As the effects of the pandemic continue to disrupt the Australian economy, e-commerce will play a critical role in the retail sector’s recovery from COVID-19 – driving long-lasting changes to consumer behaviour. Even before the emergence of COVID-19, Australian retailers were preparing for the rapid growth of e-commerce, however, in the wake of pandemic, Australia Post recorded a massive 80% year on year increase in online shopping orders during 2020.

This uptake of online shopping is expected to remain significantly high, even though brick-and-mortar stores are now beginning to re-open their doors, and is where retailers will need to focus to maintain a competitive edge into the future. The key for coming out on top in the retail environment is adopting and utilising the power of technology to fuel their own economic recovery, and to meet the higher than ever consumer expectations of a seamless online omnichannel retail experience.

Invest in the omnichannel experience

Online retail saturation in Australia is currently behind other parts of the world, which has created a high level of suppressed demand for e-commerce that has now been released due to the pandemic. Previously, Australian consumers looked online to buy more discretionary items such as clothing and electronic goods. Today, consumers are quick to jump online for essential items such as groceries, pharmaceuticals, and alcohol.

With this significant shift in consumer behaviour, retailers are now employed to alter their online strategy and fulfil the expectations of their consumers by offering an enhanced omnichannel shopping experience. For this to be achieved, technology is the common denominator.

As the post-COVID-19 world is expected to continue to see a surge in e-commerce popularity, retailers must now invest in and strengthen their digital presence. Likewise, they must delve into the possibilities of reinventing their business models to align with the post-COVID-19 era. First and foremost, this means investing in data-driven models that are better suited to gauging consumer demand to create an agile and responsive supply chain that is synchronised with the omnichannel.

Technology to satisfy consumer data security concerns

Together with this surge in e-commerce demand, the volume of digital and contactless payments has subsequently grown. Whether it’s older consumers using online payments for the first time, or the growing number of consumers who are shopping digitally or no longer wanting to handle cash for in-store payments, the pandemic has massively accelerated the transformation of payments in the retail market. In fact, cash transactions fell in popularity as a method of payment consumers felt comfortable using from 25% in 2019 to 21% in 2020. This was closely followed by chip and pin transactions which saw a huge 21% decrease last year.

But, with this shift to digital payments, more consumers are wary of the safety of their private data and payment information. Our own research, conducted as part of SOTI’s From Bricks to Clicks: State of Mobility in Retail 2021 Report, discovered that over half of Australian consumers felt that their payment data was safe when making an online purchase. However, nearly 72% stated that they have deserted an online order because they did not trust the retailer with their payment details.

With this in mind, it’s now critical for retailers to invest in systems and technological advancements to protect their consumers’ data, as without it, they risk losing the trust and loyalty of their consumers completely. For technological innovations to tackle this exact issue of consumer data security,  mobile management solutions work to provide an integrated solution to manage and secure all mobile devices and connected peripherals within a retailer’s entire business body.

A shift to a mobile-first technology strategy for retail

One of the closest relationships consumers have is with their smartphone, and it’s not a bad idea for retailers to tap into this dynamic themselves. However, in order to do so, retailers must have systems and solutions that are intelligent, dynamic, and secure enough to help them understand what consumers actually want.

Likewise, they need to satisfy these consumer demands in a way that is secure and can accommodate for the future changes that will exist in the market. The retailers who succeed in doing this will be the ones who will thrive in 2021 and dominate the future retail landscape post-COVID.

The effects of the pandemic have forced consumers to try new channels, new ways of shopping and paying, and new products they would not have considered before. In many cases, these consumers won’t be returning to the old ways of retail any time soon.

The investments in technology that retailers have made over the last year have enabled them to survive in the short-term, but more importantly, it has set them on the path to creating the kind of hybrid online shopping experiences that consumers now desire. To bring this all together, the next step to take is the adoption of intelligent mobile technology, designed specifically for retail, which enhances the retail journey for a seamless and enjoyable shopping experience across all channels.

Michael Dyson is vice president of sales for Asia Pacific at SOTI.