High street customers look for more rewarding shopping experience
Retailers risk disappointing customers by not investing in new technology to improve the retail experience
British retailers are focussing their technology investment on cost cutting and driving internal efficiencies over the next 12 months, despite customers demanding more innovative technology to deliver a more rewarding shopping experience, according to new research released today by BT.
Comparing high street retailers’ priorities on technology investment with customer desires, the research found 68 per cent of shoppers are excited about prospects for technology to revolutionise their shopping experience. The results highlight demands amongst retailers and customers for the benefits delivered through BT’s new retail solution launched today, which combines advanced applications delivered over super-fast access with flexible commercial models to meet the needs of the British high street.
Ninety-two per cent of retailers surveyed said they currently face barriers to investing in technology to improve the shopping experience. Nearly three quarters (74 per cent) cited budget restrictions as their main barrier, reflecting a pressure to find savings through efficiency before money is released for new investment in customer-facing technology. The main targets for technology investment in the coming year are expanding capacity to introduce new product lines (53 per cent) and improving operational efficiency (39 per cent). For larger retailers (51+ stores), operational efficiency comes top of their priorities, followed by their plans for opening new stores (45 per cent).
Eighty-seven per cent of retailers believe access to the latest cutting edge technology and software could help them make their customers’ experience more rewarding. There is also demand for flexibility in the way access to technology and services is provided, with 85 per cent believing they would benefit from access to the kind of ‘pay-as-you-go’ or ‘turn-on, turn-off’ services that can be delivered through super-fast access and cloud computing applications.
Commenting on the research findings, Emer Timmons, President, BT Global Services UK, said: “We know British retailers would love to give their shoppers the most rewarding and enjoyable experience possible, but companies operating on the high street are facing some of the toughest challenges of any sector during the current economic climate. They have to prioritise their technology investment so that it delivers to the bottom line and it is no surprise something like operational efficiency comes at the top of their list. Ultimately they know that fulfilling customer demands leads to sales growth and increased revenue.”
This survey of 100 retail industry executives and 2,000 consumers was commissioned by BT to coincide with the launch of Lighting Up the High Street, the company’s latest end-to-end offering for retailers. It provides agility and efficiency to all retailers – from fashion retail chains to national supermarkets – through advanced IT services on a secure virtual platform in the cloud that gives on demand access to applications from BT’s specialist retail division BT Expedite and other technology partners delivered over superfast secure networks.
Emer Timmons continues: “We strongly felt it was time to do something for retailers and are excited to be leading the way by launching Lighting up the High Street. BT is already a trusted partner of many retail brands such as Aurora Fashions, Crabtree and Evelyn, Co-Operative Group, Debenhams, Halfords, Mothercare and WHSmith as well as smaller retailers so we understand the needs of retailers. This new proposition delivers efficiencies to retailers so that they can concentrate on their customers and improving the retail experience. What’s more, Lighting Up the High Street can help retailers create a more rewarding experience through multi-channel shopping.”
Notes to editors
Highlights from the research
Other results of the research were:
• British customers say a guaranteed safe and secure transaction is top of their list when it comes to having a rewarding and enjoyable shopping experience (74 per cent), but also important is having a wide variety of choice (62 per cent), hassle-free transactions (49 per cent), a quick and smooth shopping experience (44 per cent) and being able to have flexible delivery options (41 per cent).
• Shoppers are somewhat divided by age. More of the older shoppers valuing the top three elements above, along with limited queuing and having well-informed staff. Shoppers aged 25-44 value flexible delivery options more than their younger or older counterparts – possibly because proportionally more of this age group will be working and/or running busy family lives; in fact more women (45 per cent) value the flexible delivery option, compared to men (37 per cent).
• According to retailers, the top benefits of being able to access technology and services more flexibly would be better customer service (38 per cent) and agility (37 per cent) – two key ingredients to success in today’s challenging retail environment.
• When it comes to enabling staff to help customers, 89 per cent of retailers think significant improvements could be made. Almost half (46 per cent) say staff could help customers better by delivering information more quickly to answer queries.
• Reducing waiting times by quickly opening more tills is something 22 per cent of all retailers relate to, especially the large companies (38 per cent).
• When implementing new technology systems, 50 per cent of retailers say they prefer a single technology vendor offering an end-to-end solution, whereas fewer (35 per cent) would prefer a number of individual vendors.
About the research
An overview of the ‘Lighting Up the High Street’ research is available on request.
The research involved two respondent types:
- 2,000 consumers (nationally representative sample of British adults aged 18+).
- 100 Retail managers (middle managers upwards from head office and in-store, any sized retail outlet, including the travel sector).
Data was gathered via an online questionnaire between March 7 to 11, 2011. The results have been analysed and sig-tested at a 95 per cent confidence level.
The fieldwork was undertaken by Dynamic Markets on behalf of BT, in adherence with the UK MRS Code of Conduct.
Lighting up the High Street
As an end-to-end offering, Lighting up the High Street offers benefits including:
- Giving customers an exciting shopping experience through contactless payment, loyalty schemes and streaming video
- Building a consistent multi-channel experience in-store, across the web, on mobile and through social media presence
- Encouraging staff to be more productive by using in-store mobility, unified communications, collaboration and e-learning solutions
- Increasing the effectiveness of promotions through facial recognition and personalised advertising
- Allowing customers to use Wi-Fi in-store
- Making merchandising, workforce management and conferencing technology more efficient and accessible
- Reducing costs through RFID and supply chain solutions
- Understanding customers better through in-store intelligence
- Giving retailers the ability to cost-effectively flex their IT up and down and act faster to respond to market changes.