The rise of online shopping is surely here to stay.
According to reports by Australia Post and PayPal, 9 million Australian households shopped online last year, 2.5 million of them for the first time. With COVID-19 lockdowns continuing in many parts of the country, those new shopping habits are likely to stick.
While the online shopping trend may be disrupting traditional business models, it carries an opportunity for many smaller operators who have moved to e-commerce as their physical shopfronts have had to be shuttered.
To help these businesses connect with customers, ACM - publisher of this website and Australia's biggest independent news brand serving suburban, regional and rural communities - is proud to be launching a new discovery marketplace, ClicknConnect.shop.
The platform, which will launch on October 6, will carry listings from retailers and service providers trading online across Australia. Shoppers will be able to easily search the range of businesses, by category or location, and then click through to their website to finalise their purchase.
ACM's chief revenue officer Sharon Fitter said the ClicknConnect concept aligned perfectly with ACM's goal to keep communities "strong, informed and connected", and its national footprint.
"ACM boasts an audience of 6.4 million people a month across our network of websites and newspapers. We talk to a significant proportion of Australians who live and work in suburbs, towns and regional cities," Ms Fitter said.
"More than that, we live where our audience lives. We understand what makes our communities tick because we are part of them, and we want to see them prosper.
"ACM developed ClicknConnect to make it easier for businesses and shoppers to find each other. We want to help our customers grow their business and we can use the power of the ACM national network to make that happen."
To register for the ClicknConnect.shop site, all a business needs to do is get in touch with the sales team at their local ACM newspaper.
During this pre-launch promotional period, a ClicknConnect listing is included as part of any ACM Advantage package. Help is also available for businesses who don't have an e-commerce site.
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Ms Fitter said ACM had been inspired by seeing so many regional-based businesses pivot during the coronavirus pandemic and embrace e-commerce as a way to sustain themselves.
In many cases businesses have been able to grow their customer base beyond the usual geographic boundaries.
"We've seen businesses with niche offerings - speciality products that might be handmade or services that provide something a bit different - engage with customers right across the country. There's certainly an appetite from consumers to shop smaller and support local business people who are having a go," Ms Fitter said.
Shoppers to the ClicknConnect site will have the chance to win $500 vouchers to spend with ClicknConnect participants. Look for details when the site goes live on October 6.
ACM's network of websites and newspapers includes The Canberra Times, Newcastle Herald, Illawarra Mercury, the Border Mail, Wagga Daily Advertiser, Ballarat Courier, Bendigo Advertiser, the Launceston Examiner and Burnie Advocate, and other publications throughout south-east Queensland, right across NSW and Victoria and into SA and Western Australia. For a full list of ACM publications, go to www.acmadcentre.com.au.