A national survey canvassing the state of technology in the Australian retail sector has found holes in uptake and urged retailers to up their game.

Retailers are lagging when it comes to leveraging technology to improve operations, with research finding a fifth of retailers don’t have a loyalty program, half don’t have a POS that processes sales offline and most have shortfalls in oversight of supply chains and cyber security.

The report from Pronto Software commissioned by the Australian Retailers Association found that while most retailers consider e-commerce increasingly important, with 85% saying they value having an online sales channel, 16 per cent didn’t have any online sales channel.

The report also found most retailers are falling behind when it comes to stock movements, with just under one third having an hourly or daily view of their sales data and 53 per cent saying they have real-time insights into sales and inventory.

Of those without real-time visibility most, at 60%, are relying heavily on traditional transaction information like stock movements, sales and refunds. This trend is concerning, Russel Zimmerman, director of the Australian Retailers Association said.

“The ability to carry out real-time stock checks is becoming very important, particularly if Australian retailers are to either compete, or work with, a retailer like Amazon to ensure that they have up-to- date information in real time on stock availability. Some retailers will want to work with the likes of Amazon who are praised for being not just a retailer, but are also a logistics company,” he said.

Poor uptake of loyalty programs, offline POS 

Brands also have a way to go in optimising loyalty programs to promote customer retention, and are missing crucial insights to personalise promotions to customers, the report says.

Only 22 per cent of retailers currently have a loyalty program that is integrated and available across their stores, the report found, while 43 % don’t have a loyalty program at all.

This is particularly important for brick-and-mortar retailers, who are competing with online retailers, who have immediate access to a host of customer information. Mr Zimmerman says loyalty programs provide a crucial opportunity to boost sales.

“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,” Mr Zimmerman said.

The report also found most retailers have outdated POS systems, with half of retailers saying they do not have a POS that processes sales when offline.

These retailers risk losing business and damaging their brand when connectivity is lost, the report says.

Chad Gates, Managing Director of Pronto Software said there is huge opportunity for retailers to leverage new-age POS to improve sales.

“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 offline POS capabilities more accessible via simple devices such as tablets – which can now also include integrated credit card payments and EFTPOS,”

The report also found that retailers are behind the game when it comes to security, with only a quarter recognising vulnerable systems need to be addressed due to the risk of hurting or even destroying their business.

This is a huge concern, Mr Zimmerman said.

“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,” he said.