Australians did nearly a third of their retail shopping online in the last year, as the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns accelerated local ecommerce like never before.

In the 12 months to September 2019 16.9 per cent of retail purchases occurred online, according to Roy Morgan. The online share nearly doubled in 2020, reaching 30.5 per cent, according to data from the research firm which has been monitoring consumer behaviour for decades in Australia.

“The changes we’re seeing here are not solely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has accelerated the degree to which people have made the switch to online shopping,” said Roy Morgan CEO, Michele Levine.

“Obviously being in lockdown played a major role in that. It’s likely that the absence of many other distractions and entertainment also factored in, and even with movement freely permitted many people have retained concerns about mingling with others in stores and shopping malls.”

Ecommerce boom

Certain shopping categories boomed in the last 12 months, including clothing jumping from 10 per cent bought online to 26.5 per cent in the last 12 months. Hardware, home DIY and plant & gardening accessories – a category that has struggled online – more than doubled, going from 5.2 per cent online to 12.6 per cent online.

With the sole exception of cards and stationary, each retail category now has at least one tenth of its sales occurring online.

And in one category – computers, tablets, accessories and software – more purchases are now made online (52 per cent) than off.

Levine says the migration to work from home is also a significant factor in the rush online.

“Our figures show that in May 28 per cent of the workforce, or 4.3 million people, were working from home. By July that had fallen only marginally to 25 per cent, or 3.9 million, but as of September it had risen again to 4.2 million, largely thanks to Victoria’s second lockdown. 

“It appears certain that for a significant number the move to permanently or predominantly working from home is likely to persist beyond the current crisis. This clearly has major implications for bricks & mortar retail outlets, particularly in Australia’s major CBDs.”

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