UK retailers must address gaps in IT systems to meet customer expectations

Just 17 percent of retailers feel confident that they are delivering a seamless, connected experience across channels and functions for their customers, according to new research commissioned by SAP and PwC, conducted by  r2i (PwC’s research arm) . The findings come against the backdrop of a tipping point in the way customers are researching and buying products – across multiple channels, including mobile platforms.

The study, which surveyed over 300 retailers and 2,100 consumers across six major markets in Europe, was designed to gain a deeper insight into consumer and retailer perspectives on the integrated shopping experience. The study found that while the in store experience is still important to consumers – for some product categories, the majority of purchases happen in store – it’s the omni-channel experience that retailers are really being judged on. Only 50 percent of consumer respondents felt they got a consistent and superior multi-channel experience from their favourite retailers.

More than 60 percent of retailers agreed that siloed business units are having an impact on delivering smooth connectivity for customers at all levels across all channels. Of those surveyed, over a third said they were struggling with implementing a ‘single view of the consumer’, with just 8 percent having already achieved this.

Shane Finlay, Director of Retail Industries, SAP UKI, commented: “Retail presents a key battleground in really winning customer satisfaction, especially through connected systems and seamless shopping experiences. As the research shows, some retailers still have a way to go in getting to the endpoint in their digital transformation journeys. The good news is technology is now available to provide that enabling platform for growth, differentiation and innovation by integrating the front office seamlessly with the back office, and to power personalisation and decision making with sophisticated analytics. By really going back to the consumer, brands can derive insights that will allow them to stay ahead of their competition and ultimately, position them as market leaders.”


The study identified a number of key challenges that retailers are facing in the digital era, including:

  • Retailers aren’t deciphering customer data fast enough into actionable insights – 35 percent of retailers are currently struggling to implement a strategy to provide a single view of the customer. However, 79 percent of respondents have this issue on their current or future agenda.
  • Connecting the dots across the various customer touch points is now a core priority but security/data and privacy risks are holding some back  – While the C-suite understand the importance of having the right data and technology capability to enable them to compete effectively, protect the brand and build trust, they are still struggling with execution. 49 percent of respondents identified security/compliance/data privacy risk and related issues as a concern they face in getting new omni-channel business technology solutions to the top of agenda for the organisation.
  • Retail loyalty programmes are not dead but require a rethink – Two thirds of consumers (66 percent) are members of loyalty programmes, but the format is changing and 57 percent of consumers revealed that they prefer loyalty programmes that they can access digitally (online or via an app). Customers are also looking for loyalty programmes which are based upon a host of non-price related facets like insights, reviews and innovations in engagement and convenience.
  • Need for awareness of the social media-savvy consumer – Social media presents an opportunity for consumers to provide feedback to brands and retailers directly; with 52 percent of consumers writing reviews or directing complaints to a brand/retailer. This provides a great opportunity for retailers to interact directly with their customers but, when things go wrong, consumers are very quick to tell the world about it and their voices are greatly amplified.
    According to Keith Alexander, a director at PwC: “PwC and SAP’s survey of consumers and retailers across six European countries provides further evidence of what we already suspected – there is a widening gulf between consumers’ rising demands on what they expect from omni-channel retailing, and the ability of retailers to deliver on their promises in a fully joined up fashion.  The consequences of failure could threaten retailers’ very survival, especially in a world where consumers are empowered by social media to vocalise poor customer experiences and are easily able to shift their loyalties.”

The full report can be accessed here.


Neil How
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Neil How

Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 16 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.

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