Aussie retailers missing out on bricks and mortar resurgence

While Australian shoppers are finding their way back to physical stores, retailers don’t seem to be capitalising on this return to traditional bricks and mortar.

According to a study from Monash Business School’s Australian Consumer, Retail and Services (ACRS) research unit, 65 per cent of Australian shoppers prefer using bricks-and-mortar stores most of the time, compared to 18 per cent of Australians preferring to shop online.

However, Aussie retailers are not taking advantage of this rising trend, says Dr Rebecca Dare, managing director of the ACRS research unit.

“Australian retailers are not maximising their in-store experience,” she explains.

“We see trends overseas with empathic, human-centred design and advanced technologies that make shopping easier and/or more pleasurable, however, in Australia it’s all too common to see that in some cases the basics aren’t right―stock is piled high to the ceiling, merchandise is displayed poorly, and finding personalised customer service can be difficult.”

Current trends also show that Australians shop more frequently today than they did two years ago, and they do this at bricks-and-mortar stores instead of online.

“We are also seeing similar trends overseas. Nearly 80 per cent of shoppers in the US purchased more than half of their items in-store in 2017. Australian retailers need to understand that customers want the experience the physical store can bring. Retailers just need to provide it.”

For example, IKEA in the UK discounts umbrellas on rainy days, while Nike in the US uses technology-enabled personalisation through the Nike Maker’s Experience, which allows shoppers to design their own custom shoes in-store.

“There is a return to the importance of customer experience at physical stores. Human touches and the sensory experiences of a store visit is increasingly important, particularly with millennials, who prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things,” Dare adds.

“Shoppers miss the customer experience of physical stores; ‘real life’ connection with other people, touching things and trying them on is not an experience you get online.”

Therefore, she says, Australian retailers need to become better equipped to take advantage of the shift back to bricks and mortar.

By Marion Gerritsen