These are the findings of the inaugural retail industry research published by Bentleys SA and Business SA. The survey – SA retail – at the crossroads? – polled shoppers and retailers over 2016 to establish views of the local sector and to gauge their opinions in regards to technology-driven changes.
Michael Ruggiero, a Managing Partner at Bentleys SA, commented on the survey findings and said that with over half (52%) of shoppers saying their habits are changing, businesses need to plan for future changes to stay relevant.
“As more and more shoppers adapt their habits to suit their preference in terms of online versus in-person shopping, retailers will need to respond. With the rise of international online retailers as an aggressive competitor in the market, local retailers are anticipating a greater shift to mobile devices over the next 12 months and beyond. Consumers are clearly comfortable with this shift to digital also with 75 percent of respondents indicating they were turning to digital channels to either research or purchase products,” Mr Ruggiero said.
When asked about the future of their businesses, the overwhelming majority of retailers (93%) expect their retail business to grow either ‘moderately’ or ‘significantly’ over the next two years. However, at the same time close to half (40%) of businesses do not have a clear vision in place for their business in 2018, with 27 percent reporting that their business is unlikely to be sustainable in its current form.
“While change can often be difficult, we would advise local businesses to get on the front foot and to consider how they can adapt and innovate to remain viable in the future. Having a robust business plan will help retailers respond to external changes and to do so in a way that makes sense in terms of consumer behaviours, which will encourage repeat visits,” Mr Ruggiero said.
While noting a change in consumer behaviour, Mr Ruggiero said the importance of the in-store experience should not be discredited. Sixty-nine percent of shoppers’ still prefer to buy products in-store, placing greater value in the bricks and mortar experience where they can ‘see, feel and try’ the product before purchasing.
“South Australian shoppers feel more confident about their purchases when they physically buy the product. In this instance, it seems that factors that are unique to in-store shopping – such as in-person customer service and the physical act of visiting a store – add to the overall experience,” Mr Ruggiero said.