​Report: Retailers' high-tech investments fail to dazzle consumers

New study reveals investing in shiny retail tech toys has attracted mediocre customer adoption to date

A rise in tech adoption in the retail space has seen consumer demands for more integrated and seamless experiences rapidly shifting, but not necessarily in the way retailers expect.

The Walker Sands’ third annual Future of Retail Report surveyed more than 1400 US consumers and showed that despite the rapid uptake of investments such as beacons and mobile payment facilities, adoption by customers has been relatively slow.

For example, while US retailers have invested heavily in in-store beacon technology, only 6 per cent of consumers have actually used the new offering this year.

The reason for the discrepancy was the majority of consumers surveyed are still concerned about privacy, message overload and security, the report found, with almost half finding the idea ‘creepy.’

But although beacons haven’t taken off as soon as some retailers expected, 70 per cent of consumers who haven’t used them said they would opt in if retailers offered the right incentives such as discounts, loyalty rewards or faster checkouts.

Adoption of mobile payments by customers in the retails pace has also been slow, and again, privacy and security concerns remain the primary reasons for consumer hesitance. But while only a third of consumers have used these applications in the year so far, US mobile payment transactions are expected to triple in 2016 to US $27 billion.

The study also revealed ecommerce has reached a saturation point in many ways, and consumer excitement has waned for some of the ‘sexiest’ emerging technologies. Unlike recent years, which brought game-changers such as Apple Pay, Amazon Prime Air and Alibaba’s IPO, much of the past 12 months has seemed like the same old story, the report found.

But dig deeper and customer expectations are still going through a major shift. For instance, there is growing importance of the supply chain for the customer, with the report showing seamless shipping, delivery and returns have become increasingly important to consumers. This has been reflected in retail investment in the area, with 29 per cent of capital expenditures last year going toward solutions like transportation and logistics, delivery options, order management, inventory visibility and returns management.

Forty per cent of consumers also expect to receive their first drone-delivered package in the next two years or less.

Expectations in the augmented reality space are also shifting. More than half of consumers see virtual reality ecommerce impacting their buying decisions in the future, and 62 per cent are interested in trying VR shopping. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they plan to buy a VR device in the coming year.

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