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Brick and mortar stores have surged in popularity post-pandemic

When it comes to shopping for apparel, household goods, and personal care, it seems Australian shoppers increasingly prefer the in-store experience. 

The annual Retail Monitor survey from the Australian Consumer and Retail Studies (ACRS) unit at Monash Business School has found Australians are back to shopping at brick and mortar stores at pre-pandemic levels. 

However, they still rate the online shopping experience better.

“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,” explained 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.”

For Australian shoppers, online shopping rates more favourably in terms of sales and promotions, product ranges, and product availability. They’re also less likely to return items bought online (42 per cent) compared to items bought in-store (66 per cent.)

The most returned product category has been clothing, footwear, and accessories. Dr Zoppos attributes this to high shopping expectations. 

“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 said.

The annual Retail Monitor survey also found that return options remain one of the most crucial factors when making a purchase for almost 60 per cent of respondents, only coming in behind price-related factors, quality, and customer service.

“With consumers using online channels more than ever before, it is now increasingly important that retailers provide shoppers with seamless returns experiences to meet their increasing expectations,” Dr Zoppos added.

“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.” 

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ALSO READ: Australia’s population is anticipated to grow by three million by 2030

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Rhea Laxmi Nath

Rhea Laxmi Nath

Rhea L Nath is a Sydney-based writer and editor. In 2022, she was named Young Journalist of the Year at the NSW Premier's Multicultural Communications Awards.

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