Friday, July 19, 2024

Bricks and mortar is back

Traditional bricks and mortar retail stores have surged in popularity post-pandemic, according to new research from Monash University, with Australians preferring to shop in-store across most product categories including apparel, personal care and household goods.

The annual Retail Monitor survey of 1,000 Australian shoppers from the Australian Consumer and Retail Studies (ACRS) unit in the Monash Business School, shows physical shopping returning to pre-pandemic levels.

“Prior to the pandemic, there was a clear divide amongst shoppers over physical versus online shopping experiences, with the majority of Australian shoppers preferring to use physical stores as their main channel for non-grocery retail purchases,” says Dr Eloise Zoppos, Principal Research Consultant at the ACRS.

“During Covid-19, online became the main non-grocery retail channel out of necessity and the majority of Australian shoppers turned to online methods, a trend which was accelerated by the pandemic. We’re now seeing the return of a preference for physical stores and shoppers are moving between the offline and online worlds more seamlessly than ever before.”

Higher expectations not always met

The report also found that despite their preference for in-store shopping, Aussies rate the in-store shopping experience lower than that of online, particularly on key attributes like product availability, product ranges and sales and promotions.

For example, the overall physical shopping experience was rated 4 points lower than online, product availability rated 18 points lower, and both product ranges and sales and promotions each rated 11 points lower.

Dr Zoppos says that although Aussie shoppers are revelling in the ability to shop in-store again, their expectations are higher than ever.

“Research shows that the ability to see, touch and trial goods is the most influential factor of purchase decisions, and when it comes to tactile products such as apparel and household goods, factors such as size, fit and quality are paramount, but difficult to judge online”, she says.

Returns

In addition to rating the online shopping experience better, shoppers are returning more items purchased in-store than online. 66 per cent of shoppers have returned an item they bought in-store whereas only 42 per cent returned an item they bought online

The findings highlight the increasing importance and prevalence of retail returns.

“Rather than see returns as a problem, retailers should look at returns as an important stage of the customer journey; one that when done right, can result in customer loyalty, advocacy, and a cycle back to the purchasing stage of the customer retail journey,” says Dr Zoppos.

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