Customer engagement will rule the retail sector in 2012 as retailers wrestle with ever increasing amounts of customer data gathered across a proliferation of channels


This is one of the key findings of a survey of retail executives conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF) Foundation and tax and advisory firm KPMG LLP.


According to Mark Larson, global head of retail for KPMG, retailers have "vast amounts of customer data at their disposal to create unique consumer interactions," and the most successful players will leverage e-commerce and m-commerce solutions with traditional service methods.


Although 17% of the 247 retail executives surveyed already report using handheld technologies in-store, an additional 33% plan to make investments in mobile point-of-sale over the course of the year, the survey indicates. 


Research firm Gartner recently reported that global sales of mobile devices to end users increased 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 from one year earlier; smartphone sales increased by an overwhelming 47 percent for that same time period.


More than half of the NRF/KPMG retail survey respondents (53%) plan to implement a Web personalisation engine this year for location-based services and tracking. This indicates retailers have identified the need for synergy between the brick-and-mortar and mobile experience.


"Though customers are always a company's top priority, customer satisfaction will get a huge facelift this year," said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay, in a statement. He emphasised the "increase of brand visibility through cross-channel initiatives."


Other survey findings include:

  • Two in three of the retailers surveyed rank customer satisfaction as the top strategic initiative in 2012.

  • Leadership in the enterprise matters. More than nine out of 10 (91%) of respondents plan to focus on leadership assessment, development, and succession in 2012. 

  • Price optimisation is billed as important to more than one third of survey respondents, which is correlated to the rise of the multichannel experience. 

  • Online trumps in-store for marketers. NRF/KPMG data finds 81% have investment interest in-store compared to 86% online. 

Look out for our first Customer Engagement Club Directors Forum specifically on the retail sector in June this year.

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