A new report from and WBR Insights has revealed that over 90% of retailers expect to have Artificial Intelligence (AI) or virtual assistant technology operating in-store and online within the next five years. In a report interviewing 200 senior executives at major UK and French retailers, has revealed that retailers are investing in AI, Virtual Reality (VR) and geofence technology to drive footfall in-store and drive continued sales growth online.

Investing in innovation
From chatbots to help streamline customer service operations to AI powered recommendation engines, retailers are embracing technology to simplify and enrich the user experience. In fact, 77% of retailers revealed that simplifying the customer experience is their core ambition and actively designed their e-commerce presence primarily based on simplicity and convenience.

The report also revealed retailers priorities for tech investment, highlighting potential areas for growth over the next five years. Unsurprisingly, AI technology looks set for continued growth as it was deemed the second most important area for tech investment, behind traditional mobile applications.  Meanwhile, 27% of retailers confirmed that they had invested in Augmented Reality (AR) technology over the last 12 months as retailers rush to engage consumers both in-store and via mobile.

Other top priorities included:

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  • 37% of retailers confirmed that they had invested in Virtual Reality technology over the last 12 months
  • 38% have already introduced virtual assistants and 53% are planning on doing so
  • 44% of retailers surveyed offer AI powered chatbots to help shoppers; 54% are planning to in the next five years
Revolutionising the in-store experience
Over the past five years retailers have continued to invest in expanding and improving the in-store experience to increase customer loyalty. As the popularity of the traditional physical store fades, high street retailers have come under increasing pressure to compete with the ease and stress-free experience that online shopping offers.

The report clearly indicates that retailers believe technology will give them the edge they need to drive further footfall in-store. 67% of retailers confirmed they are already using geofence technology to connect online shopping to the high street; while a further 33% are planning to do so within the next five years.

The top challenges for retailers
However, as retailers continue to embrace technology and data to transform both the in-store and online shopping experience, several challenges arise.  Firstly, is the challenge of multi-platform delivery – making sure that the customer has a consistent brand experience regardless of channel or platform. Secondly, retailers are often struggling to make sure that they have the requisite talent within the business to best maximise digital investment.  Competition for the best people in the industry is fierce and recruitment of digital and technology experts can be a long and difficult process.

Jimmy New, Director of Marketing at commented:

These latest figures highlight how retailers are continuing to adapt to the growth of online and mobile spending. Technology and digital investment will be key to ensure this growth does not come at the expense of traditional high street spend, as Artificial Intelligence and other popular innovations transform the shopping experience.

“To remain competitive and respond to customer demands, it is more vital than ever for retailers to evolve their in-store and online offering and create a sense of occasion and experience.  Fortunately, thanks to the rapid developments in both AI and AR technology, retailers can create an even more immersive experience for customers – helping them to build stronger connections and encourage loyalty.