Friday, 18 May 2012

Shopper information: America vs Australia

Internet is a great source of information and as a shopper I use it to seek information about products and services. I guess you do too and if you don't, you probably should. One great kind of information is reviews of other shoppers and I am not ashamed to admit that they have a huge impact on the buying decisions I make.

While customer reviews are widely popular on American websites, I can't remember seen any Australian website offering that option. This is only one example of the differences I found between the US and Australia in terms of online shopping capabilities. 

In the US, every major shopping website offers customers to review their products on the website itself. This is unheard of in Australia. When you give people the option to rate and review, you expect to receive both positive and negative comments and negative comments are not an option for Australian businesses. Business owner know that negative comments are out there but they are willing to accept them only in a private form. It is so much easier to ignore a problem when it is not public. Once it's made public it's hard to hush it and you need to act and solve it.

Facebook is another example. One of the dilemmas that business owners face is to whether or not open a Facebook page. Facebook will allow them to communicate information to potential and existing clients but it will also provide those clients with an open platform to criticise the business. Some businesses just can't take that risk. So while every small and large American business is on Facebook, Australian businesses are still not ready to take their chances.  

So why the difference between countries? America has a huge population, many businesses and a lot of competition. The same product is often available from more than one seller so if you don't offer your products at the best prices with the best customer service, there are tens if not hundreds of other businesses the customer can go to. So American businesses do want want to hear what the customers have to say so they can satisfy them and make them loyal. Online platforms allow businesses to listen to their customers and moreover, often they allow them to reply at the same platform and show that they care and solve issues. 

Another difference between America and Australia is the actual online shopping option. Australian businesses and retailers keep complaining on how online stores take business away from them and keep demanding that the government does something on the matter. They can't accept that while Australia still has a small population with few businesses and very little competition, Internet opened a whole new world of shopping opportunities for Australians. Aussies don't have to buy overprices items anymore, they can go to eBay or wherever to find the best deal and often the better customer service. They can go to Amazon to read reviews on products and maybe order from there as well.

The reality is that either businesses adopting to the new environment or they go out of business. The first step to stay relevant in the current environment is to go online and offer online shopping while staying competitive in the current market. Many of those Australian businesses that did finally start offering online shopping still offer no initiative for customers to actually buy from their online store. Meanwhile in the American highly competitive environment businesses offer regular discounts, competitive shipping rates, flexible exchange and return policies and regular promotions to attract customers. Those offers of online overseas stores also attract Australian who look to save money and enjoy products not available within Australia.
With this said, it's good to see that some Aussie businesses do listen to customer demands and do offer promotions that keep the customers interested. One example which I got to witness is the clothing brand CUE which in my opinion came a long way in the last 9 months or so.

CUE on Facebook

CUE got serious about their Facebook page in August last year and kept customers interested with regular posts, sneak-peaks into the new collections, updates on events, special offers, etc. During the racing season they had a competition with ladies submitting their photos from the races wearing CUE which got more ladies involved with the brand. Later they used their Facebook page to introduce the 2012 winter collection and I believe to also bring more people to their homepage. A couple of weeks ago CUE launched an online store. I imagine it came as a reply to customer demand (overseas and remote area customers) and the current market. In the last year or so most major Australian brands went online by showcasing their items and some started offering online shopping. CUE was way behind with only campaign photos available on the website so you could see only a limited number of items. The online store definitely took them a huge step further. They kept me personally interested because shopping is available to overseas customers and CUE made sure to emphasis that. Moreover, shipping costs are very competitive with less than $17 for shipping to the USA. After the launch CUE offered free shipping to Australian customers only which put me off a bit. You can't emphasis your international online store and then offer something to one country only. This makes me as a customer think, will all the offers be for Aussies only? CUE obviously got the hint and now have a special offer valid to all online customers. I hope they will keep going on the right path and keep showcasing great marketing.

This were my 2 cents on the matter.


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