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New research commissioned by cloud-native consultancy Amido reveals that tech such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will be vital as the retail industry looks to a future beyond the pandemic. 88% of retail tech decision makers (TDMs) surveyed see these intelligent technologies as being crucial to increasing their advantage over competitors.
The survey, conducted with 500 retail TDMs and just over 2000 consumers in the UK, highlights the importance for retailers in using these tools to gain and retain the loyalty of the future big spenders. Among the 16-24 consumers surveyed, 84% confirmed that they would find at least one, if not several, emerging technologies useful as part of their shopping experiences. However, any innovations must keep the lucrative 55+ demographic in mind, with 50% of this audience listing the ability to try products as a reason why they may prefer to shop with retailers that have bricks and mortar offerings.
While technology brings opportunities for retailers, it does come with challenges for omnichannel businesses. TDMs have earmarked the need to find tech to improve and speed up deliveries as their number one challenge (58%). Fulfilment networks (47%) and customer demand (45%) are listed as the top two limitations to increasing the use of new innovations. Emphasising the scale of the challenge, almost half (47%) of TDMs currently fear that they’ll be unable to ship products post-purchase.
Commenting on the research, Amido CTO Simon Evans stated: “Often, it is all too easy to focus on emerging technology and how it can provide innovation to a sector like retail. But the real battle in retail is often in nailing the basics at scale. Being good at omnichannel is hard and most retailers need to fix this before they invest in technology that is additive to that core. At every turn, business value is dependent on the technologies that will convert potential chaos into a sense of control.”
Success lies in the data of future big spenders
Promisingly for the future of the sector, almost half (46%) of 16-24 year olds consumers surveyed revealed they would be happy to part with more of their personal data, if it led to new offerings from the retailer. More than one quarter (27%) of respondents overall are also ‘floating voters,’ as they are still undecided on sharing more data, and therefore could be enticed by the lure of an improved service.
Retailers seem to be aware of this balancing act, and data insights proved to be a foremost priority for TDMs when deliberating customer retention strategies. Ideas around improving store experiences via online insights (53%), getting to know customers in a more personable way to keep them loyal (48%), and generating more tailored recommendations and personalisation communications as a result (47%), are all listed amongst the top priorities from a customer retention strategy standpoint.
Business needs to start listening to tech
Almost three-quarters (74%) of TDMs feel closer to the business they work for, following the past 12-18 months of enforced change brought largely about by the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting a more connected and united decision-making function. However, 44%, still see internal buy-in as a limitation to progress. In addition, 45% of TDMs state that investment in tech is a primary shortfall that is holding the company back from offering more value.
“Just like sustainability, technology cannot deliver any meaningful results if it is just bolted on to an existing proposition,” summarised Kate Ancketill, CEO of retail consultancy, GDR. “Any retailer still approaching technology in the same way it did 10 years ago has to consider this a complete organisational failure. The days of PR-focused scattergun, "tech for tech's sake" activations are over. Investment in a targeted and robust, next-generation omnichannel strategy is now mission-critical.”
Simon Evans concluded: “For those still in any doubt, the solutions are all in the stats – consumers have never been more vigilant to how brands are striving to meet the future of retail. An omnichannel future of retail. To ignore their calls now could be to miss out on this future altogether.”