Australians still not at ease online

Familiarity breeds online sales in Australia, according to officials from local e-commerce sites.

Analysts and online retailers agree that a fear of unknown brands has held back the online shopping boom in Australia, and that trust is the key to online sales success.

"People want to know who are the stayers, who are the players and who are the fly-by-nighters," said Doug Carlson, founder of online produce supplier GreenGrocer, which has an annual turnover approaching $10 million.

Carlson said it was important consumers were made aware of other well-known customers, so his product would be associated with a familiar name.

Chiko Wong, an analyst from www.consult agrees Australians are more sceptical towards unknown online brands than other nationalities.

"It's . . . a trust issue," said Wong. "Your average American . . . would hardly think twice about having their purchases delivered by the post office or FedEx."

Braith Bamkin, managing director of online furniture retailer At Ease, said US studies indicated consumers wouldn't buy online until at least six months after first seeing the vendor's Web site.

For that reason, Bamkin does not expect At Ease to make sales in the more expensive furniture brackets for "at least six to 12 months".

Having permission to include the Telstra logo in its advertising campaign -- effective from March -- was crucial to the success of his business, Bamkin said.

"A lot of Australians have got real apprehension for purchasing products over the Internet," he said. "When you get to some of our products . . . that can be a couple of thousand dollars, people really freak out about it."

Bamkin said the company had "spent extra money" to place its Web site in Telstra's online shopping mall, Surelink (to be relaunched this week as "Telstra e-commerce"). All of At Ease's sales were made via that page, he said.

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