HONG KONG: New apps, pop-up stores, data analytics, augmented reality and virtual reality are all high on retailers’ own shopping lists as they strive to improve the experience for consumers, new research from Asia shows.

A just-released study involving 150 retail executives in 15 countries across the region shows there is widespread acceptance of an urgent need to innovate, and the need to use digital technology to do that – but it also highlights significant barriers that stand in the way of the investment required.

Executives at retail businesses in sectors as varied as fashion, electronics, jewellery and DIY were asked about how they were set up for innovation.

“An overwhelming majority of retailers agrees that investment in digital initiatives is critical if they are to reimagine the customer experience for today’s switched-on consumer,” said Philip Wiggenraad, head of research at Tofugear, which launched the 2018 Asia Digital Transformation Report in conjunction with Inside Retail Asia.

The study found that business intelligence and data analytics was the number one priority in terms of investment, with 43% of retailers saying they would invest in this over the next year.

And just over a third planned to invest in mobile apps in the coming 12 months, looking for ways to enhance the customer experience on the mobile device, rather than simply replicating their web sites.

Pop-up stores, where retailers can experiment with new products and formats in high-traffic areas at relatively low cost, are also popular; 32% are planning pop-up activity.

Emerging technologies are also high on the agenda; 15% of respondents said they planned to implement augmented reality in some form in the coming year, and the same proportion said they planned to invest in virtual reality.

A common concern voiced by executives related to their organisations’ preparedness to invest long term and to get the cross-departmental cooperation required to make innovation happen. Nearly three quarters of retailers said they did not consider their organisations to be flag-bearers for digital transformation.

“It may not only be a case of investing in new systems and technologies,” said Wiggenraad. “Retailers might also want to look at the way in which they manage innovation. There is a case to be made for the introduction of new digital roles that operate horizontally across the organisation, aligning all departments to the strategy.”

Sourced from Inside retail Asia; additional content by WARC staff