RBTE 2016: IT-led change in retail is only just beginning

Retail will undergo more change in the next 48 months than occurred in the previous 48 years, according to Natasha Toothill, director of retail engagement at payments specialist Visa.

“If you’re looking in the rear view mirror, you’re not going to be successful in the future,” she said. “Modern retail is all about change – the revolution is underway and organisations are facing a rapid, digital transformation.”

Toothill said a confluence of five forces - the economy, demographics, technology, urbanisation and connected consumers - will continue to create rapid change in the retail sector.

She referred to the requirement for retailers to establish an international foothold, and the increased concentration of spending power in both the millennials and the over 65s in domestic markets.

In terms of technology, Toothill referred to the ever-increasing pace of development. She said retailers must think about how to develop unique services, especially as 28 billion things will connect to the internet by 2020.

“The average shopper checks their smart phone 150 times a day – our brains and being re-wired,” she said. “Smart retailers must think about how they target customers in a connected world.”

At a general level, she quoted Visa research that suggests more than half (53%) of retailers believe their key priorities are operational efficiency and organisational effectiveness.

Toothill said the creation of an omnichannel strategy provides both a threat and an opportunity. She quoted research that suggests customers who use multiple channels spend 15% to 30% per cent more than those who use a single channel. “Consumers want simplicity and accuracy,” she said.