Only half of retailers have a digital strategy, says analyst

Retailers are failing to get on board with the latest technologies, with only half having a digital strategy in place, new research has discovered.

Almost half (46 per cent) of British consumers believe that augmented reality (AR) will positively impact retail, with virtual reality (VR) following at 22 per cent, according to Fujitsu’s Tech in a Transforming Britain Report.

Seven in 10 consumers also said that retail has already been dramatically transformed by technology, which almost half (45 per cent) view as positive, as it has improved the convenience and ease of accessing products and services.

Despite consumer demand, almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of retailers said they had no plans to implement VR in the next 12 months.

A further 72 per cent also said they had no plans to introduce artificial intelligence to their business, which is one of the most talked-about technologies at the moment.

“Consumers have a clear appetite for technology and innovation and are ready and wanting more,” said Rupal Karia, managing director of the commercial sector at Fujitsu UK and Ireland. “When it comes to retail, consumers already say that 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.”

However, retailers are less positive about the changes technology is driving in their business, with a quarter feeling disappointed by the return on investment technology has brought them, and claiming that it has made it more difficult to connect to customers in person.

Among retailers that have embraced technology there is a more positive stance, with increased productivity (35 per cent), improved operational efficiency (37 per cent), and business growth (44 per cent) all cited as benefits.

“There’s a clear disconnect between how retailers view themselves in this wave of technological change we’re undergoing right now,” Mr Karia explained. “Instead of focusing on how technology can improve their offering and further loyalty among their customers, many are focused on the increased competitions and the disruption to their sector.”

He added: “Part of retailers’ reluctance to invest in technology could be down to feeling disappointed by their return on investment, which is understandable. However, UK retailers cannot bury their heads in the sand when it comes to what is going to fundamentally change their business – technology. Two of the top three jobs that both consumers and businesses believe won’t exist in a decade’s time are shop assistants and shelf stackers, which will once again dramatically change the retail landscape. Retailers need to ensure they are evolving with the technology that is ultimately going to change their business models, and have an agile vision and strategy in place that can adapt to the changing landscape, or they too may not exist in the next decade.”