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Omnichannel or bust: The strategy retailers should embrace



eCommerce

By Jordan Sim

As e-commerce continues to evolve, so too do consumers’ purchasing behaviours and preferences. It’s no longer just a case of having the option to buy in-store or online — the avenues for purchase have expanded with the growth of more marketplaces such as Amazon as well as the development of social selling. Consumers can now view a coveted pair of sneakers on Instagram Stories, click through to the brand’s website and view them on a model’s feet before heading in-store to try them on for size – or just complete the purchase directly online. Consumers are no longer relying on a single destination to shop; they’re combining online and in-store experiences to browse, and eventually purchase, a product or service. 

New research from BigCommerce shows that in the last six months, 78 per cent of global shoppers made a purchase on Amazon, 65 per cent in a physical store, 45 per cent on a branded online store, 34 per cent on eBay and another 11 per cent Facebook. Talk about multi-tasking! The study, which surveyed nearly 3,000 respondents from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, highlights that consumers are shopping on a combination of different platforms simultaneously. Aussie retailers need to ensure their products are featured across a variety of channels to capture and retain consumer attention, and ensure they are able to survive in an increasingly crowded retail market.

So how and where exactly are Aussies buying? Let’s take a dive into some key consumer behaviours and highlight where Aussie retailers need to be focusing their attention.

Aussie consumers combine online browsing with in-store shopping

Customers are increasingly utilising a variety of channels when browsing and purchasing, whether that be on a website, via a marketplace or in-store. If your products don’t appear when and where a customer searches for them, you’re doing your brand a disservice by limiting your brand awareness opportunities and missing out on potential sale opportunities.

In Australia, it appears that in-store experiences are not falling victim to the so-called death of retail, also known as the “retail apocalypse”. Instead, Aussie consumers rely heavily on digital tools to aid decisions before making the journey to purchase in-store. Survey results outline nearly half (48 per cent) of Australian respondents visited a brand’s website before making a purchase in store, and another 28 per cent read online customer reviews about the brand or product.

Aussie merchants that embrace an omnichannel approach to retail by developing a presence in multiple channels, be it online, in-store or via social media have a greater opportunity to attract, convert and advance a sale than competitors that don’t. And with the proliferation of Facebook advertising and the launch of Shopping on Instagram earlier this year, there is more opportunity than ever before for retailers to reach consumers.

Aussie consumers browse and shop online using a combination of mobile with desktop

When we browse and shop online, we’re big on flicking between mobile and desktop devices. Aussie respondents indicated that they use mobile (39 per cent) nearly as frequently as they use desktop (41 per cent) to shop. To influence the millions of potential Aussie customers that browse online stores on their smartphones, brands need to ensure their websites are optimised to provide a seamless experience for customers across both mobile and desktop.

Despite the distractions a potential consumer may face along the way when shopping on mobile (hello work emails!), making products available across all avenues of the shopping journey is essential to help increase the likelihood that a consumer will buy your product, no matter where they ultimately make the decision to do so.

A majority of Aussies prefer to shop from local retailers and marketplace over global brands

The growing presence of brands like H&M and Zara and the arrival of marketplaces like Amazon to our shores isn’t having as strong of an impact as the industry predicted. As Starbucks discovered the hard way, Aussies tend to support local businesses over global giants, which is great news for smaller local retailers trying to compete in the retail industry.

The majority of Aussie respondents (57 per cent) felt the presence of more global retailers entering the market did not impact their decision to buy from local merchants. While only a quarter (24 per cent) of Aussies have made a purchase on Amazon over the last six months, eBay is continuing to thrive as the marketplace of choice, with more than half (63 per cent) making a purchase on the platform in the last six months.

When evaluating what digital presence works best for the audiences you want to capture, focus on channels where your consumers are spending time and consider marketplaces your friend, keeping in mind each consumer touchpoint is another opportunity to strengthen the awareness of your brand.

So what do those figures tell us about the changing retail landscape globally, but also here in Australia?

Clearly, it’s a great time for consumer choice. People are browsing and shopping across more channels than they have ever had access to before. But this is also great news for Aussie retailers, who now have even more avenues to connect consumers to their products in new and exciting ways. In order to truly maximise this opportunity and to compete in the ever crowded retail market, all Aussie retailers should consider having an omnichannel solution. Utilising all touchpoints — bricks-and-mortar, ecommerce sites including social channels and bigger marketplaces — will give retailers the best chance of succeeding in the Australian market and globally.

Jordan Sim, Group Product Manager — BigCommerce.

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