Australian retail in the next five years will see smaller physical stores opening and a greater focus on innovation, according to the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman.
Zimmerman made the comments in a statement launching the joint ARA and Pronto Software report into the state of technology in Australian retail, out today.
He said as the retail sector becomes more competitive, particularly with the upcoming arrival of Amazon, retailers will look to technology to remain relevant.
“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 said.
“As rapid delivery times have become expected, I believe the future of retail will allow customers to walk into a store and arrange a parcel to be delivered that night if an item is out of stock.”
The 2017 Australian Retailer Technology Review surveyed 146 retailers, finding the majority are on the right track in terms of technology uptake; however, there are still opportunities for retailers to grow their businesses.
Zimmerman said that while many retailers are adapting to new technologies, the industry needs more education.
“I think 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.”
Clicks and bricks
Over half of respondents (54 per cent) identified as omnichannel retailers, with 38 per cent exclusively bricks-and-mortar and the remaining eight per cent trading exclusively online.
Pronto Software managing director Chad Gates said there is 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 omnichannel experience.
“You need to bring together an experience across multiple channels, so that it all starts to make sense,” he said. “You can’t retain customers if you are looking disjointed because if your competitor isn’t looking disjointed, has a better view of the customer, and is serving them better, absolutely you will get left behind pretty quickly.
“Customers are loyal, but only up to a point. If they get disappointed with the experience on more than one occasion, they’re going to switch brands pretty quickly.”
Swing back to physical stores
The report also identified that there has been a swing back to bricks-and-mortar stores, but having a physical space doesn’t mean operating in a traditional way.
Amazon’s foray into the real world, for example, has included the Amazon Go seamless payment system, which allows customers to walk straight out of the store without lining up to pay.
Store design is also becoming more important, with the report finding 37 per cent of retailers plan to invest in their store design in the next 12 months.
Zimmerman said that, although there is a demand for a physical retail experience, retailers need to be proactive rather than taking a ‘wait and see’ approach.
“Lots of people will research, lots will go in-store to look at a product, some will go online, some will physically go to the store and come back and purchase online, some will just go into the store, others will start the shop at the store before going online to find the best price.
“Either way, it’s become a situation where people want the tactile experience, and want to feel, and interact with a sales person.”
You can view the full report here.
Want the latest retail news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up to the weekly retailbiz newsletter.