasional scammer out there branding fake goods as real, or worse, taking your money without ever delivering on the product. Luckily there are a number of warning signs that an online retailer isn't acting with good will.
The most obvious one is the form of payment. Money-order, pre-loaded money card, and wire transfer are payment methods to avoid, as it is very hard to get your money back. For a more detailed rundown of warning signs visit the ACCC's Scamwatch website.
Finally, whenever you shop online, make sure you check out all the reviews and ensure you are happy with the terms of the returns/refund policy.
The changing retail landscape can present numerous opportunities for savvy shoppers. And with a bit of caution, you could bag yourself a bargain without breaking the budget this festive season.