10 Aussie Experts on Ecommerce Challenges & Opportunities in Australia

by Mustafa Mohsin  September 6, 2017

Australia’s online ecommerce scene is thriving with a projected growth value of AUD $32.56 billion by 2017. Australia is already home to well known and immensely popular ecommerce ventures such as THEICONIC, ASOS Australia.  

Ecommerce Challenges Australia

However, all that glitter isn’t gold and entrepreneurs who are ready to dive deep into the Australian ecommerce market do face several challenges including picking up the right web host, choosing the right platform (and popular themes and extensions), and meeting the needs of consumers.  

To discover the extent of these challenges, I decided to go the experts who are involved in the Australian ecommerce scene. The idea was to collect the opinions of these Australian experts so that the readers could form a clearer picture of the Australian ecommerce scene. In particular, I was interested in the performance of ecommerce store solutions and the development mindset that drives the Australian ecommerce industry.

The Survey in a Nutshell

So, if you are planning to launch your online store in Australia, here is a quick overview of the current ecommerce scenario and tips from the Australian ecommerce specialists themselves.

Ecommerce Solution of Choice

An online store is as good as the solution that powers it. In response to this important question, the respondents opted for Magento was the popular choice for large ecommerce stores, while Shopify was the recommendation for  small ecommerce stores. In cases where user friendliness was the basic requirements, experts suggested WooCommerce.

Favorite Ecommerce Themes, Modules and Plugins

Every expert had a personal set of themes and plugins/modules. Some preferred starting with the default themes and modules and then customizing them to the project’s specifications. Others decided to opt for customized themes and modules for saving project’s deployment time.  The respondents mentioned their favorite checkout, SEO and cache plugins. For a detailed coverage of the themes and plugins, visit the related question in the case study.    

Challenges and Obstacles for Startups

This question was open-ended, and in response I received a number of opinions from the ecommerce experts. While some experts were optimistic about the ecommerce practices in Australia with minor challenges and obstacles, the majority of the professionals raised their concerns over shipping issues, choosing web hosting and platform, payment integrations and legal policies.

What the Future Holds for Australian Ecommerce?

It seems that Magento, Shopify and WooCommerce will continue to be the choice of ecommerce experts. The need for a reliable and scalable ecommerce store solution necessitates these choices. While everyone has their own favorite themes and plugins, the overall consensus was on quality that add value to the online store in the long run. Similarly, the choice of the reliable and scalable hosting for the store will continue to be an important factor in the success of online ecommerce ventures.

The Responses in Detail

We decided to run this survey in order to create a resource for people who wish to enter Australian ecommerce sector. The challenge was to create a comprehensive blog that would include the opinions and ideas of Australian ecommerce experts who have extensive experience in creating, deploying and maintaining ecommerce stores for various niches. The following is the results of the Cloudways questionnaire.

Which application do you prefer for building an ecommerce store and why?

Charles Zeitunian, Head of ecommerce at Atom Australia said:

“I would prefer Magento for an Enterprise level organisation, expecting to do more than $2M in annual digital sales. Magento is a trusted ecommerce platform, with more 350,000 business using it everyday to transact online. It’s open source and allows business to scale quickly at a low cost.”

Tim Johansen, the ecommerce specialist at Network Specialist gave his opinion by saying:

“For me, it always depends on the requirements and business size. Neto is an excellent SaS based platform for small/medium businesses. WordPress/Woocommerce is ideal if you already have a WordPress based site, and need to quickly implement an ecommerce solution on it. Magento is one of the leading platforms that is very robust and has good amount of extensions, themes available.”

Farhan Niazi, Ecommerce manager at Millennium Hotels commented:

“There are hundreds of amazing platforms out there and narrowing it down to one would be a bit unfair with the other platforms. I believe this decision is completely dependent on the needs of the business. Personally if I had to pick, I’ll pick WordPress/WooCommerce for small businesses and Magento for mid to large scale businesses. But the story doesn’t end here. Based on the business resources, sometimes platforms like Shopify can be a life saver for those with limited knowledge and resources.”

Jeffrey Davidson of Balance Internet talked about Shopify by saying:

“Well, I would prefer the two most familiar platforms, Shopify and  Magento. Shopify is for simple stores and is easy to set up. Magento is the deal when custom integration is needed. All in all, It all really depends on what the requirements are, as other platforms (such as Sitecore, Intershop or Hybris) may suit too.”

Sebastian Klett, ecommerce analyst at Balance Internet discussed the challenge thoroughly by saying:

“For smaller stores definitely Shopify, for bigger shops I recommend a platform like Magento. I like the flexibility and customisation possibilities for Magento 2. The platform really made a big step forward with the release of Magento 2 and the costs of the licensing are still “lower” than competitor rates. The community is really strong as well and it just is getting better and better especially with the release of 2.2 with the huge amount of B2B features.”

