The disparities between UK and Australian retailers and their adoption to digital transformation: How much further has Australia got to go to catch up? Posted at 0:00, Fri, 4 December 2015 in Industry Insights

After making the decision to pack my life into a suitcase, endure an epic 22-hour movie marathon 35,000 feet in the air, and tolerate an airbed that needed pumping up in the middle of the night for two weeks, I’ve finally settled into my new Australian life.

Having never been to Australia before, I knew I would be in for a bit of a culture shock; jargon I’ve never heard, four seasons in a day (Melbourne specifically), public transport that doesn’t involve an armpit in your face, people not understanding my ‘Will from The Inbetweeners’ accent, but the one thing I wasn’t expecting is how far behind Australia’s retailers are in digitally transforming their businesses.

UK retailers have gone through drastic changes in the last 5 years with eCommerce sales making up 14.5% of overall retail sales compared to Australia’s 4.5% predicted for 2015. Amazon UK has been the most used eCommerce site in the UK for the last four years, with the likes of Argos, Apple, Asos and John Lewis trailing behind; yet Amazon barely has a presence in Australia.

Even away from pure play retail businesses like Amazon, Australia still has a lot of improvement to make. Argos (a British catalogue retailer and part of Home Retail Group) is a prime example of how digital transformation should be implemented for an omni-channel retailer (subjectively speaking); the iconic catalogue that was the cornerstone of the business was submerged into the digital era. No more are British homes plagued with the 5kg catalogue that has been used for things from a doorstop, to a drinks coaster, even to a weapon to hit a younger sibling with (maybe that was just my older brother…). All of those memories will now become folktale that we will tell the next generation of children who won’t even be able to comprehend the pain of having one thrown at their midsection.

All joking aside, Argos have managed to condense all of the content into an app which is able to tell you everything from stock availability, store location, opening hours, similar products, the ability to reserve items for two days before you arrive and order some products directly to your door. Argos isn’t the only one either, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, two of the main retailers in the UK, have also launched apps for their consumers, increasing engagement and insight to their customers.

The likes of Myer and David Jones have a long journey ahead of them, but hopefully they will be able to catch up to speed with the rest of the digital world, learning from the case studies of companies that have tried, failed and succeeded.

With all of this said, Australia are already moving in the right direction with online retail currently estimated at A$22.1 billion for last year, a 7% growth on 2013. We’re also seeing a lot of ad tech businesses reaching our shores and setting up shop from both the UK and Palo Alto, a sign that digital could already have all the traction it needs to springboard ahead.

What are your thoughts on the future of digital in Australia? We’d love to hear from you – find us on Twitter @MitchelLake.