The next three years are set to be crucial for the evolution of retail in Australia, according to Riverbed Technology.
The company has released the findings of its survey of 100 IT decision makers from the retail sector, delving into the current state of brick and mortar retailers and what they're facing to stay competitive in a digital world.
More than half (56 percent) confided their company would need to adopt new technology within the next three years in order to evolve and stay competitive, with nearly all (97 percent) saying cloud-based solutions are critical to transforming the digital retail experience.
VP of Riverbed Technology ANZ, Keith Buckley says the ‘Amazon Effect' is taking hold in Australia, forcing retailers to embrace a new sense of urgency to evolve.
“The survey echoes what we're hearing from our retail customers: near-term IT investments that boost the in-store experience will be a key focus for year ahead, as will a continued shift to the cloud – but challenges in managing the complexities that come with this evolution remain,” says Buckley.
“60 percent of respondents cited ensuring tech works properly as a hurdle, signalling a need to evaluate the underlying systems driving it all.
Despite the respondents recognising the importance of retail applications for supporting in-store staff, 42 percent claim their companies currently have no applications in place.
Furthermore, 65 percent of retailer decision makers lack mobile point of sale technology in place for staff to do customer transactions, which makes the purchase process a severe pain point.
This gap is even more pronounced for customer-facing technologies, where virtual assistants are lacking in 78 percent of retailers and 65 percent don't offer push notifications to notify customers of recommendations or sales while they're in store.
Riverbed says retailers have an incredible amount of ground to make up in a short amount of time if they want to keep up with the rapidly changing customer demands.
Respondents listed the technologies that they deemed the highest importance for evolving the brick and mortar digital experience, which include:
- Retail apps to track inventory (32 percent)
- Virtual assistants and digital personal shoppers (31 percent)
- Mobile point of sales technology (29 percent)
- Mobile apps with Augmented Reality (40 percent)
- Personalised in-store experiences based on customer loyalty data (27 percent)
- Push notifications while in-store (33 percent)
- On-demand in store video streaming (29 percent)
- 3D printing, such as to create products on-demand in the store (37 percent)
There is no dispute that employees regardless of location within the store rely on WiFi to access key files and applications to get their jobs done, while customers use guest WiFi to access marketing offers and online/app shopping tools. Riverbed asserts retailers will need to re-think their WiFi deployment and monitoring strategy to stay competitive in 2018.
While all survey respondents report their company offers in-store Wi-Fi, it often provides a less than ideal experience for customers. When asked to describe the quality and speed of their in-store WiFi, 61 percent note that it is fast but does not effectively engage the customer – only 21 percent describe their WiFi as both fast and effective at engaging customers.
And in terms of next generation technologies, the survey revealed there are many. The areas where retailers plan to invest to support a digital transformation cover an impressive range of needs, with the most common areas of investment being:
- Ability to rapidly expand locations (51 percent)
- Improving the in-store Wi-Fi and mobile service experience for employees and customers (50 percent)
- Obtaining tools to better monitor customer apps, such as usage rates or user experience (42 percent)
- Ensuring point of sale connectivity and continuity in stores (49 percent)
- Delivering new digital services and applications for employees and customers (46 percent)
- Enhancing productivity for enterprise mobility applications on and across devices (44 percent)