The FINANCIAL — Retailers in Western Europe and Russia should be well aware of the changes to their businesses being wrought by new and emerging technologies.
But even among this subset, differences in the impact of developments like social media were substantial, according to a July survey of retailers based in the UK, France, Germany and Russia performed by the Economist Intelligence Unit. For example, more than one-third of retailers in the UK and Italy reported that social media had been a main cause of changes in consumer expectations over the past five years, while only about one in 10 retailers in Russia said the same.
Retailers, however, are employing a host of strategies to stay in front of consumer expectations, with a personalized shopping experience ranking high in importance. Just under 40% of respondents from the four EU countries planned to ensure that shopping experiences were customized across various channels, while roughly the same number wanted to ramp up customer segmentation practices. As eMarketer Inc. reported, retailers are also seeing the value of data-gathering practices; about one-third of those polled wanted to use analytics to help personalize services for shoppers.
The use of data would only be the continuation of a current trend, however. Four in 10 retailers surveyed already used data collection to improve customer experiences. The next most commonly employed technologies were wireless payments (38%), social media platforms (36%), and tools dedicated to improving ecommerce and mcommerce (35%).
Retailers also expected the channels that were most important for interacting with customers to be significantly reshuffled in the coming years. Stores and physical locations, considered the most important channel by a majority of retailers in 2012, were expected to drop in the hierarchy over the next eight years, as mobile and online platforms such as instant messaging emerge as the predominantly used channels.