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.

Original research of 100 UK retailers by Pricer, the world’s most trusted electronic shelf label (ESL) provider, showed that two fifths (39%) felt that in the last 12months there has been more pressure put on the store to fulfil ecommerce orders, rising to 52% of store associates.  At the operational coalface of having to juggle serving store customers whilst also fulfilling online orders through the store, almost a quarter (23%) of store staff polled said they now need to perform more tasks to fulfil ecommerce orders.  Meanwhile, a further quarter (25%) of store and area managers said that bricks-and-mortar stores are having to perform more roles because of the acceleration to digital.


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

And this was reflective in the tech investments UK retailers said they had prioritised in store in the past two years, with one in three (27%) having deployed fast format click-and-collect technologies, and a further quarter (25%) investing 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 as the forefront of their 2-year investment focuses for the store (both 32%).  This was followed by technologies that could bring Metaverse capabilities in to store, as well as pricing optimisation technologies and video promotions (28% each).

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

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