A couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to speak at the DiG Festival about the future of retail. The panel hosted by retail guru, Nancy Georges evolved very quickly away from a simple notion of retail to one augmented by digital technology, mobile connectivity and dominated by a focus on customer experience.

And while great strides have been made overseas in recent years, it seems that Australian retailers are only now starting to properly grapple with the challenges and opportunities afforded by digital. For many categories, this has left gaping holes in the retail experience, affording startups and more agile small players to enter and dominate parts of the Australian retail landscape. Just think of the way:

  • Zara swept into the country, catching Myer and David Jones completely off guard
  • Shoes of Prey have outflanked and reinvigorated the custom women’s footwear space
  • ASOS out-compete local retailers with reliable online shopping and speedy fulfilment

In many ways, this is symptomatic of a larger shift in consumer behaviour. We are now using our mobile phones and digital devices to fulfil our consumptive impulses, and Australian retailers have been caught with their pants down, having stubbornly under-invested in technology, innovation and customer experience for decades.

There is, however, an increasing body of evidence that retailers can rely upon to bust the entrenched, old-skool thinking that seems to dominate the boards and executive ranks of Australian retail. And this latest research from Google is a great starting point. Busting three myths about digital and its relationship to in-store purchase, the report shows:

Myth 1: Search results only send consumers to eCommerce sites

The research shows that far from creating a barrier to in-store shopping, quality search results can drive in-store traffic. However, this clearly means that retailers have to be actively managing and updating their web presence and product catalogues.

Google-Retail-Myth1

Myth 2: Retailers lose the attention of in-store customers once they turn to their smartphones

With 42% of in-store shoppers searching for information online while in the store, an up-to-date website with integrated recommendation could deliver powerful cross-selling opportunities.

Google-Retail-Myth2

Myth 3: Online research has relegated in-store experience to the transaction

In reality, consumers have higher customer experience expectations than ever before. For example, 85% of shoppers say they’d be more likely to shop in places that offer personalised coupons and exclusive offers in-store.

Google-Retail-Myth3

You can download the full report here. But it is time for retailers to go beyond reading and to step out of the shadows of the Twentieth Century. It’s time to embrace the opportunities that come with disruptive technology and business models. Not to do so will open yet more doors to disruptive competitors – and no business can afford that.