Long queues at registers, bad service and a scarcity of sales staff are driving Australiaâs shoppers from bricks and mortar stores to the internet. But even when retailers make every effort to stem the flow they face an uphill battle.
According to a new nationwide poll, shoppers are increasingly treating physical stores as a dress rehearsal for their online needs. They go to them to try on clothes for size and suitability before buying them online, ask for the price on goods to be matched to what they can buy them for on the internet, and quiz sales people for information to use for an online purchase.
Of those polled, 65 per cent agreed that if service was better in physical stores they would shop in them more often. Long queues at the checkout or register were by far the biggest complaint with 43 per cent of those surveyed regularly experiencing this issue and a further 45 per cent, occasionally.
The poll is the latest in the survey series Crossman Insights, initiated by Sydney-based public relations consultancy Crossman Communications using the Newspoll Online Omnibus. It surveyed 1221 Australians, aged between 18 and 64, roughly divided between males and females, on issues ranging from shopping at a physical store to concerns about online shopping. Of those surveyed, approximately nine in 10 had shopped online.
Crossman Communications Managing Director, Jackie Crossman, said the poll served as a real wake-up call for retailers about meeting the needs of shoppers.
âRetailers might be facing thinner margins in this tough economic climate but they have to look seriously at their service model if they are going to keep their customers satisfied,â Ms Crossman said.
âCutting back on staff to stem falling profits is not a solution. Sales assistants need to be well trained and to be there when shoppers need them,â she said.
Two-thirds (68 per cent) of respondents felt staff numbers had been pared back too far by physical store retailers, particularly in the big cities with 72 per cent sharing this view, compared to 61 per cent elsewhere.
This was reflected in a third (32 per cent) regularly being unable to find a sales assistant when needed (45 per cent experienced this occasionally), while 21 per cent regularly found sales assistants not knowledgeable enough to answer their question (47 per cent occasionally).
Fifteen per cent regularly experienced rude or bad attitudes from sales staff (35 per cent occasionally), and 43 per Generic Levitra cent (13 per cent regularly and 30 per cent, occasionally) said they had found staff gossiping on mobile phones when they needed assistance, though 23 per cent of those surveyed said they had never experienced this issue.
That bad service was a key finding in the poll highlights the fact that Australiaâs physical store retailers have more than just the high $1000 GST threshold for imported online goods to contend with.
âThe internet has introduced a global shopping environment whether retailers like it or not,â said Ms Crossman.
âManufacturers and retailers need to work together to manage the distribution channel. Once you would go to stores for exclusivity and be prepared to pay the price, but now you see brands popping up everywhere and frequently at cheaper prices. By trying to work across both online and physical retailers, manufacturers are devaluing their brands and cannibalising the market for their products.â
Worryingly for Australiaâs retail sector, Ms Crossman said 66 per cent of respondents (61 per cent among women, rising to 72 per cent among men) were content to buy goods online, even if it took business away from physical Australian shops or stores.
Of the online shoppers, 47 per cent said they more often bought from overseas, than from Australia, a trend more prevalent among those living in the big cities. Of this figure 54 per cent were men. The younger the shoppers, the higher the overseas level of shopping with 62 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 agreeing that they buy more often from overseas. The number drops to 33 per cent for the 50-64 age group.
Yet in spite of the willingness of these respondents to jump on the net at the expense of physical store retailers, 79 per cent felt the Federal government should provide more protection for both online and physical Australian retailers so that they could compete effectively with overseas retailers. Women appeared more likely to support this notion than men.
Half of those surveyed say they only bought from physical stores when there were sales, highlighting frugality in tougher times. Men are more likely to be the bargain-hunters as are people living in the state capitals. Generally, 85 per cent felt physical stores were well stocked with a wide range of products.
With the online shoppers, 70 per cent said they had worried about the security of their banking details and 66 per cent, about their goods arriving safely.