Change traditional Australian retailers need to keep customers amid online-only rivals

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shoe retail
A retail store worker places shoes on shelves in a window displaying a sales sign in central Sydney, Australia, March 6, 2017. Reuters/Steven Saphore

Some Australian retailers are at a risk of losing the game to online upstarts, yet a change in store could prevent this from happening: good customer service.  It’s what the baby boomers and pre-boomers want along with a simple checkout process.

Commonwealth Bank’s national retail manager Jerry Macey said the most confident businesses are those with multichannel retail strategies. This would allow them to tap into the growth in online and mobile sales.

Macey noted that 21 to 35-year-olds have driven online retail; over a third buy online. But their growth is going to be just five percent, which according to Macey is the lowest of any generation. He added that retailers need to focus on customer service to keep the over-50s from showrooming.

Good customer service

While embracing online sales and promotion is something that nearly all businesses can do, customer service and great user experience make a difference.  Retailer PETstock, for instance, created a “digital warehouse,” which offered customers a clean user experience however they like to shop. The goal was to have few steps to purchase.

“We offer and collect across 140 sites, which offers the customer the ability to order online and pick up at their preferred store at a time convenient to them, while also getting the PETstock customer service,” Andrew Gibbs, PETstock’s head of Multichannel and Business Services, said, according to Customers can also take advantage of the company’s “autoship” service where products regularly replaced are automatically delivered to customers.

There are recent reports that US retail giant Amazon could launch its Australian website in time for the Christmas shopping rush. While Amazon’s arrival draws fears to some retailers, Super Retail Group CEO Paul Birtles believe physical stores were essential to beating Amazon.

Speaking to Sky Business, Birtles said Amazon’s focus on customers was something he learned from the company. “That’s where we see an opportunity to link better with those customers, not only provide them with product, but provide them with information, with services and take more of a solution focus,” he added. Super Retail is behind brands like Rebel, BCF and Supercheap Auto.

Supercheap Auto offers a service called “Auto Crew,” which offers assistance with a variety of car maintenance tasks. Birtles also said retailers must ensure that their physical stores are not only a showroom for product, but also a place for inspiration and engagement.