The squeeze on stores, which is putting pressure on bricks-and-mortar estates to perform more digital roles and support eCommerce operations, is accelerating UK retailers’ investment in digitalising their store estates, with autonomous, replenishment and contact-free capabilities becoming prioritised on tech roadmaps, the latest research from Pricer shows.

Research from Pricer suggests the squeeze on stores is putting pressure on bricks-and-mortar estates to perform more digital roles. The research indicates stores are investing in more eCommerce operations as UK retailers’ investment concentrate on digitalising their store estates. Stores are adding autonomous, replenishment and contact-free capabilities on their technical roadmaps, the research suggests.

Original research of 100 UK retailers by Pricer, a trusted electronic shelf label (ESL) provider, showed the following. 39% felt that in the last 12 months, there has been more pressure put on the store to fulfil eCommerce orders. This figure rises to 52% of store associates. At the operational coalface of having to juggle serving store customers whilst also fulfilling online orders through the store. 23% of store staff polled said they now need to perform more tasks to fulfil eCommerce orders. 25% of store and area managers said bricks-and-mortar stores have to perform more roles because of the acceleration to digital.

‘Store squeeze’ prompts investments

While the imperative for the store to serve online was impacting store operations, it was also being felt from a fulfilment and logistics perspective. 20% of Senior Operations (c-suite) execs said there was a growing pressure for bricks-and-mortar to offer eCommerce capabilities in-store. 57% of regional or area managers felt there was more pressure on stores to be able to offer 1-hour click-and-collect.

This was reflective in the tech investments UK retailers said they had prioritised in-store in the past two years. 27% have deployed fast format click-and-collect technologies, and 25% invested in solutions that helped them fulfil online orders in-store.

Looking ahead to their technology roadmaps, Senior Retail Operations executives placed digital signage and ESL capabilities at the forefront of their 2-year investment focus for the store. (Both 32%). This was followed by technologies that could bring Metaverse capabilities into the store. As well as pricing optimisation technologies and video promotions (28% each).

(credit image/LinkedIn/Duncan Potter)
Duncan Potter, CMO at Pricer,

Duncan Potter, CMO at Pricer, commented, “The store is undergoing a major revival. It is quickly being realised that it can bring together the on-and off-line worlds to unlock competitive advantage. In a complex trading environment, made more challenging by inflationary pressures and an increasingly cautious consumer. This means not only doubling down on digital engagement and online interfaces at the shelf-edge. In addition to technologies that make operations run with laser-sharp efficiency and reactive dynamic pricing and promotions to protect margin. This is now beginning to shape retailers’ tech roadmaps as they look ahead to how they can future proof stores. Furthermore, operating leanly while delivering the utmost value to the shopper.”

Five years out, replenishment was overwhelmingly the top theme. Fast replenishment and autonomous replenishment technologies coming out as the top 5-year priorities (36% each) for the Senior Retail Operations professionals polled.

Enterprise Times: What this means for business.

The post-pandemic evidence suggests bricks and mortar stores have proved surprisingly resilient in today’s competitive landscape. However, with the expected economic downturn as a result of increasing inflation and war in the Ukraine. Tight margins, the continued issue of supply chain problems still haunt retailers across the country. Smart retailers are using technology to understand how it can make the in-store experience more convenient for colleagues and customers. Pricer research suggests UK retailers’ are prioritising digitalising their stores with autonomous, replenishment and contact-free capabilities. It is still surprising that autonomous retail is not more prominent. Any venue where shoppers valued time and convenience should be ripe for such a technological change.


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