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Technology must support retail customer experience, says Deloitte

The bricks and mortar retail store is far from obsolete, but the retailer that does not have a meaningful relationship with the consumer is, according to Deloitte.

And the retailer centred on the customer, with technology not the focal point of the experience, but as the infrastructure that enables it, will be most effective in today’s marketplace.

Digital technology Technology in retail – from centre stage to supporting player’ is the first in a new series of papers by Deloitte which focus on trends within the Australian retail sector.

“Online retail has well and truly arrived,” says David White, national leader of Deloitte’s Retail, Wholesale & Distribution Group.

“Australian retailers are becoming wise to the challenges that ecommerce can bring, but are they aware of the opportunities that the same technology can also give them?”

Last year Deloitte’s ‘Navigating the new digital divide – digital influence in Australia retail’ report showed in-store purchases still account for over 90 per cent of all retail transactions, but 40 per cent of in-store visits were also influenced by digital in Australia in 2015.

Channel combination

“Instead of digital replacing physical channels for retail, a combination of channels is being used by shoppers. And successful bricks-and-mortar retailers have developed omni-channel initiatives to better synchronise their online and offline offerings,” said Mr White.

Deloitte spatial and brand experience leader, Robbie Robertson, says: “There is a big difference between truly integrating digital technology into the physical retail experience, and bolting it on as an afterthought.

“Successful digital technology integrations in retail help the customer to save time and find what they are looking for. And on the other side, they help the retailer to understand their customers better and to track what’s working.

“Most importantly, it won’t feel like an additional layer. It will be behind the scenes, or will integrate so seamlessly into the customer experience that they won’t notice the technology, only the positive outcomes.

“Digital technology should be seen as a conductor and a facilitator of better service, rather than the end point or main focus.”

Retail challenges

According to the paper, the challenge for retailers:

  • First – to truly understand all aspects of their customer’s journey, including their pain points;
  • Second – to decide which of these issues are a priority to solve; and
  • Third – to understand the difference between where digital technology can truly assist, and where it will just be a cosmetic improvement, with no substantive customer benefit.

Mr White explains: “We’re witnessing dozens of Australian start-ups take on the challenge of helping retailers to bridge the gap between digital and physical commerce, from shelf-stocking robots to beacons presenting customers with personalised special offers, virtual reality changing rooms to online training platforms for employees.

“Compared to their overseas competitors, Australian retailers will always find it hard to compete on size and scale. But no one understands better what Australian customers want than Australian retailers.

“We certainly can learn from overseas, but the critical thing is applying this experience in an effective way locally, using what we know about our customers.”

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