Is Failure to Adopt Modern Technology a Retail Faux Pas?
No industry is safe from disruption thanks to rapid advances in technology. The retail industry in particular is undergoing a massive transformation as it handles the rise of modern technologies, most notably e-commerce, making it easier for consumers to make purchases outside of traditional brick-and-mortar stores. With almost 7,000 shops closing in 2017, and an even greater number expected to close this year, retailers are faced with the challenge of innovating or being left behind. To better understand the opportunities for retail businesses to rise above yesterday’s status quo, Riverbed surveyed over 300 IT decision makers from the retail sector across the United States, Australia and Germany to analyze the current state of technology within retail establishments; the convergence of brick-and-mortar and online retail; and how they see investments in technology as paramount to facilitating brand loyalty, keeping up with the demands of today’s digital consumers and staying competitive in the new economy.
The results show almost unanimous agreement that it's necessary to embrace technology to not only bring better efficiencies to brick-and-mortar retail, but also to help deliver a superior end-to-end customer experience and improve customer relationships. Ninety-eight percent of those surveyed agree that technologies — most notably, cloud-based solutions — that improve the customer experience are critical to building upon the digital retail experience. Unfortunately, almost half also concede that they have three years or less to adopt the technologies they deem vital to innovation and in order to stay competitive.
So, what are the implications for retailers, and what do these decision makers feel is the way forward? Specifically, 53 percent feel that in order to benefit from digital transformation, it's crucial to deploy applications that remove friction from both point-of-sale and purchase processes. Technologies that are viewed as delivering the most value to the customer experience are retail apps to track inventory (40 percent), virtual assistants and digital personal shoppers (37 percent), mobile apps with augmented reality (34 percent), personalized in-store experiences based on customer loyalty data (34 percent), push notifications while in-store (33 percent), and on-demand in-store video streaming (29 percent).
Additionally, the next-generation technologies described as most important for these retailers to reach near-term goals and successfully deliver a true omnichannel experience include:
- improving the in-store Wi-Fi and mobile service experience for employees and customers (49 percent);
- obtaining tools to better monitor customer apps, such as usage rates or user experience (48 percent);
- ensuring POS connectivity and continuity in stores (47 percent);
- delivering new digital services and applications for employees and customers (47 percent); and
- enhancing productivity for enterprise mobility applications on and across devices (45 percent).
In 2018, retailers face significant challenges, but with the right technology, they can adapt to the changing customer landscape, strengthen their competitive position, and align their physical store presence and digital capabilities for success. It’s clear from Riverbed’s survey results that decision makers are well aware that the evolution of their brick-and-mortar businesses relies on the adoption of modern and advanced technology to deliver a superior customer experience. There's also general consensus on where investment opportunities — and challenges — exist in modernizing brick-and-mortar to reach these goals. It will be a sprint to get there, but retailers can have confidence in their future prospects with the right technology strategy in place.
Steve Brar is director, product marketing, Riverbed, a company that delivers digital performance solutions such as its cloud monitoring SD-WAN solution.
Related story: The 2017 Retail Technology Report