NEW RESEARCH: Australians prefer shopping in store, but virtual experiences help drive online purchases
73% of shoppers who’ve tried on products virtually are more likely to purchase
Sydney, Australia – 31 March 2021 – Despite the spike in online shopping behaviour due to COVID-19, Australians still prefer to shop in bricks and mortar stores, according to new research by Toluna, a leading consumer intelligence platform. However, the rise of virtual shopping experiences – such as augmented reality and online product try-ons – may soon replace the need for tactile shopping experiences, with 73% of shoppers more likely to purchase product they’ve tried on virtually.
The research, which surveyed 1005 Australians between 12-14 March 2021, showed that across the board, the majority of Australian shoppers still prefer to shop in store, particularly when shopping for groceries (77%), personal care products (70%) furniture (67%) and home improvement tools (67%), with just over half preferring to shop in store for clothing (59%), beauty products (56%) and sporting equipment (53%). Electronics was the only category which shoppers preferred to shop online (51%) vs in store (49%); with shoppers predominantly having their electronics delivered to their home (32%) or choosing click and collect (14%).
Tactile, real-life experiences key
The research confirmed what we expect to hear from customers, that online shopping is convenient (64%), saves time (54%) and makes it easier to compare prices (50%). But despite its benefits, less than half of the respondents (42%) actually enjoy online shopping, with another 40% on the fence, stating it depends on the store.
For those who’ve been shopping more online due to COVID-19, it’s the tactile, real-life experiences they’ve missed the most about shopping in stores, such as hand-picking items (67%), trying things on (57%), testing items before buying them (46%) and face to face customer service (50%). Interestingly, tactile shopping experiences are more important to women, with 72% stating they miss hand picking items and 63% who miss trying things on, compared with only 61% and 51% for men respectively. On the other hand, 54% of men stated they missed in-person customer service, compared with only 46% of women.
Virtual experiences sway purchasing decisions
As online retailers improve their e-commerce sites – introducing experiences such as virtual product try ons – online shopping may become more enjoyable. Of the 13% who had tried on products virtually online, the majority (77%) were satisfied with their experience, with 73% stating they’re more likely to purchase products they’ve tried on virtually.
The highest levels of customer satisfaction were found amongst those who virtually tried new hair colours (89%), glasses (75%), clothing (71%), make up (79%), shoes (75%) and watches (83%). Likewise, shoppers were more likely to purchase hair colours (74%), glasses (67%), clothing (65%), make up (72%) after having tried them on virtually.
Further, almost a quarter of all respondents (24%) believe trying on products virtually is as good as trying on a product in real life; with 27% stating they’d be willing to spend more on a product if they were able to virtually try it on before purchasing.
Customer service bots need improvement
Live chat bots, however, received mixed reviews from respondents. Just under half the respondents (42%) believed chat bots were a useful tool while over a third (37%) disagreed. When it came to helping drive online purchases, 42% thought chat bots positively influenced their purchase, while 36% said they were unlikely to make a purchase after using one.
The biggest complaints about chat bots were that they were unable to solve issues (40%), they continually redirected customers to self-serve FAQs (40%) and respondents felt the chat bots blocked them from accessing a live person (37%).
Sej Patel, Country Director, Toluna, Australia & New Zealand said the research highlights the importance of experience for shoppers, whether in-person or online.
“We hear a lot about the importance of experiential retail, and these results show us that experience is as important as ever. Shoppers want to touch and feel products, to try them on, to speak to customer support people in real life. Bricks and mortar retailers can take comfort in this and continue to provide the best in store experiences for their customers.
“For e-retailers, it’s clear that price and convenience alone isn’t enough to keep people exclusively shopping online post-COVID. Customers crave a tactile shopping experience, so the e-commerce sites which are adding experiential features like AR and virtual product try ons, are the ones who’ll remain competitive long term.”