Report: Global retail tech spending to top $203 billion this year

Global retail technology spending will near $203.6 billion in 2019 as stores continue to play digital catch-up and AI, robotics and payment innovation plans advance.

That’s according to new research conducted by Tech. a collaboration between Retail Week and World Retail Congress. The surge – an anticipated 3.6% increase from 2018 – comes as owners of physical stores strive to add an advanced digital dimension to offline shopping, among other priorities. The need to engage customers in new ways, while managing stock, operations and promotions more effectively and cost-efficiently, is also driving up international IT spending.

The report, “A world in motion: Retail digital transformation across the globe, and the technology supporting it,” also identifies country-specific trends. These include the following.

• In the U.S., 75% of retailers cite growing urgency around digital transformation; payment technologies are priorities; and 40% of retailers already use AI.

• In the U.K., a third of retailers expect to invest six-figure sums – up to half a million pounds – on technology over the next 18 months, with visual search tools high on the list to help shoppers find what they’re looking for more intuitively.

• In Germany, retailers have a more keenly developed understanding of how technology affects their business, and 60% are investing in voice technology.

In the U.K., 45% of retailers claim to be using visual search, including the likes of Asos, Boohoo, M&S, eBay and Argos, while visualization generally is proving important to sell higher-value items – for example, once customers can get a better feel for how furniture or a new kitchen would look in their own home. In the U.S., AI is enabling new levels of automation in Amazon Go stores, and in France robots as in other markets robots are transforming product picking in warehouses, according to the report.

In France, Carrefour, the largest player in the retail market, has sided with Google to drive innovation and build a tech-led strategy for serving the 21st Century consumer. As well as supporting the development of the grocer’s e-commerce offering, the partnership involves comprehensive research and development work, the implementation of new Google communication and collaboration software across the enterprise, as well as the creation of the Carrefour-Google innovation lab. There is also a dedicated focus on working out how voice-enabled technology will play a role in the future of retail.

Plans for augmented or virtual reality tools to enhance shoppers’ experience are taking time to materialize, but Argus, and Costa Coffee in the U.K., and Walmart and Macy’s in the U.S., are among those with comprehensive trials underway.

The research, which will be discussed in detail at Tech. festival in October, also highlights the growing importance of strategic technology partnerships as retailers’ digital ambitions grow.

To view the full report, click here.
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