If Australian retailers need any more hints that a drastic overhaul of their online presence is needed, new research shows over one-third of customers are ready to antagonise brands that don’t get it right.

IBM’s annual Smarter Consumer Study finds an Australian public that is willing to spend more with retailers but increasingly frustrated by how hard they make it.

Brand loyalty is at an all-time low: only 10 percent of the 1800 people IBM surveyed would “actively advocate for their primary retailer”. In 2013, the figure was 32 percent.

“It’s no coincidence that low advocacy ratings locally reflect a growing awareness among Australian shoppers for alternate channels available through retailers in the US, UK and elsewhere,” IBM A/NZ interactive experience partner Ian Wong said.

By contrast, 37 percent of respondents – up from 24 percent a year ago and 5 percent in 2013 – “would actively discredit their primary retailer if it failed to meet their expectations.

The meteoric rise of the antagonist points to ongoing frustrations at retailers who have not kept pace with customer expectations for service.

“Today’s consumers are less prepared than ever before to tolerate inadequate service or ineffective performance – and they won’t hesitate to name names through bad reviews on social media sites,” IBM said.

Consumers – IBM said – “are demanding a revolution”.

“To remain relevant in consumers’ minds – and wallets – Australian retailers will have to adopt continuous change, quickly,” the study said.

What customers want

While online and mobile shopping continues to grow, most Australians still prefer to go into a store to make purchases.

However, they want online to complement the in-store experience. For example, 57 percent of respondents said they would switch to a retailer that allowed them to check stock availability before they made the trip to a store.

“This signals a huge opportunity for retailers to synchronise online and offline offerings for an enhanced shopping experience,” IBM said.

“Delivering this capability requires maturity in back-end retail systems – and a readily accessible consumer-side interface through web or mobile.

“However, these figures suggest such an investment may quickly pay off through higher conversion rates.

“These factors may even override consumers’ tendency to shop around for lower prices, if retailers can offer convenience and time savings instead.”

Customers also want retail assistants to be able to resolve inventory issues if they do find their way into a store for an out-of-stock item.

Privacy concerns fade?

It appears we are also becoming more comfortable with handing personal data over to retailers.

A quarter of respondents had no qualms about sharing their location with retailers – potentially paving the way for instances of location-based marketing to increase.

“An even greater number of respondents (28 percent) see the benefit in the exchange of personal information for things like customised offers and better services,” IBM said.

However, customers drew a thick line between acceptable and creepy. For example, customers have very little appetite to be identified by their mobile phones if they enter a retail store.