Australians keen to maintain real-world retail

Online shopping and the imminent arrival of Amazon may be shaking up the playing field, but bricks and mortar retail is far from entering its dying throes.

According to a recent study by the Australian Consumer Retail and Services Unit (ACRS) Australians will continue patronising real-world retail even five years from now, with a majority (albeit minor) indicating they would  prefer to buy in-store.

What will change, however, is how people research, browse and compare potential products, with consumers set to demand more from bricks and mortar in the years ahead.

So let’s delve into the ACRS findings and look at how bricks and mortar retailers can maintain their market share.

The study

Commissioned by marketing firm Salmat, the ACRS study surveyed 500 consumers about their anticipated shopping habits in 2022. Questions included a focus on how shoppers would research products, where they would buy them and what technology they were likely to use in the years ahead. And the results support a general trend.

The research found, in five years time:

  • 59% of people would search for products online
  • 54% would compare products online and 52% would do so in-store
  • 48% would rather purchase products from a bricks and mortar retailer
  • 45% would be happy to buy online
  • 53% won’t be relying on a virtual assistant to fulfil their shopping needs
  • 59% wanted to see a balance between interacting with technology and people
  • 59% would rather speak to a human when they have a problem with a product

So what does it mean?

The search for the best deal

The research supports a general trend where many consumers actively compare products online and in-store to find the best available deal, but favour buying in the real world where possible.

It also backs up the sentiment that bricks and mortar retail has a distinct advantage of offering customers a social occasion where they can interact with people, touch and feel products, and take items home then and there.

But the study also found real-world retailers could do more to improve their market share.

Living up to the bricks and mortar bargain

The research indicated bricks and mortar retailers could be improving their customer service by ensuring they featured real-time, in-store stock status that allowed shoppers to better understand what was available, where. A resounding 79% of respondents noted this as a desire.

Delivery was next on the consumer wish list, with 59% of shoppers noting they wanted products delivered to their exact location by a real person.

Meanwhile a whopping 80% of consumers hoped for a transparent returns policy and 59% indicated they’d rather speak to a person than a virtual assistant if there was a problem with their product. This indicates customer service is the real key.

Finally, when it came to sharing their details, consumers were less than committed to revealing their personal information. Interestingly, 39% indicated they were not willing to share personal information, and 39% would do so providing it equated to personalised offers relevant to their needs and tastes.

The upshot

The upshot of the research indicates by and large the allure of real world shopping continues to have a charm. It’s personal, social and permits a physical interaction with both products and people.

However, as expected, the shopper of tomorrow will continue to arm themselves with information that will often be sourced online when it comes to finding products to suit their lifestyle and budget.

Retailers with an omnichannel strategy are probably best positioned to cater to this trend. If they can match the price, show stock availability but surpass the customer service experience that consumers encounter online, the findings indicate bricks and mortar will weather any impending storm. And the strategy they require to do so may well extend to the following things:

  • Real-time stock availability
  • Home delivery
  • A consumer experience that allows people to touch and feel products
  • Knowledgeable staff on hand to educate regarding products and handle product complaints
  • Clear returns policies
  • Careful handling and gathering of customer information with marketing that addresses their needs.

The final word

Despite the doomsday scenarios and dark predictions for real-world retail, Australians still love their bricks and mortar experience. The challenge for retailers will be to maximise their existing assets while using an online presence to complement their advantage. If this study’s anything to go by, should they balance this well, Australians will hit the malls, shop the high streets and reward retailers as a result.