New Data: Tracking The Consumer, Merchant Digital Shift Down Under

The digital shift in retail is a global phenomenon. Amid the ongoing pandemic, a growing share of consumers the world over are turning to mobile devices and laptops to do their shopping or to make their trips to brick-and-mortar stores more efficient. Yet how consumers are actually using digital tools to enhance or transform their shopping experiences depends greatly on local circumstances, including cultural preferences and technological development.

PYMNTS has embarked on an ambitious global study of four key markets around the world — the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Brazil — to assess the impact of these regional conditions and what they mean for merchants, whether they are based in one of these countries or looking to expand their presence there. In our latest study, the Global Digital Shopping Index: Australia Report, we turn our attention Down Under to examine how consumer shopping preferences and habits have shifted in this tumultuous and transformative year. The report is based on a survey of 1,899 Australian consumers and 585 merchants from which we discovered these key takeaways:

Australian consumers have shifted to digital channels while retaining an affinity for in-store shopping. Our study examines how consumers’ physical shopping experiences are being augmented — or in some cases entirely replaced — by digital ones. Wholly in-store shopping remains popular in Australia: 67.1 percent of consumers prefer it even after the onset of the pandemic. At the same time, significant shares of consumers have moved decidedly toward “digital native” shopping experiences, where products are bought online and delivered to homes. The share of Australian consumers who prefer online native shopping journeys has grown by 24 percent since the pandemic, to 19 percent overall. Online cross-channel commerce — in which consumers shop and pay online and pick up their purchases at stores through “click and collect” services — has also grown by 18.3 percent. U.S. consumers in contrast have shifted to greater degrees away from in-store shopping and toward digital-native ones.

The digital shift in Australia has been demographically broad-based. Our research finds that those consumers that have made the most dramatic shifts — from preferring wholly in-store shopping experiences before the pandemic to wholly digital ones after — are evenly distributed across income groups, and their average age is 43.6 years old. These digital shifters are also disproportionately female, at 64.3 percent.

Australian consumers are most interested in digital features that make the shopping experience more economical and convenient. Our study examines nearly 30 digital features, from mobile order-ahead to data protection, and breaks them into five categories based on what they offer, such as making the shopping experience more economical, safer or convenient. Our research shows that Australians are particularly interested in features that can deliver greater value and convenience. For example, 67.5 percent of consumers either already use rewards (44.4 percent) or would be interested in doing so, while price matching stands out as a feature with levels of interest (43.1 percent) but is not widely used (13.8 percent).

Top-performing merchants in Australia offer robust arrays of digital features, and they are adept at bridging the digital in-store divide. Our report assesses how satisfied consumers are with various shopping experiences. It shows a stark digital divide: Online-native shopping journeys score highest in terms of satisfaction while brick-and-mortar ones score the lowest. Yet, the merchants that are most likely to deliver satisfying experiences to their customers sell through both digital and physical channels. These high-ranked merchants also distinguish themselves by offering robust ranges of digital features.

 These are just a sampling of the insights to emerge from our research. To learn more, download the report.