The mobile commerce sector in Australia is booming, with monthly sales for December growing by a massive 448% in just three years, according to an ACMA report. The research snapshot, which uses data sourced from Roy Morgan, shows 3.4 million Australians used a mobile commerce service during December of 2013, significantly up from just 620,000 for the same month in 2010. The figures measure the number of consumers banking, paying bills, or buying goods and services online using their smartphones. According to the report, the local smartphone market is still growing, with 12.07 million Australians owning a smartphone as of May 2014, up 8% from a year earlier. Overall, 59% of Australians now own a smartphone, a penetration rate that’s higher than either the US (56%) or the UK (51%). The growth of smartphones led to the number of Australians using the internet on their mobiles to grow to 8.3 million during December 2013, up 196% from 2.8 million during the same month in 2010. Not surprisingly, younger consumers leading the charge, with people aged 25 to 34 being 33% more likely that average to use mobile commerce, whereas use of those same services was 58% less likely than average among consumers aged 65 and older. In terms of mobile shopping transactions, 33% of Australians over 18 participated in online auctions through their phones, 33% used an online mobile payment system and 21% paid for purchases using a credit card. Meanwhile, a massive 77% of adults transfer funds using their mobiles, while 46% use them to pay bills, suggesting there’s still significant further room for growth in mobile shopping. A spokesperson from ACMA told StartupSmart apps, improving the marketplace and security of transactions are three key opportunities for Australian tech startups. “There’s a huge growth in apps and not just games – there’s a huge growth in banking or researching products and services to buy,” the spokesperson says. “If you look at the growth, people love apps – and Australians in particular love apps. In total, 8.9 million Australians downloaded a mobile app [in the six months to May 2013]. “With e-commerce over the phone, end-to-end security is a critical issue – it’s essential to creating opportunity for people to transact.” Image credit: Flickr/jasonahowie
Westpac has appointed its first general manager of small business. The inaugural holder of the role, Julie Rynski, told SmartCompany this morning that while Westpac already has the nation’s largest number of small business bankers in Australia, it’s keen to play a larger role. “The recent election saw such a mandate around small business, and we agree it’s the heartbeat of Australia,” she says. “We’re keen to be a part of that. And as the first bank, and the largest SME bank in Australia, there’s synergy in us focusing on this.” Westpac says 640,000 small businesses use it for their banking, an increase of 70,000 since 2008. Since August 2011, Westpac’s release added, Roy Morgan Research has given it the satisfaction levels of the big four banks among its business customers. But the bank is looking to significantly ramp up its engagement with the sector, Rynski says. She has most recently worked as Westpac’s general manager of regional commercial and agribusiness, where she dealt mostly with small businesses in regional Australia. She also has experience in the sector from her previous role as national manager of commercial and property. She says small businesses need simple, flexible solutions from their bank. “Small businesses are time poor, and they need to be able to do stuff on their terms,” she says. “We have some fabulous digital solutions, and we’ve rolled out 18 24/7 branches around the country. “For businesses that can’t get to a branch, we’re rolling out our business hubs, which will allow SMEs to call or teleconference into a meeting with a banker.” Rynski says her focus is on working closely with the Council of Small Business of Australia, as well as Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, in reducing red tape for SMEs. “There’s so much red tape and bureaucracy. We will focus on making things as simple as we can,” she says. “Westpac has a large small business banking community, and we’re looking to grow that significantly.” This story first appeared on SmartCompany.
