Not so fast, Amazon: AU retailers prepare to spend big on tech

Published on the 30/10/2017 | Written by Jonathan Cotton


AU retailers spend big tech

With Amazon AU imminent, retailers beginning to ‘wise-up’ to new tech strategies...

Given a slew of high profile retail chain closures – think Clive Peeters, Dick Smith, Angus and Robertson and Borders – you could be forgiven for thinking the retail industry is in peril.

Well maybe that’s not quite true.

Though the Australian retail sector is surely set to get more competitive with the arrival of global retail giant Amazon.com, a new study shows an industry ready for a fight, spending big on technology, refreshing customer-facing systems and integrating processes to improve offerings.

The 2017 Technology Retail Review, a report on the state of technology in the country’s retail sector (produced by the Australian Retailers Association and Pronto Software) said Australian retailers beginning to ‘wise-up’ to the potential of new technology for their business.

The report, which surveyed 146 retailers, said that there is a real appetite among Australian retailers for new solutions, and that those businesses are investing in social media and mobile applications, loyalty programs and smart point-of-sale (POS) systems, as well as the integration of loss prevention in their IT systems.

“Though Australian consumers are price and convenience driven, they are also pragmatic and are willing to switch shopping with a retailer if they know they will receive a better customer experience elsewhere,” said the report.

“Thereby lies an opportunity for retailers to continue to invest in technology that can help deliver the most consistent brand experience across a mix of touchpoints to ensure customers have a seamless omni-channel experience whether it be in-store, online, via social media, or on a mobile application.”

Retailers are intent on strategic spending over the next 12 months. According to the survey:

  • 67 percent of respondents are investing in a social presence in the next 12 months
  • 45 percent are investing in POS tech
  • 64 percent are investing in an e-commerce website
  • 38 percent are investing in mobile apps

Notably, the survey shows retailers eager to provide more than one channel to shoppers, having front- and back-end systems in place and integrated with other functions of the business, as well as the ability to capture customer data and use it to make informed business decisions.

There’s still some way to go before the sector is truly digital savvy however, said Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the ARA.

“There are plenty out there who are changing but there are still plenty of others that have a long way to go because retailers need the education, they need the understanding. With the cost of retail rent escalating, it will be interesting to see what retail technology will look like in five years’ time. For example, I think we’ll see smaller physical shopfronts and far more technology innovation,” he noted.

One key message from the report identified that real-time data is crucial in today’s retail market. However, 49 percent of retailers admitted to not having an integrated POS system, limiting them from processing sales offline when disconnected from the network.

And two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents said they did not have IT systems that track and provide insights on loss prevention.

“Part of the problem is that some are dinosaurs, who are retailers that have been around for a long time and will probably be like a taxi driver where they say ‘I’m not going to get into an Uber because I’m going to be a taxi driver’ but if you’ve got that attitude then you have your head in the sand,” said Zimmerman.

Chad Gates, managing director of Pronto said that although retail has been a competitive landscape for many years, he believes it is one of the industries which has best coped with change. “Given retail technology uptake is predominantly consumer-facing it’s critical retailers get their digital experience for customers right, and fast. Retailers need to bring together an experience across multiple channels, so that it all starts to make sense. If your operations are disjointed and not integrated, you will get left behind pretty quickly.”

Whether the provision of truly frictionless customer experiences via clever tech solutions will be enough to stave off the Amazon offensive remains to be seen.

Either way, Australian retailers are gearing up for a fight.

Download the 2017 Technology Retail Review.

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