Prospects poor for Australian e-tail

Skills_shortage_1New research indicates overseas e-tailers could be the least of Australian retailers’ worries, with high staff turnover and poor skills hindering Australia’s prospects in online retail.

As reported in Fairfax’ Business Day, while the newly formed Retail Coalition lobbies the government to remove the $1000 GST-threshold on imported goods purchased over the internet, an online survey by research group Forrester has identified recruiting and retaining staff skilled in e-commerce to be among the biggest challenges holding back Australia’s own e-tail industry.

The Forrester survey of 114 web-based professionals found low-cost competition including that from overseas websites topped the survey’s concerns, according to 38 per cent of those polled. Meanwhile, about one-third of respondents viewed skills shortages as a key challenge. Experienced professionals were hard to find and keep, especially in Australia, due to its smaller e-commerce market, the report found.

Specialised skills in high demand for e-tail included the ability to develop marketing strategies for online businesses, coordinating them across online and mobile devices, social media, and customer-friendly web design and user experience. The ability to lift the online profile of a website using search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques was also highly prized.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia retail analyst Andrew McLennan said the last five years had seen Australian retailers adopting online strategies “very slowly”.
To date many major retailers had been wary of cannibalising their own more profitable businesses by pushing customers online where margins were typically thinner. However, delays in getting qualified e-commerce experts in place had hampered many retailers’ progress as they moved into the online space.

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