Almost two-thirds (63%) of consumers missed retail shopping ‘a lot’ or ‘a little’ during COVID-19 with 86% regarding physical storefronts as important when making retail purchases, according to the recently released LivePerson Customer Conversation Report.

However, the research found that poor customer service is letting retailers down with 38% of Australians not satisfied with their most recent retail customer service experience. Further, 7 out of 10 (71%) have abandoned an online purchase at checkout in the past 12 months due to being unhappy with delivery details or options (42%), wanting to do more research prior to purchase (34%), being unhappy with the price (30%), not being able to find everything they need (20%) and not being able to have simple questions answered easily (17%).

The report is based on a survey of 3,012 consumers across Australia, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand who were asked about their customer service experiences in 2020, what has changed for them, and what they would like to see companies do differently or better.

Almost half (48%) of consumers believe that shopping as normal won’t return until this time next year. In the meantime, 72% say concerns about the virus make them worried about shopping instore and 82% now rate ‘contactless shopping’ as important.

Commenting on the data, LivePerson head of customer engagement for Asia Pacific, Kate Sterling said that COVID-19 has disrupted the retail sector and increased customer expectations, but in too many cases these aren’t being met.

“Customers now hold much more power. They are more judicious about what they buy, they are buying more online, and they expect their questions to be answered in real time, wherever they are and through whatever channel they prefer.

“Consumers are far more comfortable engaging with brands through new channels than many brands think. They’re already ready. They’re already doing it, and that’s the gap that retailers need to fill in order to gain a competitive advantage.”

Another key finding from the LivePerson research was that the pandemic has accelerated customer adoption of digital tools and technology as part of the shopping experience with only 30% of Australians now prefer ‘in person’ customer service. Almost half (47%) of Australians feel more comfortable shopping online, one in five now use messaging channels to speak to brands, 18% speak with AI agents and 17% use QR codes.

LivePerson’s data shows that Australia continues to lead the world in the shift to ‘conversational commerce’. Brand-customer conversations via messaging channels (such as WhatsApp, SMS and Facebook Messenger) have increased nearly 10% in Australia since May and have more than doubled since the start of the year.