Australia online a faraway and hard-to-reach place
By DAVID WALKER
May 14 2002
Geoffrey Blainey wrote insightfully and famously that Australia suffered from the tyranny of distance. In this digital age you can still be sure that Australia suffers from the tyranny of smallness. And nowhere is this more obvious than in the realm of online content production and management.
The Web has given Australia an opportunity to define the country all over again, to tell its stories and show its achievements, its potential, its unsolved problems. Yet the Australia depicted on the 2002 Internet remains mostly a sparse and barren place, dominated by a peculiar combination of today’s headlines, last year’s government and academic documents, and images of koalas and the Opera House.
Type ”Australia” into a search engine and you quickly see why more than three-quarters of Australians’ Web content is hauled across the Pacific from the US.
Outside a few fields, we simply don’t have much online editorial content. A handful of sites can claim to represent and support Australia online.
The two main newspaper groups and the Nine Network boast extensive news and current-affairs coverage, though little of it is profitable. Former journalist Stephen Mayne rakes muck entertainingly at crikey.com.au, John Tranter publishes the arts online in Jacket (jacketmagazine.com), noted economist Peter Jonson presides over a site full of political and investment analysis at henrythornton.com and onlineopinion.com.au publishes the thoughts of political figures.
Niches such as sport and information technology attract clubs and self-publishers. Governments provide some of the richest resources, offering parliamentary debates and reports online. And the ABC’s under-funded New Media division displays an impressive range of content, old and new.
But other fields from history to ecology to literature are thinly represented on the Australian Internet. A citizen of the US, one of 287 million people at the centre of the online universe, has much more to choose from than an Australian.
And Australian content shows no sign of burgeoning any time soon. The large traditional players may be short on profitability but the new entrants have found no better formula. As Screen Producers Association president Nick Murray put it at a new-media seminar organised by RMIT University’s Network Insight group in late 2001: ”There is no revenue model” for much existing online content production in Australia. As Murray points out, local new-media content battles even to make the audience aware of its existence.
Telstra is this year doling out $50 million for new broadband content. Yet in truth Australia does not have a broadband content problem. It has an Internet content problem, pure and simple.
A study conducted by the Commonwealth Bank has shed light on what customers expect from the retail and foodservice sectors, and efficient, personalised service is at the top of the list.
Conducted by a third party market research firm, CommBank’s Retail Therapy research surveyed 1,000 consumers, looking at the emotional and rational drivers behind ‘perfect’ in-store and dine-in experiences.
It found that 68 percent of customers list inefficientcustomer service as the biggest contributor to a poor experience, with queuing the next biggest complaint (53 percent). Half of the respondents claim they would leave a business if they had to wait to make a payment.
Technology is also crucial, with just under half (47 percent) of respondents believing that businesses which use the latest technologies are more in-tune with the needs of their customers, and 74 percent of people suggesting they would stay loyal to a business that offers personalisation. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they feel retail businesses should do more to personalise their shopping experiences, with 77 percent of shoppers more likely to return to an outlet that offers loyalty programs or customer offers.
Eighty-four percent of shoppers are more likely to buy from a business they feel connected to, with 82 percent likely to spend more when they feel like a valued customer.
Dr Johann Ponnampalam, Deakin University behavioural scientist, said “Much of our daily life involves habitual, autopilot behaviour. When in this mindset, we crave faster, simpler, easier service interactions and when we don’t receive them, we experience friction which often leads to us avoiding purchasing altogether.
“Our lives are more complex than ever before and consumers have an abundance of choice … This leads to choice paralysis, which in-turn leads to avoiding purchase decisions and buyer’s remorse. The study shows that businesses need to work harder to help customers make informed, confident choices by providing personalised and relevant information during the retail experience,” he said.
When it comes to point of sale, 75 percent of those surveyed use a credit or debit card as their primary payment method. Other payment methods include cash (66 percent), PayPass/PayWave /Tap&Pay (49 percent) and digital wallets (six percent).
Seventy-eight percent of people want splitting bills to be an easy service provided by business owners, with 69 percent claiming they hate it when it’s not made possible. Seventy-seven percent say they find it awkward when one person has to pay the bill for everyone.
When paying the bill, 65 percent of people feel anxious/pressured if they get asked to tip by a waiter/staff member, whereas 46 percent feel less anxious/pressured to leave a tip if prompted by an electronic payment terminal.
“With recent advances in technology now available to businesses of any size, small and medium retailers have a new opportunity to transform point-of-sale and in-store experiences to drive sales and encourage greater customer loyalty through repeat business,” Claire Roberts, executive general manager, Local Business Banking, Commonwealth Bank, said.