Online retail sales in Australia, including purchases by consumers on local and overseas websites, are forecasted to grow 39% to $25bn by 2015, according to a new study.

The study, sponsored by NetSuite and The Australian Retailers Association (ARA), and conducted by Frost & Sullivan, revealed that online retail sales are expected to reach more than $18bn in 2013.

The study of 219 Australian retail managers was carried out in July 2013 to find out the adoption of the internet as a channel for the future success of Australian retailers.

Although online sales have grown strongly in recent years, Australia is still lagging behind comparable markets such as the UK and the US.

The largest online expenditure is on clothing, footwear and personal accessories, followed by electrical and electronic items.

While more than 50% of Australia’s 77,000 retail businesses have a website, only one-third currently accept orders online.

With around 33-50% of all online expenditures by Australian shoppers now going to overseas sites, traditional retailers in Australia need to consider adopting an omni-channel strategy that leverages all channels, the study observed.

Frost & Sullivan Australia and New Zealand managing director Mark Dougan said that a number of factors, including a challenging job market and rising household costs, have impacted retail sales growth in Australia.

"As Australian consumers become more confident with online shopping, and as a greater number of retailers actively promote their online offerings, the value of online retail sales is growing at double-digit rates, suggesting that Australia still has room to grow," Dougan added.

"Many brick and mortar retailers are currently missing out on market opportunities from the booming online retail sector in Australia. Taking a multi-channel approach can offer them many opportunities, such as lower operating costs, the ability to reach new customer segments, the potential to broaden their product range and the ability to operate with fewer geographic limitations."

The study observed that 30% of online shoppers are using smartphones or tablets for online transactions.

About one-third of retailers also now have a social media presence, using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to communicate with consumers.

"Australian retailers are recognising the opportunities that the web offers to interact with their customers in new ways, and to deepen and broaden these relationships, but making the web an integral part of the retailer’s approach involves more than just setting up a website or Facebook page," added Dougan.

According to the research, only 24% of Australian retailers with a web presence currently have software that integrates web orders with their inventory management system.

NetSuite APAC and Japan managing director Mark Troselj said: "Getting an omnichannel strategy right can deliver substantial and tangible results, but it can take years to develop. This is where cloud computing really opens doors, offering the opportunity for a lower cost and much lower risk rollout of the software needed to support omnichannel retailing. Now they can unify separate retail channels to provide a single view of the customer, sales and revenue."