Websites of brick-and-mortar retailers outperforming online-only stores

Recent research by Monash Business School’s Australian Consumer and Retail Studies (ACRS) found that not only has there been a surge in eCommerce transactions during the recent lockdowns, but also how online stores of brick-and-mortar retailers are faring surprisingly well.

ACRS research, which surveyed shoppers and interviewed retailers throughout September 2021, noted that 84 per cent of Australians made online purchases in the last three months and 37 per cent of these shoppers made weekly online purchases. Half of the online shoppers surveyed reported that they made more online purchases since the beginning of the pandemic compared to prior, while only a small number had made less (four per cent).

Clothing, footwear and accessory purchases accounted for 56 per cent of all online purchases. This was ahead of grocery products (41 per cent), household goods like homewares and hardware (33 per cent) and personal care goods such as cosmetics and baby care (32 per cent).

The survey collected feedback from 1609 shoppers across Australia (1002), the United Kingdom (301) and the United States (306).

“Prior to the pandemic, there was a clear divide amongst shoppers over physical versus online shopping experiences, with over two-thirds (68 per cent) of Australian shoppers using physical stores as their main channel for non-grocery retail purchases, while just under one-third (32 per cent) used online methods,” Stephanie Atto, Principal Research Consultant at the ACRS, said.

“As a result of COVID-19 lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions, online became the main non-grocery retail channel, with almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of Australian shoppers using online methods as their main channel for non-grocery retail purchases,” Atto addedf. “Australians are now equally divided on their preference for bricks-and-mortar versus online as their preferred main channel, with 50 per cent prefering physical stores as their preferred main channel, while the other 50 per cent now prefer online channels.”

The research also highlighted the fact that in the midst of the eCommerce boom in Australia, shoppers turned to physical retailer websites to make the majority of their online purchases. In particular, 64 per cent of Australian online shoppers made a purchase from the websites of physical retailers in the past three months. These websites were also most frequently used for product information such as colour, size, measurements, and features.

“With consumers using online channels more than ever before, it is now increasingly important that retailers provide shoppers with seamless omnichannel experiences to meet their increasing online expectations,” Atto said. “As retailers focus on improving their digital integration in the retail experience, adding personalised touches will help retailers continue to connect with their customers in a deeper way.”