Dive Brief:

  • Disrupted by shut-in shoppers, the retail space accelerated digitalization plans by one to two years, said 72{3c6be4297db6c6dead22aac82e61edad92a520b73a55778b8446ff6b78406501} of the 455 retail and consumer brand professionals surveyed by Euromonitor International. Another 21{3c6be4297db6c6dead22aac82e61edad92a520b73a55778b8446ff6b78406501} of professionals say plans were accelerated by three years.
  • Half of industry professionals say the expansion of mobile applications or platforms was the top initiative sped up as a response to the pandemic, according to the report, which was presented at NRF 2021. It was the top category of increased spend, followed closely by tailored marketing and enhancements to website search or navigation.
  • The use of cloud to improve website performance stood out among executives as the top tech use case in the retail and consumer brand space, according to half of respondents. AI to improve website search and consumer engagement round out the top three use cases. 

Dive Insight:

Retailers spent last year adapting to the pandemic, relearning the way they operate with cloud, AI and e-commerce tools guiding the way.

Aside from sustaining operations, technology can also help improve brand perception in the retail space, according to Michelle Evans, senior head of digital consumer at Euromonitor International, speaking Thursday at NRF 2021.

The firm surveyed what actions a positive or negative tech-driven experience might trigger. “In both cases, consumers report that [experience] impacts brand perception more than any other interaction,” said Evans. 

Business is aware of this heightened consumer perception, with two-thirds of global retail professionals saying they expect their brand’s digital prowess to be more top of mind for shoppers coming out of COVID-19.

Investments retail executives have prioritized include “initiatives to improve the foundational aspects of the e-commerce experience,” Evans said. 

A crucial investment to support e-commerce is cloud, a backbone that allows portals to stretch and compress to meet variable shopping volumes. In July, Lowe’s sprinted on its IT overhaul roadmap, wrapping up a full migration to the cloud in the second quarter of 2020.