As consumers today move into an an increasingly web-based shopping environment, retailers in Australia will need to be prepared to take advantage of this trend when it comes to creating their retail strategy.

While there are challenges to be faced by those looking to move into online territory, the benefits of doing so successfully are undeniable. Recent retail research undertaken by NetSuite Inc and the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) found that online sales are expected to total $18 billion this year, and this figure will increase to $25 billion by 2015.

It is clear that there is now a significant portion of Australian shoppers going online, and retailers who don’t have the capacity to accept orders made through the web could be in danger of losing out on a substantial new market.

There are many ways retailers can improve their online strategies – here are a few you may want to consider.

Shipping and returns

When it comes to shipping, price strategies will depend on each individual business. Weight-based shipping costs or flat rates are two options many retailers turn to, but a recent article published on states that most customers prefer the strategy of a built-in cost – which allows stores to offer ‘free’ shipping.

Returns policies will need to be stated very clearly and concisely online, so make sure yours covers the time limit on a return, any exclusions from the policy and what customers can expect in compensation.

Providing customer care online

Customer care is just as important in the online environment. Follow-up emails personalised with the customer’s name are a great way to make shoppers feel that they are still being looked after, even without the face-to-face experience.

Making use of social networking and media

Many retailers are reaching more of their customers through social media, with sites such as Twitter and Facebook providing instant feedback and real-time responses.

If you do decide to set up a social media page for your business, it’s important to deal with any customer interactions quickly and professionally.