More than four in 10 (41%) of Australian shoppers say they now rarely purchase goods in-store, compared with 50% who said they still shop in-store at levels similar to before the pandemic, according to a new study by Manhattan Associates.

The vast majority of shoppers indicated that they now researched goods online, regardless of if they were intending to purchase them digitally or in-store – with 90% of people saying that they now visited a retailer’s website to check stock and pricing before shopping at a retailer’s physical store.

“New research highlights consumers are shopping more online than ever before, and that a retailer’s online presence can not only shape eCommerce purchases, but also now directly impact if a shopper even visits a bricks-and-mortar store,” Manhattan Associates managing director, Raghav Sibal said.

“The buyer journey is no longer linear or isolated to one channel. With so many avenues to purchase available today, a sale can occur in virtually any form and at any point. One customer may buy online and pickup in the store. Another may browse online, and then want to schedule a store appointment to try on an item. To remain competitive, retailers and stores must be able to offer as many shopping and fulfilment options as possible and engage with customers in meaningful ways.”

Consumers have also become more active when shopping online over the last two years with 74% of shoppers admitting they were now more active purchasing goods online. Of those people who had become more active shopping online, 47% indicated that this was directly related to convenience, having found online purchasing easier and becoming accustomed to it.

However, it wasn’t all negative news for traditional brick-and-mortar retail outlets, with over 50% of people indicating that they were shopping more in general these days than before the pandemic. And only 44% of people thought that the current high levels of online shopping would remain into the future – with most shoppers believing that this would not replace brick-and-mortar retail.

Retailers still need to be aware of the impact their online presence and stock availability has across their entire business – with 33% of shoppers admitting that when they go online to research goods that they intend to purchase in-store, they often buy these good immediately from the website if they can find what they are looking for. 

“It has never been more important for retailers to ensure that their online shopfront is as accessible, up-to-date, and accurate as their physical store. And with supply chain issues leading to stock level challenges for many retailers, the last thing any business wants is to run out of goods, given how easily consumers can search online for their desired product and find where these are available for purchase,” Sibal added.

“Operational visibility and forward planning remain fundamental to ensuring a retail brand has stock available for purchase. To gain these insights, solutions like a Warehouse Management System (WMS), which integrate all sales and distribution channels into one place are required. With innovations like a WMS, retailers have greater transparency around their goods. They can review the rules of stock allocation, temporarily giving priority to in-store stock over warehouse stock, thus, freeing up any trapped inventory confined within closed stores.”