From established retailers to challenger and disruptor brands, Covid-19 drastically altered the way retailers reach their customers, forcing them to adapt. After a tumultuous 2020, Australia is fortunate in that it has slowly been able to return to some semblance of normal. With COVID accelerating retailers’ shift to a more online economy, they are now better positioned in the long term. In fact, new research from Forrester has revealed that this impressive resilience means a majority of Aussie retailers plan to expand, rather than contract their business post pandemic.

One example of this rapid adaptation is Sydney based company Stagekings, which traditionally builds stages for large scale productions. When COVID put an end to live events, the company quickly shifted to supply home furniture and offices. E-commerce wasn’t exactly the business’ forte, but they quickly transformed into an online retailer overnight by leveraging digital platforms including Stripe to handle their payments.

This is just one of many retailers whose innovation from COVID has led to new business opportunities. According to the research, which focused on three categories (business priorities, payment related challenges and payment initiatives over the next 12 months), Aussie retailers are not resting on their laurels, but instead are doubling down on ensuring they’re improving their customer experience, with 65% saying that’s their top business priority. A close second to this is their focus on improving products and services at 62%.

Digital growing pains

However, despite finding new ways to add value for customers during the pandemic, the research found that this heightened digital transformation left a number of cybersecurity challenges and concerns in its wake. Retailers in Australia deem fraud to be the most significant threat, posing severe risks to brand reputation and customer satisfaction. In fact, 27% of Australian decision-makers said they’ve experienced increased fraud attempts in the last year, while a further 24% cite security implementation as being a substantial challenge for their respective businesses.

Subsequently, 63% of Australian retailers surveyed said their main priority for payment initiatives over the next 12 months is improving fraud detections and mitigation. Crucial to achieving this is ensuring the digital tools retailers are putting in place are able to fend off fraud. 

From surviving to thriving in 2021

The massive investment in digital over the past year has advanced ways in which Australian retailers cater to new consumer behaviours and expectations.  Aussie retailers are now setting their sights on continued innovation in the year ahead. According to the research, retailers are laser focused on having a high quality customer journey, from awareness right through to check-out. Similarly, increasing online conversion rates is the second most important payments initiative over the next 12 months for Australian retailers with 57% saying so. Implementing flexible payment options will be key to this, in fact nearly a quarter of retailers said they are looking to implement alternative payment methods to meet the demand fuelled by the growing popularity of buy now pay later.

What’s clear is trends that have long been apparent in the retail industry were drastically accelerated in Australia due to the pandemic. Ultimately, as more commerce moves online, digital payments infrastructure platforms are emerging as a key lever enabling adaptive retailers to quickly execute on growth strategies without having to invest significantly in internal resources. With that foundation, resilient retailers will be best placed to stay ahead of the curve as they look to thrive in 2021 and beyond.

Mac Wang is head of Australia and New Zealand for Stripe.