Online shopping is set to continue rising despite restrictions easing, new research from global information services company Experian reveals. A third of Australians surveyed anticipate their online spending habits will increase in the coming months with a similar proportion (32 per cent) believing they will continue shopping online over the next six to 12-month period.
The study, the second of three in a longitudinal study exploring the major shifts in consumer behaviour and business strategy pre and post COVID-19, demonstrated a clear trend toward increased online spending with 36 per cent of people responding they would continue to spend more online in the short term in July. This aligns with the trend in ABS figures showing a rise in online retail sales month-on-month for July and August 2020, and a 74.5 per cent surge in September 2020 compared with the same time last year.
With greater online demand comes greater expectations, according to the research. Over half (53 per cent) of Australians have higher expectations in online digital experience now compared to pre-COVID days. One example is the speed of online transacting, with less than half willing to wait more than 60 seconds before abandoning an online transaction.
Positively, 9 in 10 consumers surveyed noted businesses have met their expectations thanks to a greater amount of information online enabling more opportunities to self-serve and reducing the need for people to contact customer service teams.
The access to real people to help has also improved, with a fifth of respondents thinking it is easier to speak to a call centre now compared to pre-pandemic. Australian consumers also feel they now receive quicker responses from customer service representatives (27 per cent) or there is now a seamless way to connect with someone who can help (31 per cent).
“Almost all businesses, regardless of sector, had to step up and offer flexibility and empathetic service this year, with many revising the way they communicate and serve their customers,” Experian general manager decision analytics Mathew Demetriou commented. “Many brought call centres back on-shore at the start of the pandemic or worked on ways to free up their call centres, and our data captures the positive affect these changes have had on the customer experience.”
An example of this is when Experian business Look Who’s Charging worked with major banks such as ANZ and NAB to make it easier for customers to recognise transactions on their statements and help them stay in control of their money. ANZ found their customers no longer were phoning them to query a transaction, and its call centres were liberated to focus on more value-add customer conversations.
“The challenge now will be for businesses to maintain this level and continue to meet consumers’ expectations, both the growing online community and those choosing to go back in-store,” added Mr Demetriou.
The study also highlighted how three in four Australian businesses have plans in place to help customers out of arrears. This comes as 43 per cent of Australians are having difficulty paying their bills for credit cards, utilities, mobile or internet as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 24 per cent of people saying they have reduced their spending altogether.
A further third of Australians have reduced their discretionary spend in order to manage their finances while 1 in 10 have started to put more cash away in an emergency fund or developed a personal budget to control cashflow. 11 per cent reported having cancelled subscriptions or memberships.
“With this knowledge, Australian businesses need to understand their customers more than ever to avoid putting additional pressure on those already feeling the financial burden of COVID-19.”
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