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Why is Australia a no-go for going mo?

Sun, sand, surf and shrimps pretty much sums up the Australia lifestyle? Well, then it comes as no surprise that Australians spend the majority of their time outside and opt to surf the Web via their mobile devices rather than run back to their desktops.

This is reflected in a country that now has one the highest penetration of smartphones of any country in the world, second only to Singapore – yes, bigger than Japan, Britain, United States and any of the other usual suspects.

It is no wonder that there are many startups focusing on mobile offerings that are starting on the island before venturing off to the valley. Great. What is the problem?

The problem
The problem lies here. Seventy-nine percent of Australian sites do not have a mobile equivalent –individual or adaptive mobile site— that includes many of the big brands. This is not just budget restrictions or an educated assessment – it stems far beyond that.

Retailers in Australia seem to have a concerning lack of forethought towards mobile, not just overlooking the stats that 20 percent of their traffic is from mobile devices, and that potential customers are viewing 25 percent less pages. But more than that, they do not understand how to connect with their audience and assist them on their path to purchase.

On top of the lack of branded mobile sites there are two other hurdles at which Australian retailers are failing: display and search.

Two key components of any campaign run by any retailer in the digital space are:

1. The publishers for traditional mainstream media sites find it hard to convince the media companies to buy display media in this new medium, so this underutilised and extremely cheap display space gets swept under the carpet during negotiations.

2. Media companies are not pushed by clients or the publisher to look for mobile display and therefore settle for MREC Web displays

3. The retailer themselves cannot see how spending their budget on mobile display will convert to sales – which goes back to the argument for a mobile commerce offering.

With search budgets having the ability to be split by desktop/mobile, many retailers are either choosing to concentrate on the desktop as they see this as a key step in the consumer’s path to purchase or simply replicating their current desktop strategy onto the small screen.

This has left the Australian mobile search market in an interesting position:

• Retailers that are simply replicating their desktop search strategy onto mobile are not truly thinking of the difference in what it is the consumer is searching for and how that search differs to what she would be searching for on desktop. This leads to generic non-optimized landing pages and a waste of keyword spending.

• Many mobile searches do not even result in a single paid search component, meaning no one is competing for the area. This is a surprise considering that paid search takes up 33 percent of the above-the-fold space compared to 17 percent on desktop and that 70 percent of mobile searches result in an action within one hour.

This leaves Australian consumers with disjointed and non-optimized search results and retailers with an overpriced mobile pay-per-click.

The answer
Agencies, media buyers , publishers and retailers all have to see the ground they need to make up to reach Australian consumers.

There are numerous opportunities for them to use one of the most consumed media. They need to think of it the same way that the Web revolutionized their current strategy.

If you are a mobile agency looking to expand, look over the water to the land of “sun, sand, surf and shrimps” and see the effect you could have.

Gary Elphick is a mobile advertising specialist at Tongue, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Reach him at [email protected].