How far is retail technology driving sales? 

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA), in collaboration with Australian technology company Pronto Software have released a white paper based on a survey of technology uptake and priorities among the country’s retailers.

‘The State of Australian Retail Technology 2019’ included responses from representatives of 172 retailers.

Seventy-five per cent of the respondents acknowledged technological changes are causing major disruption in their industry.

While demonstrating widespread interest in utilising innovation, the survey found many retailers are missing out on opportunities.

“The results show that for technology to drive sales revenue, it must help retailers transform customer experience across all your touch points,” Pronto Software Managing Director Chad Gates said.

“Some businesses, for example, have invested in ecommerce, but it’s disjointed [when it comes to] their in-store experience, with no opportunity to leverage insights from one to improve the other. This is akin to writing half a story. It merely leads customers to your competitors as they seek their ‘happy ever after’ [goal].

“Challenge your technology partner to build holistic answers that help you close profitability gaps.”

Investing in digital 

The review uncovered that retailers are focusing their attention on social media, with 62 per cent of respondents investing or planning to invest in social platforms over the next 12 months.

More broadly in the digital sphere, 85 per cent of retailers surveyed value having an online sales channel and only 15 per cent (mainly start-ups) are pursuing a marketplace-only strategy, despite the launch of Amazon in Australia.

ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman says surveyed retailers reported that integrating with marketplaces, such as Amazon, can be difficult, given that, by their very nature, they are designed to benefit the customers.

“Many retailers find that they’re competing on price, where in the past they may not have had to compete in such a highly price sensitive market,” he said.

While running a retail business is becoming heavily reliant on ubiquitous connectivity for all aspects of the operation, only half of respondents have POS solutions that process sales when offline. This means many risk leaving their customers in the dark – unable to process online payments or use checkouts – if network connectivity is lost.

Don’t forget about data

One of the most valuable resources for retailers is data about their customers, which informs opportunities to invest and increase revenue.

While loyalty programs have historically been a common tool used to collect information, interestingly the report showed that only 22 per cent of respondents have a loyalty program that is integrated and available across their stores. This is a significant gap when 43 per cent call out that they intend to leverage reporting and analytics to drive profitability and operational efficiency.

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