Quarter of retailers say tech investment makes it harder to connect with consumers

Lack of return on investment in technology has left one in four retailers disappointed and unable to connect with their customers

A quarter of retailers are disappointed by their return on investment in technology, claiming it has put a barrier between them and their customers, according to research.

A study by Fujitsu found that 25% of retailers were not impressed by the return on their investment in technologies and said it had made it hard to connect with customers face-to-face – which is concerning when consumers are increasingly demanding a personalised experience from retailers across all channels.

Only half of the retailers surveyed claimed to have a digital strategy outlining how they planned to implement technologies in the future, said Fujitsu.

Rupal Karia, managing director of Fujitsu UK & Ireland’s commercial sector, said retailers could not continue to “bury their heads in the sand” when it comes to technology transformation, which will continue to shift the retail sector landscape.

Personalisation has become a hot topic in the retail space, as increased data collection and analysis help retailers to offer consumers the service and experience they want.

But retailers are still focused on footfall rather than other ways stores can cater to consumers and fit in with modern shopping habits, said Karia.

“There is a clear disconnect between how retailers view themselves in this wave of technological change we undergoing right now,” he said. “Instead of focusing on how technology can improve their offering and loyalty among their customers, many are focused on the increased competition and the disruption to their sector.”

According to the survey, of the retailers who have implemented technology, 35% said it had increased their productivity and 37% said operational efficiency had improved.

More than 40% said adopting new technologies had led to business growth, but many retailers are still lagging behind consumer expectations, said Fujitsu.

As smartphones give consumers immediate access to information and the ability to shop anywhere, retailers are having to offer an increasingly omni-channel service that reaches consumers across online, mobile and in-store. According to the survey, 70% of consumers think technology has “dramatically transformed” the retail sector and 45% say it makes accessing products and services more convenient.

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  • Customers between the ages of 25 and 34 would rather look online for retailer information than talk to a shop assistant, even when they are in a store.
  • IMRG and Capgemini found online retail sales grew less than expected in 2017, but growth was lower than in the previous year.

Almost half of the UK consumers surveyed said they thought augmented reality (AR) would have a positive impact on retail, and 22% said virtual reality (VR) would do the same.

Some retailers have begun to think about implementing these technologies. For example, Just Eat has developed a demo AR menu that consumers could use to view what their order would look like before they ordered it, and during the Co-op Supermarket of the Future showcase at the 2015 World Expo, Xbox Kinect cameras were used to provide consumers with information about products as they walked around a store.

But 73% of the retailers in Fujitsu’s study had no plans to implement VR technology over the next year, and 72% had no plans to implement artificial intelligence (AI), despite 36% of consumers saying they would be happy to be served by a robot.

Karia said: “Consumers have a clear appetite for technology and innovation and are ready and wanting more. When it comes to retail, consumers already say they would be happy to be served by a robot in a supermarket or to have an automated machine deliver their goods. This presents an exciting opportunity for retailers, who may have thought such futuristic technologies would have scared customers away, when actually it will entice consumers towards them more.”

Retailers should ensure they have an “agile vision and strategy” in place to map out technology adoption across their business and make changes based on the directions in which consumers push the market, said Karia.

Some retailers are struggling with accelerated technology adoption because of their monolithic legacy systems which are hard to change, but others are tackling this problem by pairing with startups to test and implement new ideas quickly.

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