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Pronto Software and ARA uncover the state of Australian retail technology

  • Half of retailers have invested in a POS solution that processes sales offline
  • 62% of retailers are embracing social media as a sales channel
  • 71% of retailers are yet to embrace fully integrated, end-to-end systems

The retail industry’s peak representative body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), in collaboration with Australian technology company, Pronto Software, today announces The State of Australian Retail Technology 2019, a white paper based on a survey of technology uptake and priorities among the country’s retailers.

The survey conducted by the ARA included responses from 172 retailers with 75% acknowledging that technological changes are causing a major disruption in their industry. While there is an interest to utilise innovation, many are missing out on opportunities, such as generating buyer insights with loyalty programs and integrated POS systems, which also help to enable offline trading.

Chad Gates, Managing Director, Pronto Software said: “The results show that for technology to drive sales revenue, it must help retailers transform customer experience, across all your touch points. Some businesses for example, have invested in e-commerce but it is disjointed 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 ‘happily ever after’. Challenge your technology partner to build holistic answers that help you close profitability gaps.”

Fuelling anywhere, anytime shopping tops the list

The review uncovered that retailers are focusing their attention on social media, with 62% of respondents investing, or planning to invest in social platforms over the next 12 months. More broadly in the digital sphere, 85% of retailers value having an online sales channels and only 15% of respondents (mainly startups) are pursuing a marketplace-only strategy despite the launch of Amazon in Australia.

Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director, Australian Retailers Association, said: “Retailers say 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 are competing on price where in the past they may not have had to compete in such a highly price sensitive market.”

Risk from downtime left unaddressed

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 check outs – if network connectivity is lost.

Gates said: “Many retailers who continue to run older systems do so because they feel a change will be expensive. The reality is that recent developments make flexible POS capabilities more cost-effective and accessible via simple devices such as tablets.”

Insights comprised by loyalty program gap

One of the most valuable resources for retailers is data about their customers, which inform opportunities to invest and increase revenue. While loyalty programs have historically been a common tool used to collection information, interestingly, the report showed that only 22% of respondents have a loyalty program that is integrated and available, across their stores. This is a significant gap when 43% call out that they intend to leverage reporting and analytics to drive profitability and operational efficiency. Data from loyalty programs can be an important source for deep insights about customers.

Zimmerman said, “Retailers can adopt technology to combat this perception by allowing shoppers to aggregate all the programs they belong to into a single application. When this customer data is accessible, retailers can use it to tailor offers more effectively and enhance the shopping experience, ultimately creating greater brand loyalty.”

Efficiency reduced by weak links in the supply chain

The report suggested stock and distribution management is a difficult task for many retailers, with only half (53%) of surveyed retailers having access to real-time sales and inventory insights. This means many lack the tools to forecast and reallocate inventory in real-time to take advantage of unexpected demand.

Gates commented, “The days of relying on staff to have knowledge of whether something is in stock are gone – especially with expanding product lines. Customers increasingly expect bricks and mortar stores to mimic the visibility and speed they have when shopping online.”

Despite the 24/7 nature of online retail, 71% of respondents are yet to embrace integrated front-end and back-end systems, and are therefore experiencing critical delays in any tactical decision making.

A spotlight on security and staying ahead of the curve

Amid greater data management legislative requirements and a growing spate of retailers experiencing breaches of sensitive customer information, the report found that only a quarter of respondents recognised that vulnerable systems need to be urgently addressed.

Zimmerman noted, “With the pressure for retailers to maintain a good IT security posture at an all-time high, the results surrounding how few retailers have IT security front of mind is concerning.” Speaking more broadly on the retail market climate, he continued, “The current retailing experience in Australia continues to harbour a number of points of friction. Our industry tends to be accustomed to measured, strategic planning but the pace of change in retail now demands rapid action.”

Gates said emerging technologies are helping retailers future-proof and make innovative decisions. “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already being used to provide real-time information to sales assistants on the shop floor, as well as business decision makers. By integrating what a retailer knows about its shoppers, based on past online behaviour, for example, with what the customer tells the sales associate, AI can help retailers secure greater sales while enhancing the customer experience.”

Click to download the 2019 Australian Retail State of Technology Review

ENDS

About the Australian Retailers Association:

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is the retail industry’s peak representative body representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. The ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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