25% of UK retailers find tech disrupts customer connection
About 25% of retailers surveyed as part of U.K.-focused research from Fujitsu said they were disappointed in their return on investment from technology projects, and also felt that increasing digital technology deployment makes it more difficult to enable face-to-face relationships with customers, according to a Computer Weekly report on the research.
Furthermore, half of those retailers said they have a strategy for future deployment of technologies such as virtual and augmented reality. Over 70% said they have no plans to deploy VR technology within the following year.
Though the lack interest in deployment was evident, about half of retailers surveyed said AR technology could have a positive impact on retail, and about 22% said the same of VR.
Despite some negative views of some technologies uncovered by this research, the retail sector should not take these findings as an argument to bring all technology projects to a screeching halt.
For starters, the implication is that the majority of U.K. retailers surveyed are not disappointed in their return on investment for technology projects, and are not too worried about technology hurting the ability for them to interact face-to-face with their customers.
To that point, among retailers who participated in the survey who have been investing in various technologies, 40% identified a connection between new technology adoption and business growth, 37% said they realized operational efficiency improvements, and 35% said they achieved increases in productivity.
Also, the survey presented a picture of retail interest in AR and VR in one particular market. As we have seen, many retailers, especial those in the home decor, home improvement and beauty sectors, already are offering mobile AR app features or using VR for employee training (as Walmart and Lowe's have done). But AR and VR don't make sense for every retailer. Like anything else retailers launch, a judgment has to be made about whether or not customers want or are willing to try something new.
Speaking of customers, the survey also found that 70% of consumers believe technology has "dramatically transformed" retailers, and 45% feel it has brought greater levels of convenience to the shopping process, according to the Computer Weekly report.
Among other research findings, about 72% of the retailers surveyed also said they are not planning to use artificial intelligence technology, a percentage that is almost too high to be believed at a time when it is becoming clear that AI can enhance virtually every aspect of a retail operation in one way or another. Other surveys have suggested that a majority of retailers do see AI in their futures.
Technology deployment certainly can be expensive. depending on what technology we're talking about, and realizing return on investments can take some time. But, we have reached a point in the growth of e-commerce where having a face-to-face connection with a customer may not be the success-defining feature it once was. It is still important, but just one aspect of an overall customer shopping experience that may occur across more than one channel. Ultimately, retailers must put the technology in place that makes that whole experience the best it can be. So, even if they think they won't use AR or VR or AI anytime soon, their customers may have other ideas about that.