CITC Export Guide to Australia

An Island in a Sea of Opportunity

Australia has a long tradition of trade with foreign countries and in the past 25 years, their mineral and energy resources development has relied mostly on the injection of foreign capital. They also benefit from consistent economic growth, highly skilled workforce, strategic location, strong governance, good infrastructure, and a business-friendly environment.

Its location, far from the most important regional groupings (Europe and North America), also prompted the country to pursue a policy of cooperation in the Pacific, especially in the shipping, aviation and economic management areas. Altogether, trade liberalism and economic reform have been at the core of the Government policy for decades. Foreign investors can then benefit from a very open market, with minimal restrictions on imports of goods and services.

In this guide, we will guide you through the process of reaching Australian’s consumers, successfully making sales on ecommerce channels, and getting your products to reach the desired consumers. And in case of doubt, remember that if Australia can export camels to Saudi Arabia, anything is possible.

Trade Data

Marketing

A Consumer Market that Feels Like Home

Australian consumers respond to many of the same marketing cues as their international cousins. In response, local retailers are targeting their investment to maximise revenues. However, it should be noted that popularity doesn’t always mean that the channel is worth paying for advertising. In some situations, organic is the most effective option but this will differ across brands. Across 3 core marketing channels 68% of marketers are focusing on Social media (up 11% from the previous year), most retailers (90%) are using email and 67% are using campaign management. In revenue terms, 50% of online transactions are now carried out via mobile devices so there is a growing focus on a mobile optimised user experience. This growth in mobile is also impacting expectations around how transactions take place. Mobile payment is a massive growth area in the Australian market as consumers are growing more accustomed to the reduced friction that this payment mechanism offers. It was projected in Australia’s CIO publication that mobile payments will grow by 60.8% come the end of 2015. This is due to many reasons, but the advances in Apple payments have paved the way and been readily embraced by a large portion of the public.

A major shift amongst Australian marketers has been a focus on personalisation, particularly in the B2C space, for Australian marketers. Of the marketers questioned in the Sitecore Emerging Trends report, 26% saw personalisation as the greatest growth opportunity for the 12 months following (2015/2016). As consumer expectations have been steadily increasing, particularly around the customization of content, marketers are now realising this is a huge growth area. [1]

Shoppers

As a country, Australian shoppers would be relatively more inclined to spend more online if they weren’t required to register on the site beforehand. Whereas light shoppers are likely to increase their purchases if their personal details were guaranteed to be better protected, heavier shoppers are more attracted by a greater variety of payment methods. Two-thirds (67%) of Australian shoppers are likely to switch off and drop out if they are presented with unexpected or hidden costs. [2]

Social Media

Social media is used, by varying degrees, for content consumption from friends, family, businesses, news organisations and brands. The difference between Australia and other markets is that local expectations for customised content are quite high. You need to understand your consumer’s interests before marketing to them on social media by paid channels. Social media does have a high level of engagement but growth appears to have flattened off. However, Facebook has 13.6 million users and appears to be increasing its user base despite the overall number of social users declining marginally. It was quoted in the Power Retail 2014 social commerce report that “2014 looks to be the year of social commerce, with companies finally able to generate a significant percentage of revenue.” This rings true in particularly on Facebook over all channels. 97% of all social networking users are connected via Facebook. The most important thing to remember, as confirmed in the report, is that investing in social spend for growth is important at the beginning, but it needs to be backed with a solid content strategy. If your content is not appropriate or shareable, you’re not going to have engagement. [3]

Major shopping categories

A wide range of categories are purchased by online shoppers in Australia, with clothes (27%) and music downloads (27%) being the most popular. Credit cards are the most popular type of payment used by online shoppers, with 82% using this method in last 6 months. Both debit cards (31%) and PayPal (30%) are also popular. Younger shoppers, most notably in their late twenties, are the highest spenders in Australia and have a relative desire to purchase either groceries or books online. Such items are bought either by using a credit card or with PayPal. [4]

