Where are retailers investing when it comes to technology in 2017? A recent Technology Trends Study by Gartner and RIS News points to unified commerce, personalization and – in the hottest spot – customer engagement. In fact, “increasing customer engagement” shot up the list from its #7 spot in 2016 to the top strategy chosen by retailer respondents this year.
The RIS News/Gartner report shines a light on the intensifying value retailers place on connecting with customers and delivering a unified omnichannel shopping experience. This lines up with what we’ve observed since the start of the year, beginning with the 2017 NRF Show & Expo where we saw the theme of stores taking on more responsibility when it comes to executing sales that originate elsewhere.
Forrester also touched on this theme recently in its report, Hot or Hype – The Most Important Retail Technologies for 2017, noting the following advice for retailers: “Focus on tech that creates personal customer connections, reduces pain points along the shopper’s journey, and optimizes operational efficiencies.” Forrester also points out that consumers have the high expectation to easily move from a retailer’s stores to its web and mobile channels and back.
The Store is Not Dead
It’s no surprise that everyone is focused on digital commerce initiatives. Yet what’s interesting is the emphasis this year on investments to advance the in-store experience. For example, mobile POS ranked highly in terms of investment priority. This is an area that didn’t even make the list in 2016. Employee engagement also ranked as a leading retailer concern. Bob Hetu, research director with Gartner and the principal analyst for the RIS News Study, notes, “It’s a good reminder for multichannel retailers that stores are a point of differentiation.” Hetu adds that retailers demonstrate a major emphasis in 2017 for answering the question, “What can we do with stores?”
Whether offline or online, retailers face the expectation to produce consistent, interactive and dynamic product content in a self-serve manner for personalized experiences.
As the report notes, “Regardless of the number of retail channels a retailer uses, the reality is that all customer-facing processes must be unified in order to deliver an exceptional shopper experience.”
Does Your Retail Technology Investment Strategy Stack Up?
From social media analytics to CRM and personalization, retail CIO’s certainly face a tall order when it comes to selecting investment priorities. Yet, as Hetu concludes: “All technologies contributing to the successful execution of a customer journey should allow customers to start, stop, continue and complete their shopping journey anywhere within or outside the retailer’s landscape. To enable this, the retailer’s IT architecture must be open and flexible enough to seamlessly deliver customer experiences on a unified retail commerce platform.”
Ultimately, a unified retail platform seems to be top of mind for retail technology experts and analysts. Retailers are listening, and many are working on strategies to get there, like investing in a solution capable of transforming product data and information into persuasive content that drives higher sales and competitive strengths across channels.
So, where is your retail technology strategy headed? Talk to us about your Product Information Management (PIM) challenges, and how you envision creating a unified commerce experience for your customers.
Retail Technology Study: Reconnecting with the Consumer, RIS News/Gartner 2017