Over 60 per cent of Australian consumers identify themselves as “apathetic” in their choice of primary retailer – almost double those who see themselves as advocates of a particular retailer, according to the latest IBM study.

This means, retailers have had opportunity to capture shopper loyalty, but need to capitalise on existing investments in multi-channel and accelerate customer engagement across all touch points from mobile to social media in order to be globally competitive.

“Australian retailers need to captivate consumers’ attention with new concepts across more channels or they risk falling by the wayside in this increasingly borderless and competitive market,” said Ian Wong, Retail Industry Leader – IBM Global Business Services Australia/New Zealand.

“The state of retail is in flux between the era of bricks-and-mortar and a blended experience where digital, physical, and automated processes all play an equally significant role. While this rapid transition is a challenge, it presents unprecedented opportunity for retailers to leverage this innovation to connect with and inspire long-lasting customer loyalty.”

Based on a study of 1,976 Australian consumers across nine product categories, the Australian results highlighted sophisticated shoppers express more fluidity in making purchases across physical and digital channels than ever before.

Mobiel devices are also becoming a central part of the shopping experience, with nearly half of respondents owning a smartphone and more than a quarter owning a tablet device. And although 94 percent of respondents said their most recent non-grocery purchase was in-store, 38 percent said they were unsure whether their next purchase would be in-store or online. Clearly shoppers are open to new channels and devices, and retailers will need to ensure a seamless experience across them all.

“As high-speed broadband rolls out across Australia, retailers need to factor in how mobile devices and other emerging channels will guide consumers to the point of purchase,” said Wong. “However, shoppers are also on the lookout for experiences which span more than one channel: they’re increasingly seeking a balance between the sensory experience of the high-street store and the ubiquitous convenience of buying online, whether that be through mobile technologies or even more progressive means.”

According to Margy Osmond, CEO of Australian National Retailers Association the results reflect those of this year’s IBM consumer study.

“The ability to deliver a seamless shopping experience incorporating physical and online stores will be the difference between survival and success as the gap between online and offline purchasing continues to close. Retailers need to find ways to deliver an innovative shopping experience that leads to brand loyalty and repeat sales, or risk consumers migrating to other brands who are more contemporary and exciting.” 

The study also highlighted an emerging trend amongst Australian consumers towards “showrooming” – where shoppers evaluate merchandise in-store and then make purchases online. Although “showroomers” only accounted for one perc ent of shoppers in Australia, this trend is more apparent in the US and UK – driving 50 per cent of online purchases in studied categories — and will inevitably grow in Australia as more consumers shop online.

 “A typical home is exposed to around 50,000 brand messages a year. It is not about creating more noise, it is about utilising all the channels in a seamless way to be there for the right consumer, at the right time and in the way the consumer wants it. We see this in the trend of consumers increasingly demanding higher personalisation,” Katharina Kuehn, director of RDG Insights, said.

Personalisation was also another focus for Australian shoppers, with 44 per cent expecting retailers to use past purchases to offer promotions and recommendations. However, the study also shows that Australians are less willing to provide retailers with identity and financial information, with the steepest decline being in the number of respondents willing to share their identification information — going from 52 per cent in 2012 to 26 per cent in 2013.