With everything that has changed over the last two years, it can be hard to keep up with the latest retail technology trends. Here are four emerging trends that you need to know about as Australian retail reopens.

1. Digital Payments

Australians have long had a healthy appetite for digital payments. Card payments first overtook cash way back in 2016 and uptake has shown no signs of slowing down in the intervening years. Australians have also long been the biggest users of contactless payments in the world.

As with many other aspects of our lives, the pandemic has only accelerated a shift to digital. According to the Australian Payments Network (the self-regulatory body for Australia's payments industry), digital wallets have seen a huge jump in popularity, with nearly one in two Australians now using their phones to make payments. Overall, usage of credit and debit cards is up 13.1% in 2021 to an all time high of nearly 12 billion transactions. On the other hand, cash withdrawals from ATMs are dropping rapidly, and cheques have almost disappeared completely.

At the same time, we've seen a huge rise of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) services, such as Afterpay, Zip Pay and their many competitors over the last few years, with these services reaching critical mass, and BNPL services credited with driving increased conversions and higher transaction values, as well as encouraging repeat sales. And while the initial growth of BNPL has been largely online, it is no longer exclusively the domain of ecommerce. For retailers in sectors such as apparel, and particularly those targeting a younger demographic, your customers increasingly expect access to a BNPL option no matter where they shop.

Key takeaway for retailers: It's clear that cash is no longer king. Your customers expect a range of digital payment options, and frictionless access to offerings like BNPL are essential.

2. Webrooming

Webrooming (the practice of searching online for a product and then coming into a store to purchase) is by no means a new phenomenon.

A (pre-pandemic) survey of shopper sentiment found that while 43% of consumers admitted to the opposite practice of showrooming (looking at products in-store and then buying online to get the best price), a whopping 63% admitted to webrooming.

As Australia moves out of the lockdown phase of the pandemic we can expect webrooming uptake to increase even more, for two key reasons: firstly, locked-down Aussie shoppers have taken to online shopping like never before during the last 18 months and are now even more comfortable with navigating ecommerce sites. Secondly we've seen a huge rush back to stores and away from online after the end of each lockdown. The run up to Christmas 2021 is sure to be busier than ever.

It's clear that Aussie shoppers love the store experience. In fact, in that same survey a majority of respondents said they preferred shopping in-store to online. We can expect that this attachment to the store will only have increased for shoppers who have been deprived of the in-person retail experience for so long.

Key takeaway for retailers: For one, this highlights the importance of your omnichannel strategy. Your website needs to work in parallel with your store, providing customers with access to product information and real-time stock levels so that they can plan ahead and either arrange a click and collect or simply confidently come into the store knowing that the products they want are available.

It also means that your SEO strategy for online is not just about driving online sales. If a consumer is doing product research then you want your store to be front and centre, regardless of whether they end up buying online or in person.

3. Technology Integration

There's a lot of moving parts involved in running a successful retail business. And you more than likely have a range of systems and retail technology in place. Everything from your Point of Sale system, to your online sales platform, accounting software, rostering, CRM, supply chain platforms, and even social media channels.

If you're like most retailers that have been in business for any length of time, it's probably not a one-size-fits-all solution across your entire technology stack, but rather a bunch of different platforms and tools from different vendors. And while the idea of seamless integration between those technology platforms is easier said than done, system integrations that keep everything connected are becoming more and more essential for modern retailers, as customers increasingly demand the kind of frictionless purchasing journeys across channels that can only be delivered by full technology integration.

Key takeaway for retailers: look for tools that can integrate data across your technology ecosystem, such as our Retail Analytics platform, which can integrate shopper tracking data with point of sale data and rostering information to deliver a single data source of truth that you can use to drive informed decisions.

4. In-Store Analytics

While online retail has long had the advantage of easy and low cost options for tracking customer behaviour, physical retail has traditionally had a much less enriched data view of its customers. Beyond basic traffic counts, sales data, and maybe loyalty information, bricks and mortar retailers haven't always had access to enough solid data to drive truly informed decisions.

This has changed as more advanced in-store analytics solutions have reached the market. help to bridge the gap between online and offline

Key takeaway for retailers: an advanced in-store analytics platform is essential for modern retail. Intuition and anecdote will get you so far, but without data to drive your decision making you are flying blind. And if you don't have a retail analytics platform in place, you can be sure your competitors do.

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Matt Armstrong

View posts by Matt Armstrong
With over two decades' experience in the technology industry, Matt is WingArc Australia's manager of marketing and communications.
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