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New research highlighting technology focuses and challenges for retailers over the coming year, reveals that 69% of retailers believe that complex IT is delaying the speed at which they can trial or implement new store concepts and online innovations.

Almost half (46%) of respondents to the Daisy research pointed to the IT department as a blocker to innovation and productivity, while more than two thirds of retailers (67%) believed out dated IT systems made them less competitive against those retailers with more modern retail technologies.

“The importance of the store as part of a retailer’s future plans cannot be underestimated; more than half of the retailers we surveyed said improving the in-store experience was their biggest focus.

However, there is a danger that this could be undermined if technology infrastructures fail to catch up.” said James Pickering, retail specialist at Daisy Corporate Services. “The old approach of buying a piece of equipment and using it for 20 years is now making retailers less competitive, compared to those using technologies that are faster and more flexible.”

When retailers were asked where they expected to make major IT investments over the next 12 months, self-service portals were the most popular response (53%).

This was followed by digital signage (49%), website (49%) and data & analytics (48%). Digital signage is particularly interesting as it allows retailers to present real-time offers to shoppers. However, to fully capitalise on its benefits, it should be deployed alongside geo-location services; yet just 17% of respondents cited geo-location as an area of major investment.

Connectivity is crucial to ensuring the success of these investments. However, over three quarters (79%) of respondents believe that poor connectivity is holding back their organisations’ customer data and marketing activity. It is therefore unsurprising to see that the vast majority (92%) of retailers are looking to offer in-store Wi-Fi in the next 24 months.

Other highlights from the report include:

• In the wake of the increasing number of in-store data and analytics enhancements, nearly half (48%) of retailers stated they find the sheer volume and variety of customer and operational data overwhelming

• 96% of respondents said there has been a bigger business focus on security and compliance over the last 12 months

• 93% of those surveyed said technology investments had been funded by marketing/customer experience budgets, highlighting the rise of ‘shadow IT’ and the need for retailers’ IT departments to adapt to this shift rather than fight against it

“Bricks and mortar stores continue to evolve and are increasingly becoming a fulfilment and returns location for digital orders, as well as a place to become engaged and spend time with friends and family,” continued James Pickering.

“Ensuring the consumer’s in-store experience is both comfortable and feels consistent to the brand is vital for success. Our research shows that retailers’ marketing and customer experience teams are keen to innovate, but it is clear that they need the IT support to ensure that the future in-store customer experience is delivered on. At a time when events such as ‘Brexit’ are creating uncertainty in the market, retailers need to carefully consider the investment they make to improve the in-store experience so that it benefits both the business and consumer.”

The research was carried out by independent market research company Vanson Bourne. Respondents were comprised of 100 marketing and customer experience professionals from UK retailers with more than 500 employees.

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