Technology will reshape the retail industry: IBM

IBM’s 2012 Smarter Consumer Study reveals digital consumers are shaping the world of commerce

Sixty per cent of Australian consumers want to use technology at some part of their retail process, according to a study conducted by IBM.

IBM’s 2012 Smarter Consumer Study revealed that out of this 60 per cent of consumers, 17 per cent want to use three or more technologies – such as websites, social networking, televisions, etc. – in that process.

The survey, which looked at the purchasing trends, habits and expectations of more than 28,000 consumers globally, included more than 1800 from Australia. Over the last three years, it has tracked the annual evolution of the ‘empowered consumer’ in both mature and maturing markets.

“This is the highest percentage in the mature market. It is higher than the US and the UK. Australians want to be adopters of technology, that’s what it indicates to us,” IBM Global Business Services A/NZ retail industry leader, Ian Wong, said.

In specific, he said that the survey showed that 90 per cent of Australian consumers wanted to use social networking as part of the shopping process.

“It should come as no surprise to retailers that digital technologies and the Web are impacting the industry in a major way. However in Australia, the physical presence of a retailer is still very important, so it’s not about eradicating bricks and mortar in favour of online,” he said.

Australian National Retailers Association CEO, Margy Osmond, said the reports show that consumers are at the core of what drives the how, when and what of the Australian retail sector.

She said that the increased use of mobile technology highlights a message for government as well as retailers.

Osmond stated that particularly at a state level, the uptake of mobile technology in retail should affect changes in public policy, such as removing labelling of nutritional information, deregulation of store trading hours and planning laws.

“When we talk about retail, we don’t talk about bricks and mortar or online, because successful retailers are going to have to encompass everything in between,” she said.

Furthermore, the study showed that Australian consumers are uncertain about their financial outlook, with only 56 per cent citing they are positive about their income situation, and therefore still exercising frugality in their purchasing decisions.

Also, the attitudes towards discretionary spending remain largely conservative with 47 per cent of Australians searching for items on sale and only 10 per cent indicating they will spend more in general.

Another key concern was the lack of consumer trust in manufacturers and retailers, with only 13 per cent of Australian consumers depending on them.

IBM Global Business Services retail centre of competence global retails industry expert, Steven Winningham, said that when compared to other mature markets, Australia was lacking tailored assortment, where retailers understand by store their customer wants.

“Everybody wants more information on what they are purchasing and mobility is going to be the vehicle for providing volumes of product information going forward,” he added.