In Europe, the utilization of Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) is now a major benchmark retailers measure themselves against to gain leverage, paving the way for increased standards of customer experience. Retailers in major European countries are all too aware of the need for adamant digital transformation across this industry.
In the United Kingdom, where online already has a sure foothold in retail, technologies powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) have also been implemented in a range of business divisions including e-commerce, warehousing, product design and customer service. As of 2019, in addition to areas in which retail technologies are already consulted, retailers are intent on creating more opportunities to make use of AI, and accordingly invest resources to this end. While technologies such as online stock visibility, click and collect, buy-online-return-in-store are rolled out by UK retailers at a fairly widespread rate, retailers are still aware of challenges they may face while implementing the digital transformation in their retail businesses.
Retail technology is often pronounced as the key ingredient that will bridge online and brick-and-mortar retail, and rightly so. In the United Kingdom (UK), retail technology is deployed both in online and in-store retail experiences. As far as online retail shopping experience was concerned, in the last three years, the share of retailers who geolocated their customers on mobile devices increased significantly, for instance. In a similar vein, more and more retailers in the fashion segment were offering easy wishlisting, which allowed their customers to shop without having to log in on their website, hence enabling a frictionless shopping experience.
When it comes to the shop front, retailers have been paying attention to the customer experience available in physical stores. A survey conducted with retail employees in 2017 revealed that during the day, employees used retail technologies such as smart checkouts, mobile devices, mobile stock monitoring apps on multiple occasions to provide better service to customers. Customers too were taking heed of technologies used in stores. A quarter of UK consumers said they would like to see technologies such as personalization, smart mirrors and VR in their high streets in 2017.
Much as they are implemented for consumer convenience and ease of use, digital technologies, especially those that depend on customer data, are not immune to concerns and worries coming from consumers. Now a highly regarded currency for businesses, personal data is also an asset over which consumers are empowered to exert more control and choice. In the UK, online shopping and retail gauged the most trust from consumers regarding handling personal data. Undoubtedly, an important milestone for use of personal data was the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that was put into effect by the EU on 25 May 2018. When asked about their opinion on GDPR, a survey revealed that a sizeable portion of individuals found GDPR an important step in holding companies accountable in the case of any breach or misuse of personal data. Yet, among UK consumers, the rate of individuals who took actions to limit their personal data sharing was relatively low in all age groups.