Online spending in New Zealand is on the rise and more than a quarter of Kiwis prefer to shop on the web, a consumer survey reveals.
A survey conducted by price comparison website PriceSpy has found 28 per cent of Kiwis prefer to shop online, 15 per cent prefer to shop in a physical store and 57 per cent prefer to shop both jointly in-store and online.
Online spending in New Zealand is now worth $4.2 billion annually, up from $3.9b the same time a year earlier - an increase of 10 per cent, but retail consultant Chris Wilkinson said the current consumer trend was shopping at a retailer both instore and digitally - not just online.
"Blended relationships with retailers across their digital and physical channels are very much the trend we're seeing across many retail categories today, as trust, convenience and user experience develops for consumers," Wilkinson said.
Online spending in Australia annually is A$25 billion ($26.7b) which makes up 8 per cent of its total retail spend.
New Zealand's annual retail spend is $49 billion, according to BNZ, and while online shopping makes up just 7.6 per cent of that, Wilkinson said it was important for the sector.
"The value is only a small part of the equation. What really matters is where purchase decisions start and that's largely down to digital influence. More people are going online to search and validate purchase decisions," he said.
"Most sites take people effectively to their stores so online plays a major part in bricks and mortar."
Wilkinson said he expected continued growth in the volume and dollar value of online spending as consumers were increasingly heading online to purchase more expensive items. This could been seen with furniture, with sales in the category continuing to lift, he said.
Online spending in the month of March was unusually slow, largely due to weak growth in purchases from overseas websites, according to data from BNZ.
Spending at domestic sites were up 7 per cent compared to the same period last year, in line with the growth in spending at local bricks-and-mortar stores. Online spending at international merchants was up 2 per cent in March.
Wilkinson said Kiwis beliefs around online shopping were similar to that of Australian consumers but largely to British shoppers.
"In the UK, online shopping is a necessity for many as the busyness of life, reliance on public transport and weather extremes have conditioned consumers there to use e-commerce," he said. "The strength of online in the UK and US reflects the success catalogue shopping had in these economies - preceding the advent of e-commerce."
PriceSpy New Zealand country manager Lisa Matinvesi-Bassett said survey findings shined a light on the importance of bricks and mortar retail.
Purchase decisions start and [are] largely down to digital influence. More people are going online to search and validate purchase decisions.
"Even though online spending is on the rise, with reports advising 11 per cent year-on-year growth, the survey brought to light the need for traditional bricks-and-mortar shops," Matinvesi-Bassett said.
"This also aligned with industry predictions that say '2018 will be the year of bricks-and-mortar retail', as consumers still like to experience in-store services and walk away with a product in hand."
Despite survey figures revealing the popularity of e-commerce, survey respondents were evenly split when it came to physically seeing a product before buying.
Forty one per cent of consumers said it was important to see a product before buying it and 40 per cent saying they didn't feel it was important.
Kiwis spending habits are largely driven by price - particularly when buying new products, the survey found.