New research has found that a worrying number of retailers are not actively preparing for the future, with 35% admitting to having no business transformation strategy in place for the rise of digital technology and changing consumer habits.
The survey of 100 top UK retailers, conducted by full-service eCommerce agency PushON, found that 20% have not invested anything in developing the digital side of their business in the past year.
Of those retailers that do have a strategy in place, only 27% said that they are currently progressing well with their transformation.
The research also found that just 26% of retailers believe that digital transformation is crucial for them to survive in an increasingly competitive retail market.
This would suggest that, despite the well-documented woes of the industry, including a recent string of high-profile high street brands falling into administration, a large number of retailers are still failing to take the need to evolve seriously.
The survey was conducted as part of PushON’s ‘Preparing for the future of retail’ report, which explores the front and back-end technologies that retailers are - or should be - investing in right now as part of their digital transformation.
In order to examine the issue from a consumer perspective, PushON also surveyed 1,000 consumers to establish whether retailers are investing in the digital developments that their customers really want.
Concerningly, more than three quarters (77.1%) of respondents said that they don’t think the majority of retailers are doing enough to keep up with digital trends and changing consumer expectations.
Sam Rutley, managing director of PushON, says: “Despite the the rise of eCommerce and growing demand for omnichannel retailing over the past few years, it seems that a large number of retailers are still ignoring the need to implement a digital transformation strategy. Doing so will be crucial when it comes to keeping up with rapidly changing consumer demands, with shoppers’ expectations now higher than ever before, thanks to the rise of Amazon and other eCommerce trailblazers.”
Paul Kirkland, Retail & Hospitality Director at Fujitsu UK – which specialises in digital transformation in retail, adds: “With the latest ONS and BRC figures showing that UK retailers have seen a decline in overall sales year-on-year, it’s clear that they’re struggling to keep up with changing consumer habits and expectations.Modern consumers don’t simply expect to be sold a product, they want their retail experience to give them a sense of belonging and personalisation. Coupled with the impact of the UK’s political and economic uncertainty, it’s crucial that retailers rethink their approach to transformation in order to help revive the high-street and drive future revenue and growth."
Kirkland continues: “For example, by giving store colleagues more autonomy to make better business decisions, retail stores are able to enhance the customer experience. Whether that’s being able to choose a bespoke store stock, ensuring that stock is available via the right channels or better using data to drive personalisation. In doing so, retailers can treat their stores as a platform for discovery, engagement, experience, and interaction, supported by autonomous staff. Technology is also providing solutions here; whether it’s using augmented and virtual reality to immerse people in an engaging experience or leveraging predictive analytics to build a responsive and speedy delivery network. It’s no surprise that the retailers who are continuing to thrive during this difficult period are the ones who are continuing to be customer obsessed and combining a digital technology strategy with putting the colleague and store expertise first.”
Rutley concludes: “While it’s reassuring to see that 65% of retailers have given the issue some thought, the results of the survey make it clear that customers are still feeling disappointed with the lack of progress made by many businesses, showing that more needs to be done – and fast.”