Despite the perceived ease of e-commerce and the high cost of shopfront rents, just 8 per cent of retailers operate strictly online, according to the 2017 Australian Retailer Technology Review, and 38 per cent are strictly bricks and mortar.
That means the majority of retailers (52 per cent) now operate across both channels.
The situation is all too familiar for Robin McGowan, co-founder of men’s custom-made suit provider InStitchu.
“[We] always had the vision that it was going to be a pure online business. We thought the website would just be fully automated, orders would come in, go to the suppliers, suppliers would make, send them back and we were like, ‘We don't have to do anything. It's going to be great’,” he said while speaking on the My Business Podcast.
“But then quickly, as you start a business, anyone knows that there's a lot of smaller things that you need to get right and it's a lot more hands on.”
As Robin points out, the move to establish physical showrooms across Australia, as well as in New Zealand and recently New York in the US, has never been part of their original business plan, but purely a response to consumer demands.
“It was something that our customers were asking for,” he said.
“It was the fact they wanted to come in and probably see the fabrics, touch the fabrics or, again, get their measurements done or even just have a chat to us about something that they were wanting to create but they didn't feel they could do it themselves.”
According to Robin, this transition to omnichannel operations is not just limited to Australia, with even global giants being forced to tap into changing consumer desires.
“You're seeing a lot more online retailers experimenting with stores. You've even seen Amazon doing it with books, and I think recently they're even looking at doing a pop-up store in Japan,” he said.