Ever since the Australian dollar attained parity with its American equivalent 16 months ago, the market dynamic has transformed.
Besides its fundamental impact on the broader Australian economy, it has led to changes in consumer behavior as foreign goods became cheaper. It opened up the floodgates for imports, giving rise to specialised sites such as Online Shopping USA that help Australians navigate the tricky global online shopping market.
Last year, it was the weak American dollar that drove Australians to U.S. retail sites. This year, it is likely the mother country, Great Britain, as the pound weakens. With the Australian dollar hitting a 27-year-high against the British pound, online payments processor PayPal is predicting a surge in online shoppers who flock to British stores.
“Smart online shoppers are taking advantage of the global shopping mall and know where to shop for the best deals,” said Elena Wise, Acting Managing Director, PayPal Australia. “We regularly see changes in the spending patterns of our four million active customers in response to fluctuating global currencies and the most popular corridors from Australia continue to be the US, the UK and China.”
Ironing out shopping protocol
Just as domestic entrepreneurs have been quick to seize the advantages of a rising Australian dollar, overseas traders have been quick to sense the opportunity and create an enabling environment.
Over the past year, U.K. retailers, among others, have sharpened their focus on selling to Australian consumers, according to PayPal. Many offer reduced and free shipping, local pricing and simplified returns policies. These include some of the leading retailers: TopShop, eBay, ASOS, Oasis, Figleaves, and Book Depository.
PayPal, which enables online commerce for four million active account holders in Australia, still has issued an advisory to shoppers. Check shipping times, sizing, protect your digital footprint and avoid sharing personal information, it said.
On the flip side, the strong Australian dollar is seen posing significant challenges to domestic retailers throughout the year, even though consumers still prefer to shop from Australian brands.
“Australian retailers are being challenged to compete on a global stage and we are now seeing established Australian brands fighting back against international competition by offering a truly integrated approach to retail,” said Wise. This approach merges retailers on and offline presence, allowing them to use their established offline footprints as a competitive advantage to win back the consumer.”