Despite the spike in online shopping, Australians still prefer to shop in bricks and mortar stores, according to new research from leading consumer intelligence platform, Toluna. This is particularly the case when it comes to shopping for groceries, personal care products, furniture, and home improvement tools.

Just over half prefer to shop in store for clothing (59%), beauty products (56%) and sporting equipment (53%) with electronics the only category which shoppers preferred to shop online (51%).

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 confirmed 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%) enjoy online shopping, with another 40% on the fence, stating it depends on the store.  

For those who’ve been shopping more online, 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%).

As online retailers improve their e-commerce sites by 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, including hair colour, glasses, clothing, make-up, shoes and watches.

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. 

Toluna, Australia and New Zealand country director, Sej Patel 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,” he said.

“For online 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.”