The top 10 technology trends for retailers revealed- no surprise, customer experience tops the list

- April 20, 2022 4 MIN READ

New research from the Australian Retailers Association, Tech Research Asia and AWS has revealed the top technology trends retailers need to keep track of if they want to stay ahead of the curve.

As retailers reopen brick and mortar stores across Australia, technology is helping to deliver improved customer service. Amongst the tech growing in popularity is augmented reality and using AI and machine learning to support supply chain and logistics as eCommerce continues to thrive.

“Businesses that were hesitant to make the leap into the digital space had their hand forced by COVID as lockdowns prevented trade from physical stores, “ says ARA CEO Paul Zahra.

“Pleasingly, we’ve seen many small businesses in particular, set themselves up as omni-channel retailers so they can cater to customers whichever way they interact with their business. For these businesses to remain relevant, ongoing investments in technology and innovation is a must.

Zahra suggests there is no doubt technology is changing retail for the better.

“It’s making businesses more efficient in the way they manage their goods and provide their services, and it’s improving the overall customer experience as well. For instance, augmented reality was in its infancy a couple of years ago but continues to grow as a feature of the online shopping experience. Customers can see what new furniture would look like in their living rooms or walk through a virtual store all from the comfort of their home.”

The top 10 retail technologies

To decide on the technology making the most impact on the retail sector TRA asked 40 judges (made up of TRA and ARA executives as well as business and IT leaders from small and large retailers across the many industry subsectors) to vote on a series of technology and rank its innovation and contribution. The votes were weighted and collated to reveal the top ten. Of the top 10 technologies that support and encourage innovation in the retail space, the top 5 are clearly weighted towards customer-focused innovation: These are customer experience platforms, Data analytics, Customer analytics, payment systems and AI.

  1. Customer Experience Platforms:

Scoring 18 per cent of all possible votes, customer experience platforms came up trumps with the judges,  reflecting the focus on customer-centric innovation strategies being utilised acrossretailers nationwide. Preference was given to customer experience platforms that are scalable, secure, and continuously updated, allowing them to integrate with other systems to bring increased digital experience.

2. Customer Analytics:

With 15 per cent of all votes “customer analytics” is regarded as the second most innovative technology for 2022 according to the judging panel. Combined with customer experience platforms it’s clear there understanding customers better and delivering more personal outcomes is becoming a retail essential. While customer analytics tools have been around for a long time, and most will be familiar with big data conversations and tools or services, in TRA’s view there is a still a significant opportunity to innovate with data.

3. Artificial Intelligence:

Coming in at third place, with 14 per cent of all possible votes, AI (including machine learning) was sen as increasingly essential  for both customer-facing activities and inward-looking operations. TRA expects familiarity, experience, and positive outcomes with AI innovation to spread across the industry in the coming years.

4. Data Analytics:

Judged the fourth most innovative technology – receiving an equal percentage of votes as the fifth place but nominated more times as most innovative – is general data analytics tech. This includes all data the organisation has access to from both its own systems and that from 3rd parties in the market. Data-based services, products, and improvements are increasingly an expectation in innovation programs.

5. Payment Systems

Payment sstems received 10 per cent of votes and comes in as the fifth most innovative retail technology for 2022. Payments in Australia have already seen considerable innovation with new, born-in the cloud startups and the National Payment Platform (NPP) offering retailers different ways to transact with customers.

6. Mixed Reality:

Mixed Reality technologies including Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) were judged as the sixth most innovative technology for 2022 with 9 per cent of all possible votes. While not new, these technologies started to gain real traction amongst Australian retailers during the COVID 19 pandemic . The panel expects them to continue to be embraced as new ways to empower customers both remotely and as part of in-person shopping experiences

7. Point of Sale:

With 6 per cent of total votes – and more first choice votes compared to the next two technologies – is point of sale (PoS) (including merchandising and ticketing systems). These solutions continue to allow greater flexibility and innovation in how retailers design and operate physical locations as well as integration to other systems.

8. Cyber Security:

WIth cybersecurity attacks on the rise, the judges suggest continued innovation with cybersecurity, is an ongoing necessity and challenge for retailers. Threats continue to expand, evolve, and impact retailers of all shapes and sizes. Failure to innovate means greater risk.

9. Internet of Things:

The IoT (internet of things), also received 6 per cent of all votes, but fewer top choices than the previous two technologies. Encompassing a wide range of established and emerging technologies the IoT is already, and will continue to be, a powerful arena for retail innovation.

10. 3D Printing:

Rounding out the list with the final spot was a surprising inclusion: 3D Printing. Despite its  narrow range of use cases in the retail space.  3D Printing was still considered a powerful and innovative technology that could be put to more use in the retail space.

The rise of omnichannel

The judges predict that online customer experience, omnichannel, and digital retail are more likely to be the focus of innovation compared to more traditional physical retain operations and internal operations in 2022. Online and remote customer experiences are expected to be an innovation focus.

Innovation across supply chain and logistics were also expected with greater use of AI and machine learning to predict challenges and reduce strain. Creating great employee as well as customer experiences was another essential. TRA suggests staff and skill shortages, and the difficult recruitment and retention situation  will push more retailers to innovate in the employee experience space.

Sustainability also ranked highly with 40 per cent of judges suggesting reyaler will need to innovate with sustainability across both physical retail and online in order to keep up with consumer demands.

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