European retailers at crossroads in improving efficiency and customer experience

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Retailers are at a crossroads

Retailers are at a crossroads

Retailers across Europe are at a crossroads, facing the dilemma of increasing operational efficiency while also improving customer experience and aware that achieving both is not possible, according to a new survey by Fujitsu.

It found that almost 60% of respondents placed the same value on both efficiency and customer experience in an increasingly multi-channel environment, underlining the fundamental challenge facing retailers with a store presence.

Findings from the Fujitsu Pan-European Retail Survey 2013 confirm the future of the store in a changing environment. Managers face challenges such as driving sales and managing people. Simultaneously they must maintain a unified view of customers across all channels, and so must understand how to leverage technology innovation to deliver multi-channel solutions that deliver improved customer experiences at a competitive cost.

Retailers are often under economic pressure due to the cost of space, inventory and people. A key finding of Fujitsu’s research is the high priority retailers place on driving sales, while managing and developing the skills of their people. Managers today use multiple indicators to evaluate store efficiency, with those relating to sales margin used most widely by 60% of respondents. The survey confirms retailers recognise their biggest challenge is to sell more, and to do so more efficiently, with 63% of respondents identifying sales as their principle concern.

Almost three in every five retailers expect to benefit most from technology solutions supporting online-based services – most notably for the international companies and larger food retailers. Mobile phone sales capabilities are considered equally important by international retailers.

The biggest ‘efficiency versus customer experience’ gap is emerging among larger food retailers, which consider all self-service and hybrid technologies as contributing greatly to store efficiency (over 60%), while simultaneously adding value to the business (around 65%). In comparison, other retail categories consider these technologies as contributing more to the customer experience (50-60%), and as such say these technologies generate less value to the business (around 30%), possibly as it is more difficult to trace ‘cause and affect’ in such projects.

Store technology projects are delivering multi-channel retail solutions – the store is no longer the only place customers are buying. That said, technologies will become decisive in revolutionising in-store purchasing (according to 71% of respondents), where stores will remain the hub for customer engagement. Although retailers realise a first-class customer experience is the best way to build a brand with loyal customers, financial concerns hold back many companies from reaching for this goal.

To support retailers facing this dilemma, Fujitsu said it is developing a new generation of flexible and adjustable retail systems designed to meet changing market conditions and customer demands. Fujitsu’s end-to-end approach meets the unique challenges of the full variety of retail sectors and differing market-maturity stages, it claims. Retail solutions include initial consulting through to the commissioning and delivery of complete systems down to the cash registers, backed by managed services to keep retailers open for business.

Richard Clarke, vice president, Global Retail at Fujitsu, said: “Being a retailer – buying and merchandising, supply chain, retail operations, transaction management – is no longer defined by having a store, merchandise to sell and a cash register. It has become defined by managing customers through their shopping ‘journeys’ on their terms, and often via their own personal assets, such as a smart phone, and their own capabilities – based on their product knowledge or social networking connectedness. Fujitsu Retail Solutions help retailers to begin recasting their business models to fit their customers, not just their stores.”