Technology should be used by retailers to enhance shoppers’ experience and better understand their needs, the World Retail Congress in Barcelona hears.

Forrester Research principal analyst George Lawrie said that retailers should create “experienced based differentiation”, using technology to enhance the “theatre” of retail across sales channels – whether in-store or online.

Retailers need to respond to customers’ missions, rather than become over-focused on merchandise he maintained.

“You need to think less about range and store location and more about the problem the customer wants to solve,” he argued.

Mark Dorgan, European retail partner at Fujitsu, said that retailers need to look at the shopper’s journey from the moment they make a decision to buy, through product research to purchase.

They both agreed that technology and the internet has allowed customers to become well-informed ahead of purchase, but that retailers should use such technology to influence consumers’ decisions during this process.

Dorgan cited the iPod as an example of a technology that is intuitive to use and said every retailer’s ambition should be to make their customer-facing technology – whether web sites or self-checkout devices – as easy to use.

He said: “We should be asking every time we roll out a technology product: where is the iPod in this?”

Lawrie said that in future personal devices, such as mobiles, would become a key part of the shopping experience and form part of a single experience chain from researching online to buying in store.

Dorgan agreed and said such technology was already available and that “the only obstacle [for retailers] was their imagination.”