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Retailers clamber for new tech, but is it enough?



Retailers across the globe are beginning to adopt exciting new technology into their businesses, providing a new and varied shopping experience for their customers. The hope is this tech will help these retailers stand out from the competition, and survive the pressure being placed on brick-and-mortar stores in the age of e-commerce. Investing in new technology can be a great benefit for businesses to expand their margins and increase growth, but new tech isn't always enough.

Competition in retail is stiff, as consumers can find products from other retailers easily if they are unhappy with the prices or service they are being offered. In some cases, introducing new technology can offer enough of an improvement to service that will keep customers returning. However, retailers should be wary of technology for technology's sake. Tech such as VR and AI may have exciting potential for retailers, but they may not provide customers with enough of an incentive to overcoming pricing competition. In fact, many consumers continue to find the use of AI to predict their purchasing habits 'creepy', suggesting that implementing it may not be the best route.

Instead, retailers should continue to focus on retail basics, implementing new technology only when the improvement to customer service or price outweighs the cost of investment in the technology. Consider retailers like Costco or Real Canadian Superstore, who have been successful for years on the simple competitive advantage of offering desirable products at even more desirable prices. You won't find fancy new technology in a Costco warehouse, yet they are generally very busy and successful locations.

This is not to say that technology is bad or a determent; exactly the opposite is true when technology is implemented thoughtfully. During Q4 of 2018, Target invested heavily in technological improvements to its supply chain, allowing for improved service for customers ordering last minute gifts, even receiving next-day in-store pick up within days of Christmas. Walmart invested heavily in a redesign to its e-commerce platform and website last year, and as a result, saw significant growth throughout the holiday season. For retailers wanting to compete in today's market, the answer is not high tech or low tech, but smart and useful technology that has a positive impact on customer's experiences.

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