A recent State of Technology in Retail two-part survey by MakerSights revealed that of 254 product professionals from retailers and brands as well as 301 consumers found that despite a healthy consumer appetite for providing feedback on future products, product professionals are still challenged with understanding what their customers really want. MakerSights, update to its AI-powered demand forecasting platform that integrates tightly with retail calendars to better streamline planning processes. This will improve product-focused teams’ access to historical sales data, customer feedback, internal perspectives, and other data streams when they’re evaluating new product viability. Findings pointed to the importance of customer feedback and adoption of new technologies (e.g., AI and 3D printing) in bridging the gap between understanding what consumers desire and increasing sales and brand affinity. Key Findings 82 percent of consumers surveyed reported that their purchases involve some online component (e.g., research, discovery, browsing, final transaction). 94 percent of consumers think technology has a positive impact on their relationship with retail brands. 75 percent of consumers use technology to interact with the retail brands they love. When asked what they find most valuable about technology in their shopping experience, consumers cited convenience (e.g., online shopping, buy online + pick up in-store purchase) at 53 percent, followed by speed (20 percent) and unique experiences (in-store and/or digital) at 10 percent. Consumer respondents reported that they value being engaged in the product creation and go-to-market process with 75 percent who indicated that being part of the process would impact future purchase decisions and brand loyalty. One of the toughest challenges product professionals face today when bringing new products to market is understanding what customers want, with 43 percent indicating this answer. 61 percent of product professionals surveyed indicated that embracing technology further is a “high” company priority. 81 percent of product professionals surveyed reported that new technologies (e.g., AI and automation) can help them do their job better. The top 3 technologies product professionals found most intriguing were 3D Printing (46 percent), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and predictive technologies (40 percent) and body scanning and fit technology (35 percent). When asked what steps would most benefit from new tools and technologies when bringing new products to market (design, creation, sales), 51 percent of product professionals selected product allocation, 44 percent selected pricing and 35 percent selected prototyping and sampling. However, survey takers harbor many common concerns regarding technology, and especially automation, in the workplace. One-third worry that tech tools could dilute creativity and a similar number (31%) fear they could be automated out of a job. “We are seeing major shifts in consumer expectations for how they want to communicate and transact with their favorite brands. We no longer live in a world where brands can dictate trends and consumers will wait to purchase what is made available to them,” said Matt Field, MakerSights president, and co-founder. Field believes retail has been the victim of underinvestment by tech giants but that’s been changing in recent times. Forward-thinking brands, “acknowledge that we live in the era of the empowered consumer” and it’s no longer sufficient to dictate to them what will sell when they have more options than ever before. Future winners harbor a “shared appreciation” for the value of actionable data that leads to decision confidence, he added.