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Loss Prevention Driving Grocers to Up Their Tech Game

New Incisiv study shows how retailers aim to narrow the gap between intention and deployment
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Cisco chart Incisiv
Automation is becoming an operational necessity, a new study affirms.

A new study confirms that the buzz about tech-enabled store efficiencies isn’t just talk. According to the “2024 Connected Retail Experience Study: Focusing on Omnichannel Efficiency” by Incisiv, retailers are actively seeking technologies to improve their store operations, curb theft and optimize labor, ultimately filling current gaps.

Conducted in collaboration with Verizon and Cisco, the research showed a need for intelligent solutions that help both the retailer and customer. For example, while store efficiency is a top driver of retail business strategy, only 36% of grocery and general merchandise retailers said they are satisfied with their current technology infrastructure.

[Read more: “EXCLUSIVE: At CES 2024, What Retailers Need to Know About AI"]

As for what’s driving their interest in technology across the omnichannel, 92% reported that improving loss prevention is important, up from 52% a year ago. The fast-rising priority is also reflected in the response of 98% of business executives that loss prevention is the most important income for investments in store systems. 

Although needs are clear, applications are less so. The study found that while retailers estimate that 72% of store tasks can be fully or partially automated, only a third have been automated to date.

Respondents were also honest about the divide in interest and usage. About a quarter – 26% – of grocery and GM retailers are pleased with the technological tools available to their staff. Further, only 11% of retailers meet the digital experience expectations of store associates who are part of the younger Gen Z age demographic.

"What I found most striking about the results of the survey was that there is a distinct gap between the business needs expressed by those responsible for retail operations, and the perceived needs and resultant capabilities provided by their existing technology platforms." observed Mark Scanlan, global industry lead, retail at Cisco. "This will ultimately result in the business deploying shadow IT solutions to deliver the functionality they need."

The study also identified opportunities to improve knowledge about AI. At this time, just 14% of retailers reported that they have a common understand of AI across their organization.

[Read more: "What’s the State of AI Adoption in Retail and CPG?"]

"This shift is not just about technology implementation; it's about shaping a new retail paradigm," said Gaurav Pant, chief insights officer at Incisiv. "Bridging the omnichannel gap is not just a matter of competitive advantage but a necessity for survival, and adopting new technologies like automation is the frontier for differentiation. The disparity in digital experience for store associates, especially among Gen Z, is more than just a technological shortfall; it's a wake-up call. Retailers must accelerate their digital initiatives to empower their workforce."

Added James Hughes, retail CTO at Verizon Business: "As retailers tackle loss prevention and real-time inventory tracking through the deployment of AI-powered live video analysis demanding more bandwidth and speed, their networks will be stressed like never before. Retailers continue to venture on their digital transformation journeys and it is imperative to bring together disconnected systems to create powerful, modular and intelligent solutions that can enable new functionalities, smarter insights and faster decision-making."

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