As a developer and ecommerce expert, how do you see different ecommerce Themes, Modules or Extensions and which is your favourite?

Jeffrey Davidson, an Ecommerce Project Manager at Balance Internet said:

“For Magento, Xtento Product Feed Export is a handy tool that you can use to not only export for Google Shopping feeds, but also for any other feeds such as Bing or Yahoo (though not as widely used) – or anything else that may need a feed.”

Francis Kim, founder of Francis Kim Digital Development trusts Amasty and Aheadworks extensions.

Sailendra Kumar Mizar, web developer at ITCC added:

“I would prefer custom development of themes and extensions because for me, a personalized theme is more catchy and default modules don’t always work.”

Alex Levashov, director of Magenable contributed to the discussion by saying:

“Lumo, the new default theme of Magento looks perfect and the stock theme “Ultimo” is a stunner too. Among extensions, I often use Sphinx Search Ultimate from Mirasvit, Webshop Matrix Rate (free and paid versions), Altima Lookbook Pro.”

Farhan Niazi, an ecommerce manager at Millennium Copthorne & Kingsgate Hotels talked about WooCommerce extensions by saying:

“Let me cover a platform that is easily accessible to the mass market. I am talking about WordPress/WooCommerce. As far as themes are concerned, I have always been a fan of starting with the bare bones of the official themes and building it up – this eliminates a lot of unwanted clutter. When it comes to plugins, some of my must have plugins are WordFence, W3TotalCache, Yoast SEO, WPSmush, GADWP, User Role Editor, Maintenance & UpdraftPlus.”

Tim Johansen who is an Ecommerce and IT specialist at Network Specialist, likes variety of modules and extensions including OneStepCheckout, Braintree (payment integrations), Zopim (live chat), Zapier (great for API/third party integrations), Amasty (Full page cache), JustUno – Page analytics, exit promotions, site heatmaps, strategic marketing based on user influence and page clicks/buying patterns, Google Tag Manager – especially for Microdata integration, BoostMyShop: Various great extensions that can be used. One of them is ERP which provides a full Magento based ERP environment for stock control, forecasting and warehouse management.

Lastly, Jane Janev, Magento developer at Megantic gave us a list of his picks by saying:

“ Personally, I think the best theme is the custom one, the one built from scratch according to the client’s design. Some of the best extensions I have found until today are MatrixRate by WebShopApps, Magento WordPress Integration by FishPig, Improved Layered Navigation by Amasty, Extended Product Grid with Editor by Amasty, Lesti FPC by Gordon Lesti and Fire Checkout by Templates Master.”

Australian ecommerce industry is flourishing at a rapid pace but still, there are some major challenges that overshadow opportunities of this online buying and selling niche.

We asked from the ecommerce experts about the existing challenges and obstacles of Australian ecommerce industry, be it from the aspect of users, sellers or investors. Here is what they had to say about it.

Discussing various challenges in Australian ecommerce industry, Charles Zeitunian, Head of Ecommerce at Atom Australia said:

“Australian brands often don’t invest in a senior enough digital lead and this leads to the Board and CEO directing the digital strategy – often creating a confused ecommerce proposition .
– Australian retail is around 2-3 year behind the US in digital and ecommerce, so the desire to catch up quickly is strong.
– Finding the right developer or solutions partner is critically important. I’ve seen so many brands fail to launch their website due to partnering with the wrong partner.”

Putting some more light on it, Charles talked about obstacles for startups by saying:

“Payment integration, legal obligations, managing website project timelines and getting internal approval on the website budget are some of the main obstacles.”

Tim Johansen, Ecommerce and IT specialist at Network Specialist gave his opinion by saying:

“ Overall, I see many challenges that include UX of an online store, customer service and understanding the need of the hour. The layout of a webstore should lead to conversions and one should be able to provide a memorable customer service to its customers. Moreover in every business, knowing the need of the audience is always the key to success.”

Thai pan and Sailendra Kumar, who are web developers expressed their concerns over web hosting and suppliers by saying:

“It’s hard to deal with suppliers especially when you have an online store with orders raining in. Also, choosing a web host is a challenge.”

Jeffrey davidson, an Ecommerce Project Manager at Balance Internet discussed by saying:

“ Poor UX that leads to poor conversion. Also Dealing with the suppliers, legal obligations, finding the right platform.”

Alex Levashov (Director at Magenable) and Farhan Niazi (ecommerce manager at Millennium Copthorne & Kingsgate Hotels) seemed quite optimistic, they said:

“Well, personally, I don’t see any obstacles for ecommerce startups these days. Be it purchasing, delivering or stocking a product, everything is just a click away these days.Some minor issue such as high shipping cost do exist but as the time is passing by, things are getting solved rapidly. Also, Setting up a legitimate business in AU/NZ is fairly easy and I don’t see any challenges as long as it’s legal.”

