Technology is changing Aussie consumers like never before with the power firmly in their hands – literally- according to a new IBM study. 

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Power is firmly in hands of consumer.

Consumers are grabbing tabs, iPhone’s and tapping on shopping apps to browse for purchases like never before.

Thats according to IBM’s Smarter Consumer Study which surveyed more than 28,000 consumers of all demographics and locations, including 1800 Aussies. 

It seems Aussie consumers are showing different trends from international counterparts and are more endeared to social networks like Facebook and Twitter when making purchases, and 90% believe checking out what they are saying about products saves time.

Word of mouth is also vital and we ask “even strangers” about advice on products, the study suggests.

Comparative shopping sites like shopbot, myshopping are also on the rise with 40% wanting to use them.

And we are flocking to online shopping in droves – with 60% now using some form of tech including in-store kiosks, web-enabled TVs and gaming stations when shopping and the percentage using mobile devices – be it a smartphone, tablet is also on the up.

This is no surprise considering the smartphone penetration in Oz is sky high.

“Australians are true adopters of technology,” said Ian Wong, Retail and Consumer Industry Lead for IBM Global.

17% of us are also saying they are willing to use “three or more” technologies in the shopping process.

But hold on. We’re not spending like its 2005 by any means.

Frugal, frugal, frugal

IBM’s study shows Aussies are increasingly negative about financial futures, with just over half (56%) “positive” about their income situation, compared to a massive 90% just a year ago.

And spending remains deeply conservative with almost 50% of us searching for items which are on sale only, and only 10% indicating they will spend more – not good news either for retailers.

But there was some good news from today’s findings for struggling brick-and-mortar stores: 90% of us are still opting to purchase in store to get the ‘touch and feel of the product’ – even when they make the purchase digitally.

Retailers dilemma now is how to entice consumers instore. IBM cited Nordstorm in the US (which cited David Jones as its hero retailer last week) and its 900 instore events every month to keep shoppers sweet.

Customers will also pay a premium for customer and “lifestyle” services. But we are also experimenting with various channels, Wong warned, noting a rise in search engine usage and apps for researching products, while email marketing is also on the decline due to lack of personalisation.

However, what prevented many consumers from buying online was lack of more information.


“Traditional advertising is still the number-one influence on awareness, but search engines and other consumer-controlled media are rising steadily” according to the study.

Trust was also key theme in the IBM research, announced today.

Consumers are spending their shopping dollars with only a “few selected retailers that they trust” – good news for big branded names and local outlets.

However, trust is a-growing, with 10% saying they now trust retailers – compared to a paltry 3% a year ago.

But there has been a massive shift of power from retailer to consumer, who should be “at the centre of everything retailers do,” IBM execs warned today.

Retailers need to “communicate what your mean and do what you say.”

“Brands that are truly succeeding are the ones that are delivering a consistent, positive, and personalised experience for customers across various channels – online, mobile, in-store,” said Wong.

The next 12-18 months will be a considerable period of innovation for retailers, warned Margy Osmond, CEO, Australian National Retailers Association. So expect to be treated like a king when you cors store thresholds in the near future.

“Cross-channel retail is proving to be a powerful force in generating competition and innovation, which will result in a healthier retail sector.”

OZ Retailers are acting on having a cross-channel platform which delivers positive and personalised experiences to customers, Wong noted.


Just last week David Jones spoke of its “omni channel” strategy which it hopes will drives sales going forward after a disappointing 2011 and Myer are also investing heavily in the customer experience instore.

High end consumers are still spending but its middle income earners that are practicing frugality.

The study did not examine pricing issues but OZ retailers need to lower their prices to compete with cheaper online rivals – one of the main reason consumer are feeling to e-tailers in massive numbers.

It may take more than being treated like a king (or queen) to make many flock to local Westfields or Myer any time soon.

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