With all of the hype surrounding technologies such as machine learning, drones, and others that are going to disrupt the retail industry, it might come as a surprise that retailers are most interested in investing in marketing automation in the next 12 months. Compare that with robotics, the least likely tech that retailers will be investing in over the next year, with just 3.39 percent of respondents saying they will be devoting budget to the technology in 2018.
These are just a few of the findings from Total Retail's latest survey and report, The 2017 Retail Technology Report: An Analysis of Trends, Buying Behaviors and Future Opportunities. A total of 177 respondents shared how their companies are handling the research, buying process and implementation of new retail technologies. This report serves as a valuable resource for retailers looking to learn more about the technology landscape within their industry, offering them the chance to benchmark themselves against their competition. In addition, service providers to the industry can gain insights into how they can better serve their clients — e.g., what departments are primarily responsible for making technology buying decisions.
Respondents were asked to choose from a list of emerging technologies the three that they're either currently investing in or planning to invest in over the next 12 months. The results, shown in the chart below, may come as a bit of surprise.
As you can see, retailers are hesitant to commit budget to emerging technologies — at least right now. It’s telling that “None” was the third most popular choice when retailers were asked which emerging technologies they were currently investing in or planning to invest in over the next 12 months, trailing only marketing automation (22.60 percent of respondents) and video (19.21 percent of respondents).
We probed a little deeper into the topic of emerging technologies with our next question: Which of the following emerging technologies do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in 2018?
Retailers believe in the viability of the Internet of Things (IoT), choosing it as the emerging technology that will have the biggest impact on the industry in 2018. Closely behind Internet of Things was virtual reality, followed by a larger gap to No. 3, augmented reality.
Applications for the Internet of Things in the retail space include new services and products, improved customer experiences (more transparent view of inventory), and more efficient supply chains (e.g., smart shelves that detect when inventory is low; smart robots for product restocking).
Respondents to the survey were less bullish on the future of drones (perhaps believing these were only realistic for the largest of retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart) and chatbots. Artificial intelligence (AI) has gotten a lot of attention as a potential game-changing customer service tool for retailers, but as of right now most retailers aren’t buying the hype.
Takeaway Tips From the Data
Now that you've seen the data, here are three things that you can do at your business to capitalize on it:
- There seems to be an opportunity to get ahead of the curve when it comes to fulfillment-focused solutions such as drones and robotics. Furthermore, you don't need to limit these technologies for a single business application. For example, look at how Wal-Mart is using robots in-store for both better product merchandising as well as inventory management.
- Integrate technologies to optimize their effectiveness. For example, use marketing automation technology combined with a content management system (CMS) to send personalized, targeted messaging to customers. The value in automation doesn't have to be just less manual processes; the opportunity is there for it to be a personalization tool in the customer journey.
- Tick off the low-hanging fruit first. Ensure that your business is set up with the right tools to enable the digital experiences consumers have come to expect from retailers, notably the use of video (e.g., product reviews, how-to videos, customer videos) and behavioral retargeting.
We'll be continuing our reporting on this proprietary data in the coming weeks. You can access the full 2017 Retail Technology Report: An Analysis of Trends, Buying Behaviors and Future Opportunities, by downloading it here.