‘Showrooming’ behaviour, where consumers check out products in-store before returning home to buy online, may be more widespread than first thought with over two-thirds of Australians engaging in the practice as its uptake is driven by long queues at registers, bad service and a scarcity of sales staff.

New research reveals that shoppers are increasingly treating physical stores as a dress rehearsal, with 69% having sought information about a product from a salesperson in a shop before buying online and 9% doing so regularly.

The study, conducted by Crossman Communications among over 1200 respondents, also found that more than one in two shoppers have tried to turn the tables on bricks-and-mortar retailers, asking them to match prices found online.

Managing director of Crossman Communications, Jackie Crossman, says the behaviour is being driven by both the attractions of online retail and below par service standards as retailers cut back on staff. “Retailers might be facing thinner margins in this tough economic climate but they have to look seriously at their service model if they are going to keep their customers satisfied,” Crossman says.

“Cutting back on staff to stem falling profits is not a solution. Sales assistants need to be well trained and to be there when shoppers need them.”

Public perception of service standards was poor according to the study, which found two-thirds felt staff numbers had been pared back too far, 43% regularly experienced long queues at the register and 32% regularly had difficulty finding a sales assistant when needed.

Staff knowledge and conduct was also called under question with 43% finding staff gossiping on mobile phones when they were needed, 21% regularly finding sales assistants not knowledgeable enough to answer their questions and 15% regularly experiencing rude or bad attitudes from sales staff.

The results of sub-standard service are a driving factor for online shopping in the minds of Australians, who show little regard for supporting bricks-and-mortar retailers over the attraction of online shopping. Of those polled, 65% agreed that if service was better in physical stores they would shop in them more often and 66% were content to buy goods online, even if it took business away from bricks-and-mortar retailers.