I love to shop. Came out of the womb with a Platinum Amex card and haven't stopped to take a breath since. In fact, I'd say I'm an expert when it comes to shopping, so here's an expert's read on e-tailing in Australia: it ain't working and it's probably never going to work big time.
Okay, so the first observation isn't the most incisive in the world. After all, anyone can read a newspaper. But for every e-tailer going down the gurgler there's another waiting in the wings with a new model. Get over it: the emperor has no clothes (at least none bought on the Internet).
Why am I so sure that e-tailing is non-event? Because as a rule I don't shop on the Internet. Now, even I don't spend enough to individually impact Internet-related revenues (although my husband might disagree), but I'm pretty sure I'm indicative of the type of person e-tailers would love to call a customer and here's why I don't believe shopping on the Internet is gonna be big, especially in Australia.
You've gotta have brand. And, I'm not just talking about an individual brand like Country Road or Ralph Lauren. I'm talking about my inherent expectation of the store (okay, virtual store) and what it delivers.
I know what to expect when I go to Target (on the odd occasion). I know what to expect when I go to David Jones. But what's DJs selling on the Internet? Cosmetics, fragrances and hampers. Boy, that's a shopper's Elysian Fields. And hampers? That's a product with legs. I mean once Christmas is over, I must buy 30, 40 hampers the remainder of the year. Yeah, right.
It's too damn hard. This applies globally. When I shop I like to browse. (Men: skip ahead to the next point, immediately. Men, shop and browse do not belong in the same sentence.) The only time I did a major shop on the Internet, my husband was going to the US and the fever was upon me. I toughed it out and managed to rack up some substantial purchases, but it took a God-awful time. In a physical store, I'd have been in and out in an hour or so.
You gotta have the inclination to purchase sight unseen. Okay by me. But I come from the US where there's a long tradition of catalogue shopping. Australians don't have that kind of catalogue history. A few years ago one of the leading catalogue retailers, Lands' End, tried to set up shop here and failed miserably. In less than 12 months it tucked its re-tail between its legs and left our fair shores. I held a memorial service, but I don't think anyone else even noticed.
And my final cogent observation? It's probably the most important. People who hate to shop love e-tailing. Think about it.