Major retail holidays

January 2 – New Year’s Day, October 1 – Buy Nothing New, January – Back to School, October 2 – Labour Day, January 26 – Australia Day, October 31 – Halloween, February 14 – Valentine’s Day, November – Black Friday, March 15 – World Consumer Rights Day, November – Buy Nothing Day, March – Cash Mob Day, November – Sofa Sunday, November – Cyber Monday, December – Green Monday, December 15 – Free Shipping Day, April 25 – Anzac Day, May – Mother’s Day, June 19 – Winter Sale, December 26 – Boxing Day, Boxing Day, Cyber Boxing Day, September – Father’s Day [5]

Sources

  1. eCommerce Worldwide. Australia Country Guide. “eCommerce in Australia”
  2. Worldpay. “Are You Giving Your Customers What They Really Really Want?”
  3. eCommerce Worldwide. Australia Country Guide. “eCommerce in Australia”
  4. Worldpay. “Are You Giving Your Customers What They Really Really Want?”
  5. Calendar Australia “Shopping Calendar Australia”

eCommerce & Technology

Overview – A Booming eCommerce Market

In 2016 Australians spent approximately USD 16.3 billion (AUD 22 billion) on online purchases. This equates to about seven percent of spending in bricks and mortar stores. It is predicted to grow at an annual rate of nine percent to reach USD 20.7 billion (AUD 28 billion) by 2022. Leading Australian eCommerce platforms include eBay, Gumtree, and Catch of the Day. Leading Australian etailers include JB HiFi, Kogan, SurfStich, the Iconic and Appliances Online.

The Amazon and Alibaba platforms are significant eCommerce operators in this market. In 2016, Amazon and Alibaba both announced plans to set-up fulfillment centers in Australia to service Australia and New Zealand. (In March, 2017 Alibaba opened its warehouse in Melbourne, Australia.) This will provided significant competition to the local leading eCommerce platforms and etailers.

Current Market Trends

According to a recent survey carried out by the National Australia Bank (NAB) entitled Online Retail Sales Index, over a 12-month period to December 2016, the fastest growth sectors included takeaway food (CAGR 34%), and media (books, music, films and videos 20.5%). The biggest share of spending by category is homeware and appliances (19.6%of total online spending). Other leading segments include fashion (16%), media (17.2%), groceries (17%), personal (9%), food (6.4%) and toys (3.9%).

Domestic eCommerce (B2C)

Over 40% of all B2C transactions take place on eCommerce platforms such as eBay, Amazon (USA), and Gumtree. The remainder of B2C eCommerce takes place at the individual company website. With over 13 million active Facebook users in Australia, social media is also a big driver in the promotion of B2C transactions. Retailers are driving sales through a mix of shop and online promotions or “multi-channel”. The finance industry is a major driver with the large four Australian banks providing a range of cutting-edge tools for accessing accounts, and paying bills and making mobile transactions. B2B sales are somewhat more fragmented with less reliance on eCommerce platforms for trading.

Cross-Border eCommerce

In 2016, about 70 percent of Australian digital consumers purchased products from overseas buyers in the U.S. (40% of shoppers), China (32%), and U.K. (22%). These purchases are generally made due to increased product offerings from overseas suppliers and cheaper prices. Another significant driver is the present Goods and Sales Tax (GST) of around USD 742 (AUD 1,000) which means that imported products with a value of less than around USD 742 (AUD 1,000) enter Australia GST free. Australian retailers on the hand are obliged to charge a GST of 10 percent of the value of any consumer good. However, it does seem that the majority of online shoppers prefer to buy from local etailers. The recent NAB Online Retail Sales Index suggests that of overall spending, international sales account for 20% share. The largest two market segments for international shopping are fashion items (34 % sourced from international sellers) and electronic products and toys (50% from international sellers).

eCommerce Shipping Services

Major fulfillment service providers in the local market include Australia Post, DHL, FedEx, TNT, Toll Pack and Send and Fastway.

eCommerce Intellectual Property Rights

Over 10 years ago Australia and the U.S. entered into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Chapter 17 of the FTA deals with intellectual property rights, including:

  • commitments to reduce differences in law and practice and participate in international harmonization efforts with respect to trademarks (article 17.2.11)
    an increase in the duration of copyright protection, for individuals to the life of the author, plus 70 years (currently 50 years), with similar increases for corporations (17.4.4)
  • strengthened protection and remedies against the circumvention of technological measures used by authors and others to restrict access to their work (17.4.7), such as coding of CDs to restrict how and where they might be used
  • protection of encrypted program-carrying satellite signals, thereby extending the present regime to include foreign and other transmissions not now covered by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (17.7) and to criminalize end-users of unauthorized decryptions, and
  • additional remedies for copyright infringements.