Small businesses are already disappointed with the major banks, but newly released survey results show the relationship between the big four and SMEs has soured even further. The release of Roy Morgan data regarding bank satisfaction comes as the Small Business Council of Australia (COSBOA) hosts a roundtable in Canberra today, in order to discuss the current problems facing small business access to finance. Roy Morgan data released yesterday shows satisfaction among the big four's business customers in April was just 63.7%, down from 64%, and still well below the satisfaction level of personal customers, which sat at 78.9% in April. The figures show the satisfaction gap between small businesses and banks has continued to widen, with personal customer satisfaction improving by 2.4 percentage points compared to business satisfaction, which has fallen by 0.4 percentage points. Westpac leads the survey, followed by the Commonwealth Bank, NAB and ANZ. The Commonwealth Bank moved up three percentage points over the past year – the only one of the big four to improve – and ANZ has fallen by 4.4 points. The satisfaction differs between different-sized businesses. The micro segment, with turnover less than $1 million a year, was the least satisfied segment at 63.3%, but the segment covering businesses with over $55 million in turnover didn't record any significant improvement, at just 67.6%. Norman Morris, communications director at Roy Morgan, said in a statement the banks are continuing to struggle. "It is obvious that a poor rating among business customers will impact on personal customer ratings yet this is often not clearly understood. In the case of the approximately two million small businesses; the owners' personal and business interests are closely interlinked, as is their banking." Part of the dissatisfaction comes due to interest rate levels. Although the banks have passed on the most recent rate cut to business products, traditionally business loans attract higher interest rates and banks are loathe to pass on any cut in the official rate. Peter Strong, executive director of COSBOA, told SmartCompany this morning the findings are apt given today's conference about small business access to finance. "I think this reflects just a drop in confidence in general," he says. "The other disappointment we're seeing is the difference between interest rates for consumers and businesses. They've come back closer, but why is there even a difference?" Most recently the big four passed on interest rate cuts to business customers, although ANZ was the only bank not to extend the same rate cut to business customers as individual mortgage holders. Such problems are what Strong hope to address today at the roundtable with attendees including Steven Munchenberg, the chief executive of the Australian Banking Association, along with COSBOA board members and a range of experts. Other topics of discussion include identifying the specific types of SMEs which want to grow, and how many of them need access to credit. "We just want more information," Strong says. Earlier this year the small business community was disappointed by the news the federal government would back down on legislation which would regulate small business credit. This story first appeared on SmartCompany.
Premium chocolate brands and craft beers are among the firm favourites for Easter this year, with Australians set to spend more than $3 billion opting for at-home celebrations over overseas getaways, according to a new report. IBISWorld says that Australian consumers are opting for a “back to basics” Easter this year, with traditional celebrations at home taking precedence over overseas trips and restaurant meals. Across the four-day Easter break, IBISWorld forecasts Australians will spend more than $3 billion, equating to $132.85 per capita – a slight increase on the $130.33 per capita Australians spent last year. The findings are in line with the latest Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence rating, which shows consumer confidence is up to 122 points – 11.4 points higher than at the same time a year ago. Here are some of the key trends and tips for Easter spending in 2013: More discerning chocolate-lovers In 2013, expenditure on chocolate and confectionery is expected to grow by 5.2% to reach $185.7 million. However, many Australians will choose dark, organic chocolate over traditional favourites. “Australians are becoming increasingly health conscious – a trend that has resulted in growing demand for low-fat and low-sugar treats,” says IBISWorld general manager Karen Dobie. “Dark chocolate is expected to be a popular choice this Easter… Sustainability will also be on people’s minds, with fair trade chocolate tipped to be a favoured gift.” In addition to dark and fair trade chocolates, Dobie anticipates consumers’ love of luxury will also come to the fore, with brands such as Lindt and Haigh’s enjoying increasing demand. Seafood fare matched with a premium drop Since many people plan on celebrating Easter at home, Dobie says supermarkets and butchers can expect a boost in spending on traditional barbeque fare, while fishmongers and liquor retailers will also do well. IBISWorld anticipates fish and seafood expenditure to enjoy growth of around 4.9%, with seafood extending its popularity from Good Friday – when many Australians abstain from eating red meat – to Easter Sunday. Meanwhile, alcohol spending is forecast to hit $137.6 million, with imported wines, cider and craft beers tipped as firm favourites. Overall, IBISWorld anticipates food and beverage spending will reach $1.55 billion – a 3.6% increase on last year’s outlay. Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, says food retailers need to think about how best to promote their products. “If you’re a general store selling Easter bunnies, you should be predominantly displaying them,” Zimmerman says. “There’s also an opportunity there to perhaps market your Easter bunnies with another product. It’s not just about Easter bunnies – it’s about doing something else to sell with it. “Try and add that extra product in that you want to try and promote.” Similarly, retail guru Debra Templar, of The Templar Group, says bag-stuffers are an ideal way to boost sales. Domestic travel trumps overseas getaways This year, IBISWorld forecasts Easter holiday and travel spending will grow by just 3.9%. However, domestic travel will be more popular than short breaks overseas. “This year most of us will be limited to domestic destinations – using the break to visit family and friends rather than splurging on international trips,” Dobie says. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians spent approximately 5% more on overseas travel during the past Christmas holidays than in 2011. This suggests Australians will be reining in their spending during subsequent holiday periods, including Easter. “Easter falling outside of the school holidays in some states will also have an impact on international travel,” says Dobie.
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