Online crucial for pre-store discovery

Brand discovery mostly happens online, as almost half (47%) of Australian shoppers claim to primarily discover brands through online search and websites, and one in 10 via social media, according to a report from Shopify.

The data collected from Shopify's ‘This is a Store’ survey showed that websites and social media outranked traditional advertising and television as influential channels when it comes to shopping decisions, with websites being the most influential source. Overwhelmingly, 83% of shoppers believe all brands should sell online/have an online store, while 7% say it only matters if the online experience is better than the in-store experience.

With ongoing lockdown restrictions across several states in Australia, online shopping habits are set to grow and evolve as consumers once again turn to online shopping channels to make purchases. In fact, states have reached new peaks, as NSW saw growth of 36% in online purchases in the first three weeks of lockdowns compared to the same period in 2020 and similarly, 38% growth in Victoria. As major retailers face the tightest restrictions since the start of the pandemic, the nation has seen shoppers purchase more online across all categories. 

Even with changing consumer behaviour and increased participation in online shopping, Australians have yet to broaden their view of what a store is. 77% of people think of a physical store when they think of shopping, and those aged over 55 are almost three times more likely than those aged 18-24 to think of shopping as ‘going into a physical store.’

Shaun Broughton, Managing Director of APAC Shopify, says it is time for Australians to reimagine retail, as the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled major shifts in the way brands and consumers interact and changed the industry forever. 

“Australians haven’t yet broadened their view of what a store is. A store is Instagram, a store is Pinterest, a store is online and a physical space. The research proves that Australians shop on all these mediums, but they still perceive a store as bricks and mortar. As shopping trends continue to evolve due to macro circumstances and technology, this perception is also highly likely to shift over time.”

When asked about the biggest deterrent from shopping with a brand online, 18% of respondents said they fear the unknown/uncertainty around what the product is like in real life. This was followed by bad online reviews (16%), lack of competitive pricing (14%), shipping costs and inconvenience (12%) and lack of security (12%).

“Brands need to emulate a physical store experience as much as possible online, to give reassurance to those unsure about online shopping. This means reimagining the shopping experience and adopting omnichannel approaches, to ensure customers get the same certainty and convenience as they would in-store no matter where or how they choose to shop. We’ve seen local merchants like Go To Skin do this successfully, by adopting new platforms and placing no limits on the way they deliver shopping experiences in this evolving space.” 

More key findings from the survey include:

  • 44% of those aged 18-24 make shopping decisions ‘sometimes’ or ‘regularly’ as a result of influencers
  • Women are two thirds more likely than men to discover a brand via social media
  • When it comes to engaging in online shopping using social media, 27% would do so if there’s a special promotion attached, two in five (19%) look for shopping features such as tagging prices on posts or in-platform purchase features and 15% likely to do so if there’s a sponsored post or advertisement
  • Australians are reluctant to engage with social media influencers for online shopping, with 68% of people rarely or never make purchasing decisions because of influencers.