AUSFTA included provisions to enhance the ability of patent owners to prohibit international exhaustion of patent rights. This refers to article 17.9.4, which reads:

Each Party shall provide that the exclusive right of the patent owner to prevent importation of a patented product, or a product that results from a patented process, without the consent of the patent owner shall not be limited by the sale or distribution of that product outside its territory at least where the patentee has placed restrictions on import by contract or other means.

Online Payment

Popular eCommerce sites in Australia include Ebay, Gumtree, Amazon, Catch of the Day, Kogan, JB HiFi, The Iconic, Temple & Webster, Appliances Online, and Amazon (USA).

Mobile eCommerce

Mobile eCommerce represents a significant opportunity in the local market. With mobile penetration at close to 100 percent, mobile payments and purchasing is a major strategy for all etailers. Australians are expected to increase their spending on mobile devices by 50% this year to USD 7.7 billion (AUD 10.4 billion).

Digital Marketing

The fastest growing segments in the Australian online advertising market are mobile and online video, and both are expected to outperform the market significantly over the next five years. Mobile advertising, for example, is forecast to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 39 per cent between 2013 and 2018, while video advertising is expected to grow at 31 per cent.

According to a recent survey, less than one-third of retailers rate their eCommerce/digital strategy highly as best practice and key to driving sales. Nonetheless, around half of retailers consider their eCommerce/digital strategy as moderately in line with best practice and a driver of sales.

On average, retailers report that 53% of their advertising budget is allocated to online media. 42% of retailers also report that this advertising budget allocation is expected to change in the next 12 months.

Major Buying Holidays

Christmas is a big driver for online sales, as well as Boxing Day (December 26), Easter, Mother’s Day (second Sunday of May each year), Father’s Day (first Sunday in September each year), Valentine’s Day and Click Frenzy (set up to mimic Cyber Monday).

Social Media

Social media is an important part of online advertising in the local market. Most companies see social media as a method for increasing brand awareness, advertising and promotions and generating sales. With over 13 million users, Facebook and YouTube are the two most used mediums for product promotion. Other leading sites include WordPress, Tumblr, LinkedIn, BlogSpot, Twitter, Instagram, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Snapchat and Pinterest.

Sources

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting https://2016.export.gov/usoffices/.

Shipping & Logistics

Speed & Cost Over Provenance

Rather than ‘where’ a product comes from, Australians are far more interested in how quickly it can reach them and therefore consideration needs to be given to the volume of transactions being imported into Australia and the channels used.As a non-Australian e-retailer reaches critical mass and transactions increase, the supply chain model used will need to adapt to a physical distribution presence. A typical supplier will start off sending individual products.

Traditionally most individual deliveries into Australia will have been made through the postal routes with Aus Post as the local delivery link providing:

  • Economy – 3 to 5 day delivery with ‘signature on delivery’ and ‘safe place’ options
  • Express – next day delivery to about 80% of the country and with the option of additional on line tracking (Premium)
  • Collection at the Post Office
  • Or by using services provided by the big global integrators (TNT, UPS, DHL, Fed Ex) mainly providing Express services, some with time slot delivery options.

