Despite the rise in online shopping over recent years, Australian consumers continue to show interest in brick-and-mortar shopping experiences. In fact, in-store and online shopping are roughly equally as popular among Australian consumers according to Shopify’s 2023 Australian Retail Report. Specifically, 38% of consumers prefer in-store shopping, 31% prefer online, and 31% like in-store and online shopping equally.

Many retailers invested heavily in their online shopping experience during, and in the years following, the pandemic. But to maximise growth in today’s competitive retail landscape, retailers must provide an exceptional customer experience within their physical retail channels as well.

These are my top tips for a brick-and-mortar experience that entices customers to visit, purchase, and return again and again:

Master POS

Just as customers like to transact quickly online, they also expect an efficient checkout process in-store. Offering customers a variety of payment options reduces barriers to purchase and ensures a seamless checkout experience. A full 40% also expect instant refunds when they return an item in store, according to our 2023 Australian Retail Report.

Point-of-Sale solutions that meet consumer expectations can remove friction from the purchasing process, and when they integrate well with inventory management they enable staff to deliver more accurate and helpful customer service. 

Mobile POS solutions like Shopify POS Go can take this to the next level, supporting an even smoother purchasing journey and reducing queuing at the checkout counter. This may be  especially helpful for retailers that sell bulky items — such as white goods — as items like these are not able to be brought to a checkout counter anyway.

Unify inventory

When inventory for online and physical channels is managed across disparate systems it can be difficult to get stock levels right. And worse, retailers often have to cobble together separate reports just to get an accurate view. 

Combining in-store and ecommerce inventory in one unified commerce platform gives retailers a real-time view of how much stock is on hand, allowing them to forecast future needs with more accuracy. Having unified inventory data also enables shoppers to check stock in store ahead of their visit, resulting in a better customer experience.

Using a unified platform can also do a lot to streamline operations and reduce operational expenditure in relation to inventory management. Stock levels of each product are automatically updated when using a unified platform, regardless of which channel they were sold through.

Choose an integrated software solution

According to our 2023 Australian Retail Report, the top three customer expectations when it comes to in-store retail are knowledgeable staff, having enough stock and attentive service. Choosing integrated commerce solutions that connect with back-office systems and online inventories ensures floor staff can more effectively support customer queries and reduces queues at the counter.

In addition, using an integrated commerce solution means no more punching totals into a separate card reader or waiting for two separate systems to communicate with each other. For example, Shopify’s POS software — together with its in-store payment terminal — enables retail employees to accept customer payments faster and without the potential of mistakes caused by double handling. 

Create experience-rich stores

According to Shopify’s 2023 Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) data, close to 1 in 4 shoppers prefer brands with technology-enabled shopping experiences (24%). Almost another quarter expected brands to embed technology into the shopping experience (24%), and 23% are more likely to spend money with brands that offer tech-enabled shopping experiences. 

These statistics tell us that integrating technology into the in-store experience is not just a novelty but a necessity. Consumers are increasingly looking for interactive shopping experiences that leverage the best of both digital and physical retail. This can be as simple as integrating QR codes and digital display screens within a brick-and-mortar store — over a third (36%) of BFCM shoppers stated that they engage with these features when shopping in store.

In 2024, the in-store experience must evolve to keep up with customer expectations. Consumers are looking for more than just products — they seek attentive service, an efficient checkout process and tech-enabled experiences.

Every little detail — from the way that they pay, through to the way online touch points align in store — can have an impact on their experience. As such, retailers should ensure that they have the right systems and processes in place to create an engaging, memorable, and high-converting customer experience.

Shaun Broughton is managing director of APAC at Shopify.