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Nearly three quarters of Australians are now buying goods and services over the internet, as online commerce continues to surge globally.

The latest survey of ‘The Internet in Australia’, part of the World Internet Project (WIP), found that almost three quarters of respondents are now shopping online shopping, up from 45 per cent four years ago. Over 40 per cent now spend more than $200 a month.

“Most people in our survey – around 88 per cent – are using the internet to research products or prices, but six in ten say they are buying something on it every month,” says Scott Ewing of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) at Swinburne University.

“In 2007, around 43 per cent said they never bought anything – but that has dropped to 22 per cent by 2011 as people gained confidence and experience in internet transactions.”

Nearly three quarters of Australian internet users are using it to make travel bookings, pay bills and do their banking.

And nearly half say they check out the price of things they plan to buy in local stores, before deciding to buy them over the internet instead.

“People are still bothered about credit card security in online purchases – and it appears those concerns have not changed much in recent years, and that this remains the main obstacle to their increased use of online shopping,” Mr Ewing adds.

Around 47 per cent of Australian online buyers say they are very or extremely concerned about the safety of their credit cards another 40 per cent are somewhat concerned. People who don’t use the internet at all for buying expressed even higher levels of concern.

Likewise, around half of internet buyers say they are worried about the safety of their personal information.

However only 12 per cent reported having bought a product that was misrepresented on the internet, had their credit card details stolen or had been contacted by someone seeking their bank details.

Other objections among internet consumers are the difficulty of returning unsatisfactory goods and assessing product quality.

However two thirds of Australian internet shoppers said they bought online ‘because things are cheaper’ or because they could not find the same goods in local stores.

Three quarters said they would prefer to shop in an Australian-owned online store – but so far only 9 per cent say they shop here exclusively.

Of the countries who undertook the WIP survey in 2011 Australians emerged as the most frequent online shoppers.

“Online retail poses both many challenges and many opportunities for Australian retailers,” Mr Ewing says.

“For traditional retailers the challenge is how to best integrate online and mobile channels into their existing businesses.

“Australians’ preference for dealing with Australian-based sites would appear to be a big advantage in attracting domestic customers and making sure that Australian retailers secure their slice of this increasingly important pie.”

The World Internet Project is a 32-country partnership that aims to explore how the Internet influences social, political, cultural, and economic behaviour and ideas, as measured by the attitudes, values, and perceptions of both Internet users and non-users. It is led by the University of California at Los Angeles, but consists of independently funded research groups globally, of whom CCI is the Australian partner.

Details of the 2012 WIP report can be found at: http://www.cci.edu.au/projects/digital-futures