However neither the slower postal route nor the more expensive ‘courier’ route were ideally suited to the needs of cross-border ecommerce.Over the past few years we have seen the emergence of direct access solutions where orders from many retailers are consolidated in the country of origin, flown in bulk to the country of destination (customs cleared on the way if necessary) and handed to a local deliver partner for the ‘final leg’. These services are tracked all the way and are faster than post and cheaper that express. In addition, Australian Customs allows for purchasers and importers to ‘self-declare’ cross-border transactions and service providers are increasingly providing services that enable declarations to be made whilst goods are in transit; reducing processing time, paperwork and improving the competitiveness of cross-border merchants.wnDirect is the forerunner of these services and shipped almost 50,000 individual parcels to Australia in August 2015 alone, on behalf of UK e-retailers. This type of solution provides an ideal bridge to the point where a retailer may eventually move to importing container loads of product with a view to utilising a local 3PL solution, finally setting up their own logistics, warehouse, and distribution solution. A larger importer may take the option of making application for their own licensed depot, warehousing and customs broker facilities located in Australia. [1]

Retailers offering fast and inexpensive shipping can very quickly gain themselves a competitive advantage as Australians are used to ‘waiting’ even for domestic purchases. The promise of delivery within a specified time frame is not enough; online shoppers in Australia also expect an element of choice when it comes to delivery options. In fact research suggests that, despite the delivery distances involved in this huge country, 94% of Australian e-shoppers expect to have various delivery options. Rapidly catching up with the demanding approach seen in other countries, Australian online shoppers no longer simply expect their packages to get to them within a decent period of time, they want more. Once orders arrive ‘in country’ it is worth considering where the demand is and what mechanisms will be required to service this custom. In 2014, the National Australia Bank reported a detailed breakdown of which regions made up the online shopping population. [2]

Infrastructure

For such a vast country, Australia boasts a surprisingly world class logistics and infrastructure system. Its LPI score is ranked 19th in the world by the World Bank. Situated a great distance from its international markets, Australia has built a major multimodal transport system (across water, land and air) to facilitate international trade. There are 25 major ports in Australia linked by road, air, rail, and coastal shipping. This set up makes it easy to access the market with cross border goods. [3]

Returns

Customs advises consumers “If you have physically received the goods and paid Customs duty on goods imported but they were returned them to the supplier because, “I changed my mind”, “they don’t fit”, or “I don’t like them” then a refund on duty is not available under current legislation. However, as an alternative option if you export the imported goods, subject to certain conditions, you may be entitled to a drawback of the duty paid.” [4]

Australian consumers expect to be able to return unwanted goods and receive a replacement or credit with the minimum of fuss or delay. [5]

Imports Duties

Australia has a rigorous set of customs clearance regulations and procedural requirements that e-retailers should educate themselves on prior to commencing trade. It is recommended that e-retailers seek professional advice from Licensed Customs Brokers or Freight forwarders especially for those transactions over $1000 AUD. Within Australia customs clearance is strictly exercised and occurs before goods are released to the purchaser/ owner from clearance centres. As Australia is surrounded by water without physical borders with other countries, all goods are imported either by Sea, or Air Cargo or International Post (the carrier of which is Australia Post within Australia). Therefore Ports, Airports are the entry points for Cargo (the majority of which are in Metropolitan Cities) into Australia with clearance centres (licensed depots and warehouses being situated around these areas). Generally speaking all declarations, permits, taxes and duties are the responsibility of the owner/ purchaser of the goods and must be provided and paid prior to goods being released. There is some variation depending on the value of the goods whether they are a B2C or B2B arrangement.

B2B and B2C Goods under $1,000 AUD The majority of overseas internet transactions will be B2C, under $1000 AUD and will be delivered by International Post (the carrier being Australia Post within Australia). A customs broker would not be required. These goods may be imported free of customs duties and taxes (except Alcohol and Tobacco) with only a parcel declaration needing to be completed. Australia Post will deliver the goods straight to the consumer. A permit is required for restricted goods. For goods being delivered via air freight or sea freight, the system is slightly more complex with the same rules applying except these goods must be reported to Customs and Border Protection on a Self-Assessed Clearance (SAC) declaration. SAC declarations are usually made on the consumers behalf by the freight forwarder handling the consignment but sometimes the supplier may be required to make a SAC declaration. SAC declarations can only be made electronically to Customs and Border Protection via the Integrated Cargo System (ICS). The owner may need to use a licensed customs broker or service provider to make SAC declarations on a fee for service basis. [18]

