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KPMG: Tech Investments Seen as Roadmap for Consumer Engagement

Whether it’s creating a community on social, providing rich content on your site or offering apps that integrate seamlessly into consumers’ activities, retail today must build relationships with shoppers and enrich their lives.

Once it was enough to simply put products on the shelf, splash out for a catching jingle for your television ads and maybe proffer a coupon every Tuesday. Now consumers want your brand message to come to life.

And it seems most retailers and brand managers have gotten the message, but the question remains: how many of them can deliver?

A recent survey by KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax and advisory firm, suggests that those that embrace technology and all it promises are the ones best positioned to attract today’s connected consumers and grow their piece of the pie.

“Achieving growth is an urgent issue for companies as increased competition from new entrants disrupts the market and erodes share for traditional players,” said John MacIntosh, National Sector Leader, Consumer Goods. “Investments in technology and digital to establish better relationships with customers will go a long way in getting CEOs to see top-line growth for their organizations.”

In fact, of the 41 U.S.-based retail and consumer product CEOs polled, two-thirds believe technology will ultimately divide the winners from the losers in the next three years.

The problem is the majority of them also acknowledge that they’re currently lacking in the digital know how to catch up with, let alone keep pace with, this new consumer.

You know them, they’re the ones whose customer journeys zigzag all over the map from online to offline and back again before they make a purchase. No longer the exception, they’re quickly becoming the rule. Brands now have to meet them where they are—which might be in their stores, but searching a marketplace, looking for a better price.

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More than 60 percent of those surveyed feel they’re not using digital tools to their full capabilities. That’s more than twice the percentage of their peers around the globe—only 33 percent of whom think they could use tech better.

To ensure they’re not among those wiped off the retail landscape, the leaders surveyed are transforming their businesses in a way that puts customers first. To do so, they’re investing in “digitization through technology transformation, greater speed-to-market and stronger marketing, branding and communications,” according to the report.

To determine how and where to focus, 73 percent say those areas that get the funding are the ones that will have the most impact on consumers. And for 56 percent of these CEOs, artificial intelligence and machine learning top the list, while 41 percent are funneling funds to the Internet of Things. In order to bolster these areas, however, 29 percent of the CEOs admit they’ll need to revamp their workforce, boosting skill sets for existing employees and hiring new workers with the requisite skills.

With these investments, they’re hoping to forge deeper bonds with shoppers, though 63 percent of them say they can’t always quantify the ROI for customer-focused endeavors.

Though they have much work to do, these leaders are optimistic about the future, with 95 percent of respondents forecasting growth for the economy, their companies and the industry at large over the next three years.