Australian retailers are pioneers of innovation and Amazon won't change that

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There’s a lot of talk recently about retail industries across the globe facing an apocalypse, and concern about the threat players like Amazon have on traditional retailing sectors.

The conversation is particularly heated at the moment in Australia, with Jeff Bezos’ online retailer expected to be fully operational, including fresh food and groceries, in Australia by the end of 2018.

And while we’ve seen a number of reports which reveal that Australian retailers aren’t preparing for Amazon’s arrival and don’t see it as a significant threat, Wayne Harper, ‎senior technical director Asia Pacific at Zebra Technologies, says Australian retailers are pioneers of innovation and Amazon won’t change that.

Zebra Technologies recently released a report exploring tech trends in the retail industry, titled “Retail Vision Study Report “.

The paper uncovers the current challenges and untapped opportunities for retailers, and reveals the industry’s plan to adopt more Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

According to Harper, only businesses that are unwilling to adopt technological change will suffer.

“Over a span of 20 years with Zebra Technologies, I have seen the Australian retail industry grasp innovation and identify the possibilities of applying technology to business operations,” he told Business Insider.

“The evolution saw businesses go from utilising the humble bar code for inventory purposes to now integrating RFID tracking technology, enabling full business visibility from warehouse to end-customer.”

Retailers want to be at the forefront of innovation

“From my experience, Australian retailers are keen to reach customers in a way that puts them at the forefront of innovation adoption and we’re continuing to deliver pioneering products and solutions that address the specific needs of our customers,” Harper says.

This follows similar optimism revealed in a SME Snapshot survey from MYOB last week which found that 26% of businesses are feeling positive about the arrival of overseas competitors such as Amazon.

The report also revealed that retailers across Asia Pacific expect sales to increasingly move from brick-and-mortar stores to online channels – leading to synergies between the physical and online platforms – with Australia leading the way in many cases.

“Across the country, retailers are currently working to create the same look and feel for customers both online and in store,” said Harper.

“With the technology available today, more and more stores across Australia will be able to customise your store visit. I believe retailers need to continue to offer a unique customer experience, catering differently for everyone – from people who like to spend a lot of time browsing in store, to the ones who like to get in and out with their items as quickly as possible.

“As an example, retailers are using technology so they can know when a specific customer is in the store, allowing them to capture more data, accuracy and customer insights.

“One of Australia’s major liquor chains is already implementing geolocationing across three stores in New South Wales with plans to roll out wider – meaning staff can get packages ready and waiting as they see customers enter the carpark, ultimately giving the customer a heightened experience.”

According to the report, the top sources of shopper dissatisfaction in store include the inability to find a desired item, whether it’s out of stock or misplaced within a store.

“Australian retailers are fixing these issues by reinventing their supply chains with real-time visibility – enabled by automation, sensors and analytics.”

It will benefit the Australian economy

So how does Harper expect Australian businesses to respond to Amazon’s entry specifically?

“The larger retailers are already working on strategies to prepare themselves to meet challenges and changes in the marketplace and I believe some retailers will embrace the addition to the market in working on ways to deliver offerings that are not in direct competition,” he said.

“Ultimately, retailers may be challenged by the emergence of online-only retailers, but the support industries – such as transport and logistics – are likely to see a major uplift.

“It could be an overall benefit for the Australian economy, including the large delivery companies and sub-contractors in the field.”

Overall, he said the Australian retail industry is grasping innovation and identifying the possibilities of applying technology to business operations.

“Australian retailers are keen to reach customers in a way that puts them at the forefront of innovation adoption.”

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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