Report Examines Retail CIOs’ Plans for “Digitizing the Store”

The retail landscape of 2014 is more digital than ever before, and integrating store and online operations is a key focus for retailers as e-commerce capable solutions increasingly replace  traditional point-of-sale and mobile technologies.

According to a new study conducted by the University of Arizona’s Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, the National Retail Federation and Demandware that polled more than 200 U.S. and European retail business technology executives, more than one-third (35.8%) of retailers surveyed are considering a single platform to manage interactions and transactions across all channels.

The Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences is part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“The future of retail will envelope business platforms that enhance the endless opportunities that new technologies offer, such as systems that allow retailers to provide seamless, relevant and personalized interactions for all of their customers,” said NRF Vice President of Retail Technologies Tom Litchford. “Retailers are working overtime to keep up with the expectations and demands of their savvy customers, and are intent on integrating the digital shopping experience like never before.”

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries.  

Specifically, a single platform would consolidate and manage key data elements and functionalities that historically have lived in multiple disparate systems to provide customers with consistent, on-brand shopping experiences no matter how or where they choose to interact with a retailer.  

Customer expectations are driving retailers to carefully examine their technology spend and investments. Over the next three years, 80% of retailers surveyed expect to maintain or increase store technology investments, and 70% say their organization is currently deploying or planning to refresh its existing software.

Additionally, while traditional point-of-sale software has been a mainstay for physical stores for decades, many retailers recognize e-commerce software as an emerging and logical approach to evolve and establish the sought-after single platform. According to the survey, nearly four in 10 (38%) surveyed plan to leverage an e-commerce software platform for their next generation store software - that is two times the number that plan to use traditional point-of-sale software.

As retailers evaluate options for a single transaction platform in the constantly changing retail landscape, technology vendors must heed the top four priorities defined by retailers that information technology must enable improving efficiency, attracting and retaining new customers, reducing costs and increasing enterprise growth.

Single Platform

  • Single view of customer information would enable retailers to more effectively communicate with their customers based on their preferences.
  • Commerce and content combined to streamline workflow and allow users to synchronize product data across digital channels with speed and accuracy.
  • Accurate inventory visibility in real time across multiple locations would enable key capabilities such as “buy online, pick up in store.”
  • Order status, history and details exposed to associates and customers from anywhere.
  • New prices and promotions are quickly configured for redemption based on channel, device or segment.

Key Technology Imperatives

The report analyzes next steps for retailers as they begin to take advantage of the technologies that will give them the ability to understand and meet consumer demand.

  • Understand the market and internal landscape by examining current technology solutions for both stores and e-commerce teams.
  • Establish a technology roadmap that will define success, support business initiatives and identify a path with clear milestones. As part of this effort, retailers should consider the cloud as a means to centrally manage consumer-facing systems. The survey found that 30% of retail executives are currently considering cloud options for their point-of-sale software applications. Retailers should also mobilize and empower store associates. According to the survey, two-thirds of retailers surveyed indicated that all of their district/regional managers and store managers will or already use mobile devices in the field over the next three years. A further recommendation of the report is that retailers invest in wireless to leverage initiatives such as guided selling.
  • Drive continual innovation by creating a culture that allows employees to test and learn quickly.
  • Extend capabilities to channels, devices and geographies so the business can innovate quickly.  

Through a strong partnership with business and industry, the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences’ retailing and consumer sciences program and the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing bring together the resources and expertise of academia and the retail industry with a shared goal of developing strong future retail professionals. Students have unique opportunities for research, career exploration and development, internships, professional in-class speakers and industry tours.

Date released: 
Feb 14 2014
Anita Bhappu