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Academic claims Australian retailers ‘failing’

If you want to know anything about retailing, just ask an academic! The following press release from Monash University reinforces the damaging and unfair stereotype that Australian retailers are all rubbish. PhotoCounter’s editorialising is in italics…

Dr Rebecca Dare: Few examples of good customer service in Australian retailing.

Australian shoppers are flocking back to traditional bricks and mortar stores compared to online, but retailers are failing to capitalise on this resurgence, latest research from Monash University has found.

(Which kind of begs the question why shoppers are ‘flocking back’, given the parlous state of Australian shops. And when did they actually ‘flock away’?)

The latest data from Monash Business School’s Australian Consumer, Retail and Services (ACRS) research unit quarterly survey of Australian shoppers states 65 percent of shoppers prefer using bricks and mortar stores most of the time, compared to 18 percent of Australians preferring to shop online.

The remainder of the press release from ACRS proceeds to run down the standard of Australian retailing with very little in the way of data to back the its claims up. So here we go…

Despite this attraction to traditional shopping methods, Dr Rebecca Dare, managing director of the ACRS research unit within Monash Business School’s Department of Marketing, says Australian retailers are not maximising their in-store experience.

‘We see trends overseas with empathic, human-centred design and advanced technologies that make shopping easier and/or more pleasurable, however in Australia it’s all too common to see that in some cases the basics aren’t right – stock is piled high to the ceiling, merchandise is displayed poorly, and finding personalised customer service can be difficult,’ Dr Dare said.

She did not provide any data proving overseas excellence compared to local incompetence, so we will have to assume that her insights into Australian retailing standards are simply based on her experiences going shopping. 

The current trends show Australians are shopping more frequently in 2018 than they were in 2016, but…yadda, yadda……ACRS research shows that Australian shoppers are increasingly drawn to physical stores, not online channels, to make non-grocery purchases.

‘We are also seeing similar trends overseas. Nearly 80 percent of shoppers in the USA purchased more than half of their items in-store in 2017. Australian retailers need to understand that customers want the experience that the physical store can bring. Retailers just need to provide it,’ Dr Dare said.

Silly Australian retailers, if only they could understand retailing. And stop failing!

Dr Dare said there are numerous best practice examples of overseas brands and physical stores winning on customer experience.

So stand by – this is how you do it right. Here comes the good stuff..

IKEA in the UK is discounting umbrellas on rainy days, which communicates a human understanding, while providing a solution to an everyday problem. Also, Nike in the USA is using technology-enabled personalisation through the Nike Maker’s Experience, which allows shoppers to design their own custom shoes in-store.

So that’s it? These two examples are presumably the best she could pluck from ‘numerous best practice examples of overseas brands and physical stores winning on customer experience?’ So that’s really why people shop at IKEA in the UK? Why then do they shop at IKEA in Australia – just lucky we have better weather? 

Dr Dare said that such notable examples (notable examples!!) are sparse in the Australian retail landscape and Australian retailers need to become better equipped to take advantage of the shift back to bricks and mortar.

‘There is a return to the importance of customer experience at physical stores. Human touches and the sensory experiences of a store visit is increasingly important, particularly with millennials – who prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things,’ Dr Dare said.

(Most PhotoCounter readers would probably say that the importance of customer service never went away in the first place, Dr Dare.)

‘Shoppers miss the customer experience of physical stores; “real life” connection with other people, touching things and trying them on is not an experience you get online,’ she concluded.

Oh duh, we concluded!

COMMENT: And for these kinds of extraordinarily banal insights Australian academics draw a hefty salary from the taxpayer. Perhaps the ARA should conduct a study on the contribution to Australian life of the Monash University Australian Consumer, Retail and Services research unit! 


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