Retail values and technology

In his final blog commenting on Epson's State of European Retailing report, Adrian Clark considers how traditional retail values are being impacted by modern technology.

Retail values and technology

Traditional retail values matter in the technology age

It’s been three weeks since my first blog examining our ‘State of European Retailing’ study. I hope my analysis of the results has been interesting to read and presented you with some useful insights into the way consumers are thinking.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve discussed the impact of queues on the bottom line, the value that promotions can add to a business and, most recently, changing consumer behaviours in the omni-channel age. In my final blog, I’m going to look at whether traditional retail values can exist in the technology age.

Retailers may be peering uncertainly into the future, wondering what new competition challenges e-commerce and the shopping revolution will bring. But our research makes one thing clear – consumers are overwhelmingly in favour of advances in technology which make in-store shopping easier, quicker and more enjoyable.

The retailers that provide mobile payments, in-store virtual shopping, product comparison mobile apps, self-service stock search and order points and other technological modernisations will find a positive reaction from customers. Footfall is likely to increase as shoppers are attracted back in-store.

When we consider the attitudes of Europe’s consumers to visible in-store technology, the results are intriguing. 57 per cent cite it as key in improving customer service, while 53 per cent expect it to cut queuing times and improve payment processes. Only 10 per cent view it as intimidating or off-putting.

The prospect of retailers introducing more in-store technology is greeted with enthusiasm by Europe’s consumers. For example, 76 per cent agree with the statement, ‘I can see retailers providing the ability to compare products within the store via technology in three years’ time’.

Also, 68 per cent can see ‘great benefit in a mobile app that allows me to compare prices on the phone for similar products available within a specific store’. Almost the same (67 per cent) agree that ‘to succeed retailers need to use more in-store technology to enhance the customer experience’.

In-store virtual shopping will drive footfall

More than six consumers out of ten (64 per cent) expect in-store shopping activity to increase if retailers move to a virtual shopping experience in-store. A similar proportion (63 per cent) agrees that the deployment of virtual shopping technology will drive consumers to the store.

The survey also questioned consumers about which type of retailer they would expect to provide tablet-based technology in-store to enhance their shopping experience.

White goods retailers came top (59 per cent), followed by luxury goods shops (42 per cent), DIY stores (33 per cent), clothing retailers (32 per cent), hospitality/leisure (28 per cent) and grocery stores (20 per cent). There were some interesting variations between consumers in different countries. For example, 68 per cent of French shoppers expect to find tablet technology in white goods retailers compared to 46 per cent in the UK. But 68 per cent of UK shoppers expect to find tablet technology in luxury goods retailers, though only 22 per cent of French shoppers do.

The importance of service and quality

Overall there seems to be little doubt about consumer expectations. They think technology will play a crucial role in the future of in-store shopping but also that traditional values of service and quality of goods will continue to be very important too.

Knowledgeable sales staff is regarded as critical or valuable in positively influencing the perception of a brand by 91 per cent of European consumers (in France and Spain that rises to 97 per cent). Quality of goods is regarded by 79 per cent as key to encouraging brand loyalty (83 per cent and 85 per cent in the UK and Germany respectively).

These results remind all retailers that despite the new and exciting possibilities offered by technology, reinforcing traditional customer service is still critical to their competitive position.

If you missed my first three blogs, you can read my thoughts about the impact of long queues here, the value of promotions here, and changing consumer behaviours in the omni-channel age here.

For more information about Epson’s retail solutions, click here.