Asia-Pacific retailers are falling behind the pace of digital transformation set by their peers in North America and Europe. That said, organisations prepared to invest in technology and transformation are poised leapfrog slower-moving regional rivals.
According to the “2017 Digital Trends in Retail” report, by Econsultancy in association with Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company), only 13% of 500 retailers surveyed from around the world said they were digital-first. Retailers ranked sixth for their digital enthusiasm, behind gaming and gambling, media, technology, professional services, and telecommunications businesses.
The survey also revealed customer experience dominates retailers’ digital agendas, with an intensifying focus on mobile, personalization, and emerging technologies, such as augmented reality and virtual reality.
At the moment, however, the gap continues to widen between leading retailers in North America and Europe and those in APAC.
Up Close And Personal
Globally, 57% of retailers said they plan to increase their investment in personalisation in 2017. While this is technologically challenging–and the skill sets required to turn data insights into compelling customer journeys can be in short supply–the reasons for personalisation are compelling.
“Extensive research by Econsultancy [shows] that personalisation is itself seen as the third-most valuable technique [behind customer journey analysis and A/B testing] for increasing conversion rates,” the report noted.
But this remains a challenge for APAC retailers. While 67% of European retailers said they plan to increase their investment in personalisation in 2017, as do 57% of North American retailers, just 44% of APAC retailers indicated that was on their agenda.
Access to skills could be a problem; only 58% of all respondents said they had the tools to harness consumer data and deliver a compelling experience in real time. While the advent of artificial intelligence may help address this issue, “there is no substitute for human intelligence and creativity when it comes to creating engaging and exciting experiences,” the report stated.
The report also emphasised the role of mobile technology in retail, noting that all businesses are either “mobile-first, mobile-friendly, or failing.”
While 61% of APAC retailers said they plan to increase their spending on mobile technologies in 2017–pretty much in line with the global figure of 62%–just 16% cited mobile as a priority.
This is of considerable concern, according to Vijayanta Gupta, Adobe product and industry marketing lead, who, in the report’s foreword, noted that the business case for mobile retail is compelling.
Gupta pointed to Christmas 2016 statistics that showed a large proportion of sales coming through mobile devices. “This underscores the importance of mobile and explains why almost two-thirds (62%) of [global] respondents say their mobile marketing budget is going up in 2017–a higher percentage than for any other channel,” he said.
Despite room for APAC retailers to improve their personalisation efforts and prioritise mobile technologies, they are nonetheless getting the culture right for digital transformation. Almost 80% of APAC retailers said they put customers at the core of all their activities, and approximately 75% use collaborative tools to support development.
APAC retailers were also 50% more likely than their North American and European peers to perceive the internet of things as an exciting prospect for 2020, signalling a “willingness to experiment,” according to the report.
Gupta also noted the enthusiasm for emerging virtual reality and augmented reality in retail–technologies that are shaping the sector’s future and allowing competitors to differentiate themselves.
“Retailers must strive to strike the right balance between meeting customer requirements now, while also keeping an eye on the consumer technology trends which will help to shape the future,” he said.