So what’s in store for retail on the digital front?

That was the question the Australian Israel Chamber of Commerce was posing at their panel lunch last week – Reframing Retail for the Digital Age. RetailOasis went along to try and get the inside track on the direction of the host’s keynote speakers, Ian Moir, David Jones’s Chairman and Salmat CEO Craig Dower and Macquarie Capital Head of Retail and Consumer David Mustow.

Let me begin by saying that the room was a grey wash of suits and the panel was a carbon copy of each other… typecast senior management – was this meant to represent the digital age? Where was the tech fluency colour; the pushing boundaries; the gen-Y headline grabbers? I’ll be honest; the main learning was that there were no new learnings, just statements of fact….

• We haven’t yet realised the value of online – DJs has moved from 1% to 3% in the last year with an aim of increasing this to 10%, with international powerhouse brands like John Lewis at 35% online sales, there is still a way to go

• Digital strategy is not a strictly linear process – going from bricks&mortar to online, as we see with major players the like Amazon making what appears to be retrograde steps towards a high-street presence

• Realising the untapped wealth in customer data loyalty programs; getting that balance right between predictive purchase support and customer intrusiveness

• Increasing customer expectation for seamless omni-channel buying experiences

• 41% of all purchase are researched online before purchase, with Australia coming in at third in the world

Salmat CEO Craig Dower commented on the rate of adoption within the Australian retail space, acknowledging that currently Australian department stores and retailers are behind the curve. Retail experience is playing catch-up and there has been a lack of technology infrastructure investment, however he raised the point that with the speed of new technologies, Australian capabilities can leap frog and become a world leader in retail digital integration. There are several pieces in that puzzle. While infrastructure capacity is now firmly part of the national agenda, its development has been rather staccato. Consumer technology adoption is as fast as anywhere. What’s lacking is pioneering digital strategies that match customer demand and that integrate with both marketing initiatives and high-street experience; so yes we can “leapfrog” but we are yet to see it happen on any major scale. The nature of digital technology in retail is that Australian retailers don’t need to worry about competing simply with other Australian retailers, but pioneering global markets with very few barriers to entry and a sophisticating savvy customer.