B2B and B2C Goods over $1,000 AUD For goods over the value of a $1,000 the customs clearance system becomes slightly more complex again. These goods will require an Import Declaration to be lodged electronically via the Customs Integrated Cargo System (ICS). Duty and/or taxes will more than likely be payable. The responsibility for this sits with the owner of the goods. This could be the a) consumer purchasing over the internet from the supplier (B2C); b) One business from another ( B2B); or c) one business importing containers into Australia to distribute through a physical presence i.e. either online or via a retail outlet. [6]

According to Customs law, an owner of imported goods may be the importer, someone who holds themselves out to be the owner, someone who has a beneficial interest in the goods or someone who has control of the goods. Note that there is no requirement for companies or individuals to hold an import license, however, they must be able to have a good understanding of Australian Customs law, permits, prohibited goods, product labelling requirements and information on tariffs and hence duties and taxes available as well access to the ICS system. Many choose to have a licensed customs broker facilitate the Import Declaration and assist in dealing with all obligations with the importation of their goods. Brokers provide their services on a fee for service basis. Employees may also act on an owner’s behalf to make import declarations provided they are not also an employee of another entity.

When goods are imported they will be assessed for customs duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 10%. The rate of duty depends on the nature of the goods and is determined by the Tariff classification of the goods (Customs Tariff Act 1995). The duty, if any, is calculated on the customs value of the goods. The customs value is usually the price paid and converted to Australian dollars. Customs and Border Protection may require the owner to produce receipts or invoices etc. to substantiate that the customs value claimed applies. GST (at a rate of 10%) is also calculated on the Value of the Taxable Importation known as the VoTI.

The VoTi is the sum of: the customs value any duty payable; and The amount paid or payable to transport the goods to Australia and to insure the goods for that transport.

To obtain a Tariff Classification and an exact duty rate, refer to the Customs Tariff. [7]

Typical process with financial and logistics considerations involves:

Check if goods are prohibited, or require a permit for completion and lodgement.

Assess value of goods under or over $1000 AUD.

Consider use of a licenced customs broker, and logistics carrier (Air, Sea or International Post).

Assess tariffs and hence duties payable and other taxes (GST, Wine Equalisation, Luxury Car, Other).

Engage Carrier / Logistics Solution.

Legal confirmation of goods for entry into the country: Import Declaration completed by importer submitted via ICS system; SAC declaration or Australia Post Declaration.

Confirmation of product prices: Calculation can be completed by Importer, confirmed via ICS system when goods arrived in Australia and cleared. Duties and Taxes are now payable.

Consider warehousing, storage and insurance fees. Customs Clearance System

The customs clearance system largely relies on purchasers and importers self-declaring and regulating incorporating the paperwork and declaration process. Most goods are held up in the clearance process due to the assessment of value (over $1000 AUD), the goods being of a prohibited nature, incomplete paperwork or payment. It takes up to five working days from receipt of completed documents for Customs to process the import declaration. It may also take up to three working days to process any payments made re duties and taxes with goods being held in a depot or warehouse. By Law this may happen indefinitely until payment is received, however the individual bonded warehouse or depot may have their own regulations, restrictions and fees for goods held. There are a number of service providers, such as wnDirect, that provide a ‘wheels-up’ clearance system whereby the required records are completed whilst the goods are in transit; speeding up the processing time on landing. [8]

Sources

  1. eCommerce worldwide. Australia Passport 2015
  2. eCommerce worldwide. Australia Passport 2015
  3. EshopWorld “Australian eCommerce Insights”
  4. eCommerce Worldwide. Australia Country Guide. “eCommerce in Australia”
  5. Australia Post Whitepaper: Returns, 2013
  6. eCommerce Worldwide. Australia Country Guide. “eCommerce in Australia”
  7. eCommerce Worldwide. Australia Country Guide. “eCommerce in Australia”
  8. eCommerce Worldwide. Australia Country Guide. “eCommerce in Australia”