Seventy-five percent of U.S. retailers say the need for digital transformation has increased since 2016, according to a new report, "A World in Motion: Retail Digital Transformation Across the Globe, and the Technology Supporting It." The report is from Tech., a collaboration between Retail Week and the World Retail Congress. The U.S. rate was lower than the response from France (100%), Germany (90%) and the United Kingdom (88%).
The report cites Gartner estimates that global retail technology spending will reach nearly $203.6 billion in 2019. Similar growth rates of about 3.6% are expected for the next two years, Tech. notes.
Forty percent of U.S. retailers are already using artificial intelligence. But U.S. retail executives rated their AI knowledge at just 2.92 out of five, the report revealed.
The report indicates that while retailers know they need to invest in technology, they don't always have the knowledge to take action. Tech. asked retail executives to rate six technologies on their rate of understanding, with visual search receiving the highest average score at 3.28 out of a possible five. "This finding alone perhaps illustrates the difficulty of digital transformation and emphasises the lack of education about new technology and the options available," the report notes.
But only 15% of U.S. respondents said they'd fill skills gaps for their digital transformation strategies from outside the industry, suggesting a shift in thinking is required for retailers to conduct their digital transformation in a meaningful way. Tech. event director Poppie Mickleburgh noted in her forward to the research that European retailers seem to be more open to being equal partners with tech suppliers compared to the U.S. "We believe this could start to shift over the next 12 months as digital innovation and customer demand shows no sign of slowing," she wrote.
Tech. reports that AI, robotics and blockchain ranked as high priorities for each region it surveyed, along with voice and visual search. Previous data from Juniper Research anticipates global retail spending on artificial intelligence alone to hit $7.3 billion by 2022.