ABI Research Survey Unveils Lack of Awareness of the Disruptive Impact of Smart Retail Technologies

23 May 2017

In a recent B2B technology survey of 455 U.S.-based companies across nine verticals, ABI Research finds that 62% of retail respondents show a high willingness to adopt smart retail technologies, especially Bluetooth and Wi-Fi beacons, which respondents view as having the biggest impact on digitization. However, familiarity with nascent technologies like VLC/LED, inventory tracking, queue and process management, electronic labels, wearables, 5G, AR, blockchain, and the related technology startup ecosystem is limited.

“Retailers mainly see smart retail technologies as tools to incrementally and/or indirectly improve current retail operations and practices in the short term by strengthening the brand, improving the customer experience, and reducing costs,” says Dominique Bonte, Managing Director and Vice President at ABI Research. “Retailers are not realizing that they can deploy these technologies in new online business models and other revenue opportunities to transform existing retail practices and enable seamless shopping experiences like Amazon Go.”

ABI Research finds that smart retail technology benefits are most often linked to “secondary” aspects like supporting collaboration, sustainability, and decision making. Main adoption barriers include integration with existing solutions and privacy concerns, next to ROI, cost, and cultural resistance. There is a clear preference to outsource cybersecurity and fulfilment, but to keep research and development in-house.

Key survey findings concerning attitudes toward, and perceived benefits of, key technologies include:

  • Location-Based Advertising and Marketing: ranked lowest on the list of instore technologies having the largest impact, selected by 0% of the respondents; mainly seen as a complementary marketing tool for strengthening customer loyalty and branding as opposed to driving footfall and overall sales.
  • Multichannel Technologies: main benefit linked to improved loyalty (ranked highest by 27% of respondents) rather than to staving off competition of pure e-commerce brands (ranked highest by 18% of respondents).
  • E-commerce: threat of e-commerce on brick-and-mortar not considered very high with 37% of respondents only expecting a moderate decrease of brick and mortar turnover (less than 20%).
  • Artificial Intelligence: mainly seen as a way to improve traditional analytics (ranked highest by 24% of respondents), not as a disruptive technology driving machine vision for automated video analytics (6%) and last-mile delivery via driverless vehicles, drones, and robots (6%).
  • Operational Data Management: Mixed/contradictory feelings about open data approaches, which can be linked to data analytics being perceived as a key competitive advantage.

“Our findings provide compelling evidence that conservative and protectionist attitudes still prevail in the retail sector, especially with smaller players,” concludes Bonte. “Concerns about privacy and the adoption of data sharing and public cloud technologies also illustrate this. Clearly, the retail vertical still finds itself in the ‘awareness building phase,’ not ready yet to fully embrace disruptive instore technologies and approaches to transform the very nature of its operations.”   

These findings are from ABI Research’s Industry Survey: Transformative Technology Adoption and Attitudes - Retail report.

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