The Future of Shopping in Australia

The weakening dollar is good news for Australian retailers, with goods from overseas being more expensive for consumers to buy. However, this is not the time for Aussie retailers to rest on their laurels. As an increasing number of Australians travel overseas, they experience great customer service and bring these expectations back with them. There is also increased competition from brands in Asia, the US and Europe, which see Australia as a lucrative retail market with low entry barriers. In most cases, the Australian customer service does not match up to that offered elsewhere, and there is a good deal of work to do if Aussie retailers don’t want to fall further behind.

In fact, SAP’s first-ever Australian Digital Experience Report recently found that almost half of the report’s 3,000 respondents (47 percent) were dissatisfied with the digital experience that Australia’s biggest brands offered. While not all brands were ‘traditional retailers’, they were all selling some form of goods or service to the consumer, whether that be a phone plan or an insurance policy.

Below are some of the key challenges that retailers face in Australia, including tips for what businesses need to do to thrive post-2015. These apply to any business, whether they’re B2B or B2C.

Offline versus in-store

Many retailers make the mistake of believing that online ‘cannibalises’ offline. Experience shows us that this isn’t true. Customers decide how they wish to interact with brands or services these days, and by dictating to customers or removing choice only drives customers away or reflects badly on the customer experience. The technology is available to enable customers to choose items of clothing online, book an appointment in-store to try them on, and then organise for them to be shipped to your home. Shoes of Prey is an example of a retailer that is successfully integrating online and offline. Once a pureplay retailer, it has now opened physical stores in the US and Australia.

Rather than seeing ‘online’ and ‘offline’ as rivals, make your physical stores stand out from the crowd by using technology to transform the in-store experience and enable and empower in-store staff. The investment online does not have to be left at the door of your physical store. The rich product information that is contained online can all be leveraged in-store. The cross sell and upsell opportunities are endless and the level of personal engagement invaluable when you get it right.

Greater personalisation

Data is key for retailers to know who their customers are, what they’re buying, what they are doing at the time of purchase, which products are selling and for being able to tailor offers for customers. One-size-fits-all promos and batch-and-blast email campaigns are dead. We only have to look in our email trash to see the value of traditional email marketing. It just doesn’t deliver the results. With personalisation tools like beacons and loyalty apps, retailers can customise various aspects of their shopping journeys, from tailored recommendations and personalised in-store experiences, to customised rewards and more. Netflix and Amazon are of course the masters at this, but successful Aussie retailers will know how to extract this customer data and build marketing campaigns and offers around it.

Fast delivery

Our instant gratification society means customers want their purchases quickly. Whether they’ve bought them in-store or online, they want to be able to either take them away, try them on or have them delivered to their home or workplace the same or next day. Services like Zoom2u make that a reality and will increasingly be the difference between whether a customer does or doesn’t shop with you. Companies like Bockers & Pony now offer a three-hour delivery service, as does The Iconic. This delivery convenience and expectation is likely to change how organisations stock products, and which products are available in retail stores. Charging a premium for three-hour delivery will be acceptable, but everything else will be free of charge. This trend is the norm in the US and Europe and will quickly be expected in Australia.

Online should be easy

Customers want to be able to shop at their convenience and this isn’t always during store opening hours. The online experience you offer to customers has to be a great one. How can your organisation sell more online? Are you the fastest and easiest to do business with? Can you use tools that ask customers why they’ve abandoned their shopping cart for example? Would an online chat facility help customers make purchasing decisions? The technology exists to address abandoned carts, remarket and make offers relevant to a customer’s situation and buying pattern. Being able to make real-time use of your data puts you well ahead of your competition. And in-memory databases make this an affordable reality. Keep investing in your online and mobile offering and make the experience as relevant and as easy as possible for the customer.

Great customer service

Whether the customer shops online, via mobile or in-store, the service has to be great. Customers expect to receive great customer service regardless of which channel they use. Customers don’t care that a retail store is a separate business for example, they only care that your brand name is on the front of the store is the same as on the website, and they expect a consistent, relevant experience.

Social media will be increasingly important, not just to recommend goods and services to friends and family, but also as a customer service channel. Research by Social Pulse suggests that one in five Australians has used Facebook or some other social media channel to complain and one in ten has used it to seek assistance with resolving an issue.

Shopping should be fun

Quite simply, shopping in Australia should be fun. Overseas department stores such as Selfridges, Le Bon Marché and Galeries Lafayette use celebrities, fashion parades and art shows—rather than price-based promotions—to lure customers into stores. Smart changing rooms, for example, equipped with RFID scanners and tablet computers, enable customers to order items of clothing in different sizes and colours without having to find an assistant or leave the change room. Sensor technology can also make choosing products an interactive and positive experience. The SAP hybris wine shelf can suggest wines that the customer might like or foods that would complement the wine. Anything a retailer can do to make a shopping experience enjoyable and interactive should be explored.

Of course, with all of these trends technology isn’t the solution, it’s the enabler. A retail organisation needs to embrace change to make the most of the technologies they invest in. The technology needs to be seamless for the customer to ensure a great shopping experience. That change needs to come from the top down, and silos need to be broken so that a full 360 degree view of the customer can be provided. Only then can retailers offer a great experience and keep customers coming back for more.

For more information on developing your digital retail experience, see the hybris webinar Align the digital retail experiences you offer with what Australian consumers want. This informative presentation, available now on YouTube, provides insight into what consumers want, innovating the digital experience, how digital experience affects loyalty and advocacy, and much more. 

One thought on “The Future of Shopping in Australia

  1. Hi, it is a very interesting article that makes me thinking about the product photography and videos to be used inside a retail store. A high resolution projector in the changing room showing a 1:1 image of the product and size, perhaps to compare the difference in sizes?
    Thanks and cheers,

    Reply

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