By Aimee Chanthadavong

Technology has paradoxically impacted retail in two ways: created a growing gap between retailers and consumers but it has also brought the two parties closer together than ever before.

At one end, the personal relationship that sales staff use to have with their customers before online retailing existed is now lost because consumers are no longer loyal to one retailer and are exposed to endless choices of retailers.

On the other end, retailers have been able to use these new forms of technology to create a more personalised experience for their customers.
Susan Olivier, Dassault Systèmes vice president of consumer goods and retail industry strategy, told RetailBiz while retailers may have lost the direct touch with consumers it forces them to look at new ways to rebuild that relationship.

“While technology may be partly to blame in the break in the relationship, it’s also because we’ve moved to a more mobile society. But that means retailers can use technology to build data and start sending out emails or coupons that are more relevant to each customer to encourage them to shop with them,” she said.

“Also, we use to go to the shops to see what’s new and took fashion inspiration from there. But now people can go through magazines, go online and check social media so the concept of anchoring to a season has largely disappeared.”

“In many cases, every two weeks there is new stock on the floor. The whole lifecycle of a product use to be 18 months from concept to delivery, now it takes just 18 weeks.”

One technology that has helped retailers, particularly in the fashion and jewellery category, rebuild this relationship is Dassault Systèmes' 3DExperience business platform. It allows retailers to take a collaborative approach to delivering products to consumers by allowing their customers to see a 3D visualisation of a product or store during development stages.

“You can create a private community with your loyal customers and share with them a 3D visualisation of a product you’re thinking of launching or use augmented reality to allow them to virtually walk through a store to see what works and what doesn’t,” Olivier said.

“From this, retailers will be able to evaluate consumer behaviour and their reaction to products they like and dislike long in advance the product is produced.”

According to Olivier, technology like this allows retailers to stay one step ahead of the game in an environment where consumers are more demanding and savvy.

“We’re entering an exciting age of convergence where everything is centred around the consumer. Look at how you can use technology to drive profitably at full price. But of course the answer is different for retailers,” she said.

“I believe Australian retailers are well placed to take advantage of these advances in technology. We’re  a vibrant economy and I think that certain things got adopted faster in America, Europe, Japan and Korea but I think Australian retailers are looking around to see what’s out there and what works the best before they leap frog into something that’s leading edge, not cutting edge.”