Now that Amazon is pushing ahead with its expansion, major retailers have little choice but to respond to the challenge. Accordingly, for several years now, retail has been outdoing most other business sectors in terms of going digital. A study, sponsored by software publisher and digital tools developer Adobe and carried out by Econsultancy among some 500 retail sector professionals from the United States, Europe and Asia, paints a comprehensive picture of the current situation. Retail brands and outlets are going in for digital marketing to an above-average extent compared with other sectors, but are still very far from putting all their eggs in the one basket. When it comes to digital tools, more than half (54%) of the retailers polled by Econsultancy say that the customer experience is their most important area of strategic focus, way ahead of cross-channel marketing (16%), data-driven marketing (14%) and mobile (11%). The Econsultancy survey reveals that major retail chains see their future in showcasing their products by using a range of innovative technologies. Some 28% of the retail professionals polled declared their intention of "engaging audiences through virtual or augmented reality"; 24% said they intended to use artificial intelligence and bots to run campaigns and improve the customer experience; and 20% mentioned new payment mechanisms, such as mobile wallets, as a way of facilitating the act of purchasing. Unsurprisingly, respondents saw data as a key factor in their future strategy, with 18% referring specifically to connected objects and the Internet of Things as means of gathering information that will help to target customers, personalize services and refine their mobile marketing strategy. With all these tools and methods at their disposal, it is however clear that the retailers basically see the new technologies predominantly as a way of providing a pleasant, richer experience for customers at their bricks-and-mortar stores and sales outlets.
By Théo Roux