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Australians plan to shop in-store for the holidays

While the pandemic has caused a surge in online shopping, a new Oracle Retail survey shows that many customers in Australia are ready to venture back into stores this holiday season.

Nearly 31% of shoppers surveyed plan to do most of their shopping in-store (among the highest of any country) with 43% planning to split purchases between online and brick-and-mortar shops. Still another 14% plan to make it as close as the parking lot, opting to retrieve orders ‘click-to-collect’. And, despite the challenging year, 57% of consumers expect to spend the same or more on holiday shopping than they did last year. 

Customers don’t, however, want to deal with the hassle of returns. While last year, 76% of consumers in the Asia Pacific planned to make at least one return, this year that number dropped to 30% for Australia.

“The holidays promise to test a retailer’s ability to serve customers how and where they want to shop,” said Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Retail. “With customers shopping both online and in-store, and taking advantage of new retrieval options such as curbside pick-up and ‘buy online pick up in-store,’ retailers are going to have to be firing on all cylinders to meet customer expectations in an already difficult environment.”

The survey polled 515 consumers in Australia, along with thousands of others in the United States, United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Mexico, Italy, France, Germany and the United Arab Emirates in September 2020 about their COVID-19 shopping habits and plans for holiday shopping. Unwrap your complimentary copy of the report.

Holiday gift list

With travel limited and a desire to avoid returns, it was no surprise to see gift cards as a top holiday gift. Here is what consumers said they plan to spend more on this year: 

  • 37% of shoppers plan to spend more on gift cards
  • 20% more on apparel and necessities
  • 17% more on electronics
  • 12% more on sporting goods/hobbies
  • 12% more on luxury items (handbags, fashion, and jewelry

“With more consumers avoiding returns, redeeming gift cards will be the next big opportunity for retailers to engage customers and extend sales post-holiday,” noted Webster.

Out of stock, out of luck

According to consumers, unhelpful staff or out-of-stock inventory were amongst the fastest ways retailers can end up on this year’s naughty list. Shoppers listed the below as reasons that would constitute a bad shopping experience:

  • 54% unhelpful staff.
  • 53% out-of-stock merchandise. Among those shoppers, 60% said they weren’t willing to wait for an item to be back in stock before trying another brand.
  • 47% a long, slow checkout experience or queuing outside the store.
  • 42% a difficult exchange/return policy.
  • 26% a disjointed online/in-store experience. 

“In the pandemic, many retailers’ in-store stock was depleted or completely sold out,” added Webster. “During the holidays it will be critical for retailers to fill the shelves and use their physical locations both to serve shoppers and as fulfillment centers to handle online orders and get shipments out to customers quickly.”

Malls live, but safety precautions crucial

While there has been much discussion about how indoor shopping centres will fare in the pandemic, shoppers were mostly unconcerned about the location as long as the proper safety precautions were in place.

  • 18% of shoppers felt safest in an indoor mall; 17% in outdoor shopping venues; and 65% were fine with either with the proper safety precautions.
  • 80% said it was important to see visible cleaning efforts.
  • 74% noted they want to see reduced occupancy levels in stores as key.
  • 60% said it was important to have staff and other customers wearing masks.
  • 66% of shoppers noted contactless checkout was important.
  • 44% of shoppers also said a lack of social distancing would cause them to have a bad shopping experience

Consumers get social with new brands

As consumers spent more time online during COVID-19, the survey found that 32% of Australian shoppers had discovered new brands on social media. This is a clear signal to retailers that upping social advertising this holiday season could impact sales. Here are the channels that were most prevalent:

  • 66% of shoppers who discovered a new brand on social media did so via Facebook.
  • 56% via Instagram 
  • 38% via YouTube
  • 19% via Tik Tok
  • 11% via other social channels

The delivery nightmare before Christmas 

While retailers experiment with alternative retrieval options, home delivery is still the top choice among Australian consumers. This could present a delivery nightmare as shipping times will naturally get extended due to volume. To ease anxiety, 62% of consumers said real-time updates on item location throughout the delivery process is important. Here is how shoppers plan to retrieve online purchases:

  • 68% of respondents prefer home delivery.
  • 14% will buy online and pick up curbside.
  • 18% will buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS).

“Every parent nervously waiting for their child’s holiday gift to arrive will attest that transparency from retailers is an absolute must,” noted Webster. “Brands have to have the systems in place to communicate with customers every step of the way – from ordering through to delivery.”

Moving from browser to buyer 

When shopping online or in-store, consumers cited these reasons for moving from a browser to a buyer:

  • 60% a great price.
  • 49% special offers or discounts (such as buy one, get one free).
  • 37% something the shopper really wanted or found unique.
  • 20% immediate availability and fast shipping time.
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