Retailers and Shoppers Are on Totally Different Pages About Tech

Retail executives and consumers in the US, the UK and Australia have widely disparate expectations about artificial intelligence's (AI) and virtual reality's (VR) effects on the retail sector.

A new survey from Oracle NetSuite—conducted in partnership with Wakefield Research and Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor—found that 79% of retail executives in the three countries expected the presence of such technologies in stores will drive up sales. But just 14% of consumers polled thought AI and VR would significantly impact their purchase decisions.

These lukewarm findings coincide with other data gauging consumer interest in VR. Bizrate Insights polling from December 2018 found that half of US Internet users had never used VR or AR (augmented reality) while shopping and had no interest in doing so. More than one in 10 weren't even familiar with these technologies.

The data suggests that newer technologies with the potential to fundamentally reshape how people shop may still be mired in the "inflated expectations" stage of Gartner's famed "Hype Cycle”

But that doesn't mean radical changes in the retail sector won't ever happen. AI, for example, has the potential to introduce a host of customer-facing labor saving practices such as chatbots and self-checkout. It can also help retailers in not-so-obvious ways from the shopper's perspective.

According to an August 2018 Capgemini survey of 400 retail executives worldwide, AI could save retailers $340 billion annually as soon as 2022, with most of those savings resulting from supply chain and return improvements.

Additional data from Total Retail, Radial and NAPCO Media found that nearly one-third of US retail industry professionals polled in late 2018 expected AI to have the biggest effect on the retail sector in 2019.

AI is revolutionizing the retail industry by making it cost-effective to deliver a completely personalized, immersive and optimized experience for every consumer at massive scale," said Daniel Druker, CMO of Instart.