69% of European retailers plan to invest in robotics over the next five years
69% of European retailers plan to invest in robotics over the next five years

European retailers are increasingly looking at new technologies including virtual reality and the Internet of Things (IoT) in a bid to increase sales margins and improve customer experience, according to new research from e-commerce consultancy Salmon.

The study finds that 61% of e-commerce directors across wholesale, retail and manufacturing companies are currently investing in IoT enablement, with 35% believing it is the biggest priority as a business. Within those numbers, 69% plan to invest in robotics and 60% in machine learning in the next five years.

The voice interface is also top of mind thanks to the growth of devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, with 53% of respondents planning to invest by 2022. Similarly, 59% plan to take advantage of virtual or mixed reality.

Patrick Munden, global head of retail at Salmon, said: “E-commerce is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and rapid developing industries, and it’s vital that companies continue to innovate to boost business and consumer demand. Exploring the latest technologies is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have for any businesses expecting to drive sales and improve their customer experience. This latest research shows that, whilst many perceive technologies such as wearables, mixed/virtual reality and voice interfaces as the preserve of the tech-savvy consumer, wholesale, manufacturing and retailers are now investing heavily in this space.”

In spite of that, the study also shows that figuring out which of the technologies to turn to is a continuing concern for businesses. Over a third (36%) believe they find it difficult to commit to new technologies through fear of investing in the wrong area, and 47% think that they have invested in tech that has been a waste of money in the past.

Coping with more data is also a concern: 92% of organisations agree they need to be able to better analyse consumer data, while 48% believe organising their business to react quickly to change will be a major challenge in the future.

Unsurprisingly, 74% say they plan to switch e-commerce platform in the next 12-18 months, recognising the importance of a system in place that is ready to meet the future needs of the business and its customers.