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Data and analytics essential to retail’s post-covid bounceback

Sebastien Sepierre, MD EMEA 0 Fourth

The majority (79%) of high street retailers are planning to implement more technology solutions this year as retail bosses rely more than ever on insights from their data, according to market research.

The data reveals this significantly increases for large retailers (5,000-6,000 employees) at 94%, while nine in ten (91%) slightly smaller businesses (500-999 employees) are also planning to employ more tech solutions. White goods companies were the most likely sector to implement more technology in 2021 (95%), followed by automotive (88%), and attractions-based retail (88%).

The research has been revealed as  part of Fourth’s latest whitepaper: Post-pandemic retail: retail leaders’ plans and predictions for the industry, which explores what the future holds for physical retail stores and how retail businesses can best support their workforce. The whitepaper is built on insights from a survey of more than 250 UK retail decision makers.

New tech solutions explored for post-lockdown retail
Thanks largely to innovations from the retail sector as it evolved around pandemic restrictions, the traditional technology stack has drastically changed. Nearly two thirds (64%) of retail leaders are exploring new solutions now lockdown restrictions are lifting. Pharmaceutical retailers are most likely to be looking into different tech solutions (76%), followed by sporting goods (69%), and attractions-based retail (69%). However, half (50%) of larger businesses (4,000-4,999 employees) and 88% of the biggest retailers (5,000-6,000 employees) are more likely to buck this trend as they shy away from investing in new technologies, instead reverting to their old practices.

Both workforce management and ecommerce technologies are the top priority for those exploring new tech investments. Over a third (38%) of retailers believe workforce management is just as important as investing in online capabilities, followed by almost one third (30%) who will look into investing in inventory management technology. Two fifths  (40%) of larger businesses (4,000-4,999 employees) and more than one third (35%) of the biggest retail chains (5,000-6,000 employees) are more likely to prioritise customer loyalty technology this year.

Ecommerce technology has been a huge driver of revenue for retail brands throughout the pandemic, while workforce management tech is now crucial to navigating the balance between in-store and online retail – with shift swapping more likely as a result of quarantine requirements. Currently 89% of retail businesses are using workforce management or human capital management software. Automotive businesses are least likely to be using it at only one quarter (25%).

Using data-driven insights to achieve retail success
While the majority (90%) of retail leaders are confident they have access to the necessary technologies to capture the data they need for their business to process, analyse, forecast, and evaluate accurate workforce planning, they still face hurdles when extracting those necessary insights.

Staffing has unsurprisingly fluctuated as a direct result of the pandemic, meaning nearly half (41%) of retail leaders are having to focus on training new staff in using new technology. Alongside this, one third (33%) of retail bosses say they are facing a lack of relevant talent to manage these technologies. While 34% are further concerned about data security within their businesses. For larger retailers (5,000 to 6,000 people), a cultural resistance to change internally is the key challenge (41%), followed by a lack of relevant senior talent to manage technology (35%) and having to train staff in using new technology (29%), as well as not wanting to rip and replace legacy systems (29%). While in smaller retail businesses (500-999 people), the top barriers are: having to train staff in using new technology (54%), data security concerns (40%), and a cultural resistance to change internally (38%).

Sebastien Sepierre, Managing Director – EMEA, Fourth, said: “Following 18 months of uncertainty retailers are further embracing digital transformation. By adopting technologies to adapt their retail offering and workforce management, decision makers are ensuring they are able to flex and scale as needed around changing demand. This tech adoption not only allows retailers to evolve the customer experience – catering for a blend of in-store and ecommerce – but also offers a single source of truth for workforce management, leading to better outcomes in employee communication, engagement, retention, and more.

“While tech implementation is a priority for most retailers, it’s not without its challenges. To successfully onboard new technologies retail leaders must prioritise the necessary training, as well as working with their employees to transform company culture as their businesses move away from legacy systems and processes to stay competitive.”

*survey from Fourth

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