UK retailers turning more to digital technology

Nearly 80 per cent of UK retail leaders believe that putting customers first will determine their long-term success, while a similar amount (84 per cent) cite ‘trust’ as an important factor for maintaining strong customer relationships.

This is according to a global study commissioned by Fujitsu, which also found that over half of retail leaders in the UK believe customers trust businesses less than they did three years ago. On the other hand, 73 per cent believe that their organisation is well-positioned to meet customer expectations over the next decade.

66 per cent of retailers also believe that customers expect their business to be more innovative in the way they provide their services and products, and over half are looking to AI to help them address this desire for innovation. In general, technology is seen as a way to improve customer service by two-thirds (68 per cent) of retail leaders.  

“Consumer expectations in retail have been fundamentally transformed over the past decade or so, as Amazon and other e-commerce leaders have brought a whole new level of convenience to shopping,” said Adrian West, Director, Commercial Sector at Fujitsu UK & Ireland. “British retailers are working in an unpredictable and competitive market, and with customers increasingly inclined to not trust businesses, they need to meet consumers on their own terms and find new ways to delight them and to earn their confidence.

“Ascendant technologies like AI and the Internet of Things offer a way forward – whether that’s playing a role behind the scenes by, for example, making delivery more responsive or taking a more front line role. This could mean AI-powered chatbots taking on some customer service roles, such as returns.”

An example of how digital technology could be used to improve customer service is automation, with over half of retail leaders saying that their organisation plans to automate some human tasks within the next three years.

West concluded: “Retailers thrive when they provide a good service with a human touch. Automation is one example of a way retailers can use technology to not only make their operations more efficient but also to boost the softer side of customer service. By automating process-orientated and repetitive tasks, it can leave space for retailers to dedicate people to work that sets them apart – for example, taking the time to talk to customers and truly understand their needs, and therefore delivering on their needs and building trust.

“At a time when UK retailers can’t always rely on people taking to the high streets, its vital for them to ensure that they are providing customers with a delightful experience that fulfils expectations, backed by the seamlessness of beneficial technology deployments and the human touch of skilled people.”