Retailers not spending enough on IT infrastructure

Retailers are prioritizing customer-facing programs over strategic infrastructure improvements, choosing to invest in data capture for marketing purposes and pricing programs over mobile platforms and improved delivery.

The 2014 Holiday Retail Audit from eBay Enterprise surveyed more than 1,000 e-commerce and marketing professionals from retailers with revenues ranging from $5 million to $250 million. The survey examined planned investments in retail infrastructure ahead of the holiday season, and the results showed that retailers are heading into the holidays with a focus on being price-competitive with online retailers and reaching shoppers with targeted marketing, rather than a focus on creating stronger mobile platforms and optimzing delivery.

While a majority of retailers identified m-commerce as a top trend, less than 68 percent of retailers surveyed have no plans to invest in new or existing mobile programs in advance of the holiday season.

Just one in three online retailers cited mobile commerce as an investment priority for the 2014 holidays, ranking ninth.

"As mobile purchasing continues to grow exponentially, a lack of investment in mobile commerce this holiday season provides retailers who have made this a priority an opportunity to capture significant market share if they can provide the best mobile experience," said Mark Lavelle, senior VP of global product, eBay Enterprise.

And while retailers view Amazon as a direct competitor, those surveyed still failed to prioritize investment.

Fifty-one percent of retailers viewed Amazon as a direct competitor, citing the company as having a perceived competitive edge in m-commerce (60 percent), inventory (56 percent), shipping (54 percent) and returns (44 percent). But still, retailers prioritized price, customer service and marketing in place of infrastructure investments capable of increasing shipping speed and optimizing fulfillment.

"Retailers have an opportunity to win this battleground by increasing their delivery speed," said Tom Barone, head of eBay Enterprise omnichannel operations in North America. "Multichannel retailers can optimize their brick-and-mortar locations as distribution points to fulfill orders closest to customer location, reducing shipping times and cost through inventory and order management solutions. Retailers have implemented these omnichannel solutions in as little as 99 days, experiencing greater customer satisfaction, improved margins and increased sales."

Global expansion is high on retailers' proriority lists, with 45 percent of large online retailers detailing plans to invest in global expansion for the 2014 holidays. However, the investment priorities contradicted market opportunity. According to the survey, top markets for global e-commerce expansion included Canada (23 percent), the U.K. (16 percent), China (15 percent), Australia (7 percent) and Mexico (5 percent).

Large online retailers cited a lack of reliable local partners, diminished market demand and hampered inventory capabilities as top barriers for pursuing new global opportunities.

Retailers identified a renewed focus in marketing efforts, investing in tools with greater data capture and analytical capabilities, including social media (29 percent), email promotions (22 percent) and search engine optimization (12 percent). These investments also help retailers feel better prepared to capture in-store consumer data (87 percent). Online and in-store data analysis empowers retailers to create more meaningful customer interactions that drive online and offline purchasing.

Security is also top-of-mind for large-scale online retailers, with 65 percent reporting heightened concern about data security at their company. While 77 percent have not experienced a security breach to date, recent breaches at Home Depot (NYSE:HD), Target (NYSE:TGT), Michaels and P.F. Changs have increased retailer and consumer awareness of the risks.

"The 2014 Holiday Retail Audit underlined the short-term focus retailers have on investing in tools that allow them to compete with their peers," said Steve Denton, VP of marketing solutions at eBay Enterprise. "Nimble retailers need to be laser-focused on consumer data as they head into executing holiday strategy in order to map investments back to ROI while maintaining strong margins. There is still time to implement display, retargeting, attribution and social solutions capable of ensuring that a retailer's brand message reaches new and lost prospects with committment to the consumer's privacy."

For more:
-See this eBay Enterprise report

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