Bricks-and-mortar retailers which use technology as a facilitator of the customer experience rather than the main focus will be the most successful in today’s marketplace, according to a new report by Deloitte.
The report, titled Technology in retail – from centre stage to supporting player, revealed that the main challenges for retailers are:
- to truly understand all aspects of their customer’s journey, including their pain points;
- to decide which of these issues are a priority to solve; and
- to understand the difference between where digital technology can truly assist, and where it will just be a cosmetic improvement, with no substantive customer benefit.
David White, national leader of Deloitte’s retail, wholesale and distribution group, said online retail “has well and truly arrived” and Aussie retailers are becoming wise to the challenges that e-commerce can bring.
“But are they aware of the opportunities that the same technology can also give them?” he said.
Last year, Deloitte’s Navigating the new digital divide – digital influence in Australia retail report showed in-store purchases still accounted for over 90 per cent of all retail transactions, but 40 per cent of in-store visits were also influenced by digital in Australia in 2015.
“Instead of digital replacing physical channels for retail, a combination of channels is being used by shoppers,” White explained.
“And successful bricks-and-mortar retailers have developed omni-channel initiatives to better synchronise their online and offline offerings.”
Deloitte’ spatial and brand experience leader, Robbie Robertson said there is a big difference between truly integrating digital technology into the physical retail experience, and bolting it on as an afterthought.
“Successful digital technology integrations in retail help the customer to save time and find what they are looking for. And on the other side, they help the retailer to understand their customers better and to track what’s working,” he said.
“Most importantly, it won’t feel like an additional layer. It will be behind the scenes, or will integrate so seamlessly into the customer experience that they won’t notice the technology – only the positive outcomes.
“Digital technology should be seen as a conductor and a facilitator of better service, rather than the end point or main focus.”
White said dozens of Aussie start-ups are taking on the challenge of helping retailers to bridge the gap between digital and physical commerce, “from shelf-stocking robots to beacons presenting customers with personalised special offers, virtual reality changing rooms to online training platforms for employees”.
“Compared to their overseas competitors, Australian retailers will always find it hard to compete on size and scale,” he said.
“But no one understands better what Australian customers want than Australian retailers.”
“We certainly can learn from overseas, but the critical thing is applying this experience in an effective way locally, using what we know about our customers.”