The past year has been a wake-up call for retailers that don’t yet have their online and in-store experiences connected, according to Brauz founder and CEO, Lee Hardham. On the other hand, retailers that already had omnichannel offerings were able to engage in powerful initiatives.

“For example, ‘dark stores’ that facilitated click and collect, enabled the ability to ship direct from stores and also facilitated virtual bookings with staff in closed stores meant retailers could keep staff employed and dramatically reduce disruptions to sales caused by lockdowns,” he said.

Retailers who had enabled dark stores had over 80% of all online sales attributed to click and collect; likely due to customer frustrations over Australia Post delays, something those with dark stores were able to circumvent. 

“Customers still want a human experience with retailers. The gap between physical and digital is now obsolete. Customers now expect the same level of efficiency and human connection to the brand online as they do in-store and the biggest lesson for retailers is that they needed to have these strategies in place for customers, yesterday,” Hardham said.

Retail in 2022 will be about efficiency

When thinking about the post-Covid world for retail, Hardham refers to China as the leader in market recovery.

“In China, 14% of all e-commerce sales are now attributed to video and live commerce, and this is now tracking close to 5% in the US. We expect this trend to continue and to see this translate into the Australian market,” he said.

“While virtual shopping was building momentum before the pandemic, restrictions on movement saw adoption surge and the trend in China is validation that this growth will continue as consumers continue to prioritise convenience in a post-lockdown world.”

It’s about how retailers can best position themselves to offer the most efficient experience possible.

“On top of virtual appointments, we’re seeing growth in appointment-based experiences to bring customers in-store in a safe way. This allows customers to browse products online and reserve a time in-store where staff will ensure the product is ready to be viewed and purchased,” Hardham said.

Meeting customers where they are

In 2022 and the years to come, Shopify expects it to be increasingly important for merchants to invest in delivering seamless digital experiences for their customers by taking advantage of where commerce is taking place.  

“Consumers are taking their shopping habits to new mediums, including platforms that were traditionally designed for social engagement,” Shopify regional general manager for Asia Pacific, Shaun Broughton said.

“A store is no longer a website or physical space. A store can be Instagram, TikTok or Pinterest. Our recent report revealed that younger and middle-aged online shoppers are generally likely to purchase an item directly from a social media platform, primarily from Facebook (57% and 44% respectively) or Instagram (58% and 31% respectively).

“As shopping trends continue to evolve as habits change, retailers should take advantage of the new possibilities, and take the opportunity to diversify channels to optimise their bottom line. The next year will be about engaging with consumers wherever they are, and adopting omnichannel approaches to deliver shopping experiences in innovative ways,” he added.