The vast majority of Irish retail leaders (79 per cent) believe that putting customers first will determine their long-term success, while a similar amount (84 per cent) cite ‘trust’ as an important factor for maintaining strong customer relationships. This is according to a global study commissioned by Fujitsu, which also found that over half (52 per cent) of retail leaders in Ireland believe customers trust businesses less than they did three years ago. On the other hand, 73 per cent believe that their organisation is well-positioned to meet customer expectations over the next decade.

Many retailers (66 per cent) also believe that customers expect their business to be more innovative in the way they provide their services and products, and over half (56 per cent) are looking to AI to help them address this desire for innovation. In general, technology is seen as a way to improve customer service by two-thirds (68 per cent) of retail leaders.

“Consumer expectations in retail have been fundamentally transformed over the past decade or so, as Amazon and other e-commerce leaders have brought a whole new level of convenience to shopping. Irish retailers are working in an unpredictable and competitive market, and with customers increasingly inclined to not trust businesses, they need to meet consumers on their own terms and find new ways to delight them and to earn their confidence.

These results are hugely encouraging, particularly in the context of recent comments from politicians and media suggesting that many jobs would be lost in retail. Quite the opposite; it is adaption rather than loss. Competition is no longer between two shops on the same road, but between dozens of retailers physically and online around the world”, said Itziar García de Carellán, Head of Retail, Fujitsu Ireland.

An example of how digital technology could be used to improve customer service is automation, with over half  (53 per cent) of retail leaders saying that their organisation plans to automate some human tasks within the next three years.

Itziar García de Carellán concludes: “This split between physical and online is no longer entirely accurate, as many retailers occupy a certain space on a spectrum of innovation. Omni-channel shopping services, digital fitting rooms, IoT solutions and digital store managed services all add to this blurring of lines.

The narrative has been somewhat twisted in this sense, suggesting that automation necessarily leads to job losses. This is not the case; in fact, it frees up time from repetitive and process-orientated tasks to focus on the human side of customer service and allows retailers to be even more responsive to changing customer needs. The results of this survey are proof that retailers recognise the need for adaption in this highly competitive environment.

That customer service is the focus, and that technology is the way forward to ensure retailers are at the competitive forefront in their sector, is now overwhelmingly established by this survey – it just confirms what we have known anecdotally for a while”

To download the full report, please visit www.fujitsu.com/success

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