Bricks-and-mortar retailers bounce back

Aussie shoppers are flocking back to traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers. But the retailers are failing to cash in, according to new research.

The data comes from Monash Business School’s Australian Consumer, Retail and Services (ACRS) research unit. Its quarterly survey of Australian shoppers shows 65 per cent of shoppers prefer using bricks-and-mortar stores “most of the time”.

By contrast, just 18 per cent of Australians prefer to shop online.

But Managing Director of the ACRS research unit Dr Rebecca Dare says Australian retailers aren’t maximising customers’ in-store experience.

“We see trends overseas with empathic, human-centred design and advanced technologies that make shopping easier and/or more pleasurable,” she said.

“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.”

The current trends show Australians are shopping more compared with 2016. But they’re increasingly drawn to physical stores, not online channels, to make non-grocery purchases.

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

Dr Dare says there are many best-practice examples of overseas brands and physical stores winning on customer experience.

For example, IKEA in the UK discount umbrellas on rainy days. This both communicates a human understanding and provides a solution to an everyday problem.

Dr Dare says such examples are scarce in Australian retail. Aussie business need to become better equipped to take advantage of the shift back to bricks-and-mortar retailers.

“There is a return to the importance of customer experience at physical stores,” she said.

“Human touches and the sensory experiences of a store visit are increasingly important, particularly with millennials – who prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things.”

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