Certainly, there is a room for improvement in everything and when we talk about Australian ecommerce industry, there is a lot to be improved.

See what our ecommerce experts advised for the improvement of ecommerce industry in Australia.

Francis Kim, Francis is the founder of Francis Kim Digital Development. advised by saying:

“ I would like to make the development process – lean, fast and on budget.There is a very obvious theme in Australia – not sure if it is worldwide but clients often go about changing Digital Agencies very quickly which is no good for either the client, the service provider or the ecosystem. I would like to see a change in this trend.”

Sailendra Kumar, a Web Developer at ITCC added:

“Auto deployment process and continuous integration process should become a constant practice.”

Alex Levashov, Director at Magenable, contributed by saying:

“Entrepreneurs need to realize that a successful online store has a long journey behind its glittering wealth and online store need constant fixes in terms of maintenance, support, UX etc.”

Jane Janev a Magento Developer at Megantic Pty Ltd. shed light on the improvements by saying:

“To run an online shop, you need some technical knowledge and this is the reason why business owners suffer in choosing the right CMS, hosting, shipping and payment gateways for their online store. I think the future is Cloud hosting where Clouds will provide one-click ecommerce solutions on a pay-as-you-go basis.”

Charles Zeitunian, Head of Ecommerce at Atom Australia, further added:

“Better consumer protection from inexperienced, un-certified Magento development agencies. There are so many out there that have taken on large enterprise level projects and not delivered, costing that brand time and money in lost revenue.”

Who Are The Participants?

Here is a brief profile info of all the ecommerce influencers who took part in this opinion gathering campaign. A big thumbs up for all of them.

Charles Zeitunian

Charles is the Head of Ecommerce at Atom Australia. He is a commercial-minded, growth-focused ecommerce leader, with senior executive experience working on brands including Woolworths, BWS, Barbeques Galore, Reckitt Benckiser (RB), Dick Smith and most recently with ATOM. Supported by a broad digital skillset he likes to create profitable digital customer experiences. Connect with him  LinkedIn.

Jane Janev

Jane is a Magento Developer at Megantic Pty Ltd with more than 6 years commercial experience. He has implemented a number of high volume projects from the ground up using a wide range of technologies. He works primarily with the Magento ecommerce platform, managing the complexities involved in building ecommerce solutions tailored to a client’s specific needs. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Tim Johansen

Tim Johansen is an Ecommerce and IT expert at Network Specialist. He acknowledges the hard work he put in and the results he reaped in terms of a successful career. He said, “ Now, as I see my career, I have worked with some of Australia’s leading brands as a web developer, project manager and online marketer.” Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Thai Pan

Thai works as a Web Developer at PwC Australia. He has built several ecommerce websites for fashion retailers and other domains. His journey covers all areas of ecommerce including different payment and shipping methods.  Connect with him on  LinkedIn.

Alex Levashov

Alex works as a Director at Magenable. It is a Melbourne based ecommerce consultancy agency and provides both advice (strategy, UX) and implementation. With years of experience and a spirit of entrepreneurship, Alex and the team of Magenable love working on Magento. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Sailendra Kumar Mizar

Sailendra is a Web Developer at ITCC. Talking about his journey he said “I always enjoyed working as a backend developer. I have developed a plugin that simplifies customer buying experience.” Connect with him LinkedIn.

Farhan Niazi

Farhan is an ecommerce manager at Millennium Copthorne & Kingsgate Hotels, New Zealand. Farhan’s career swirls from different phases. He started working as a web developer. From the beginning, he had this flare of entrepreneurship that later helped him in learning ecommerce and digital marketing. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Francis Kim

Francis needs no introduction as he is the founder of Francis Kim Digital Development. One of the most senior personnel with Magento’s vast experience, Francis is developing Magento stores since 2008. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Jeffrey Davidson

Jeffery currently works as an Ecommerce Project Manager at Balance Internet. He has been in project management roles for ecommerce websites since a decade now and knows all the aspects pertaining to ecommerce stores. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Sebastian Klett

Sebastian is a Business Systems Analyst ecommerce at Balance Internet. He has been involved in developing and overseeing projects for Magento 1 and 2 over the last couple of years and aims to get into the development of Shopify stores as well. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

From our survey respondents, who would you agree and disagree with? Which ecommerce platform is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

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About Mustafa Mohsin

Mustafa Mohsin is a Business Development Executive at Cloudways. He’s an Economist by books and a marketer by passion. In his spare time he enjoys gaming and hanging out with friends. You can email him at mustafa.mohsin[at]cloudways.com

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