I just got back from Online Retailer in Sydney. It was the first event of it’s type in Australia, attracting over 2500 attendees and a good number of exhibitors.

I had opportunity to talk to many of the attendees, catch up with many other online retailers and also interviewed people like Armand , VP of Global Sales at Verisign and Jeff and Bobby Beaver, founders of www.zazzle.com.

What I really wanted to find out was the level of interest in online retailer from some of the bigger bricks and mortar retailers (did they attend?), and the opinions form exhibitors as to the mix of attendees there.

What I discovered was interesting,  and exciting for the industry.

Exhibitors

There was a good mix of exhibitors, including mainly :

  • eCommerce Consultancies/developers
  • Payment providers
  • eBay
  • Postal services
  • 3rd party logistics/Freight carriers
  • Advertising (SEM/PPC etc)

There were plenty of suppliers to talk to about technologies and services and all were keen to provide information. Many also had initiatives just for the expo which was encouraging.

Attendees

The attendees to the online retail expo cold be grouped into the following

  • Existing SME online retailers (pureplays)
  • Small business Bricks and Mortar looking to enter Online retail, or just have
  • Top end of town

According to my sources, 8 of the top 10 bricks and mortar retailer businesses in Australia sent representatives to this expo. Now what is that saying? Even some of Gerry Harvey‘s staff turned up…

I think what this is really saying is:

  1. The online retailer space in Australia is young, and ‘wide open’ without the big B&M retailers selling online
  2. It won’t be long before the big guys step up to the plate and start swinging
  3. Our marketplace is growing fast, and there is plenty of opportunity for those with drive, commitment and vision

Keynotes

The keynote speakers were mostly USA based (but pretty much all the expos sessions for the 2 days were held by people in Australian business). The only local keynotes were Deb Sharkey from eBay Australia and NZ, and Paul Greenberg from DealsDirect.com.au (who recently announced purchase of DinosaurDeals.com.au – my article seemed to be first with the news here).

I had the chance to sit down with Bobby and Jeff Beaver from Zazzle to talk about their business model and they took the opportunity to ask myself and a few others (including Andrew Cooper from dstore.com.au and Gabby Leibovich from catchoftheday.com.au) about the Australian online retailer landscape. All of us were unanimous in our thoughts regarding the current opportunity and the growing demand for Australian consumers to buy online when appropriate.

Businesses like Zazzle.com (now with Zazzle.com.au) will certainly provide a little competition to the locals with their unique and innovative business. It’s a fascinating story, click here for a full rundown of our interview.

What is my take?

We seem to be a good 3 years behind the US online retail space, maybe more.

The top end of town are well and truly sniffing around, and have possibly progressed plans for online presence more than we might realise

Bigbrowbox.com.au (with 800,000 monthly visits after only 6 months of operation, and using my Magento Fraud Screen extension btw!) are surely making a few others raise their eyebrows (keep an eye out for other whitegoods competitors appearing online very soon…)

We have an immature VC and capital funding market here, but that may yet grow.

Australian online consumers spend up to 50% off shore. Crazy!

Most exhibitors that I talked to were quite enthusiastic about the level of leads that they were getting, and almost all agreed with my observations regarding attendees.

What an exciting time for online retail in this country. A perfect time to get involved!