More than half of retailers set technology as priority

Technology makes us dumb
Retailers are prioritizing technology, but are they willing to take the necessary steps?

Technology will be a priority for 53% of retailers in 2018. According to research by software provider Zynstra, the priority is reflected in the admittance that only 27% of retailers feel they have the infrastructure to support plans to improve the customer in-store experience. 

Another one-fifth of those surveyed said they had to delay or outright reject an in-store application because of IT limitations, costs or concerns. Only one-fourth of retailers said they in-store IT allowed them to regularly improve the in-store experience. 

So what will it take for these retailers to change their tune and make the investment? According to Nick East, CEO of Zynstra, the real catalyst for investment will be the pressure for retailers to reduce costs and achieve frictionless sales.

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"This is an urgent priority as it will help elevate margins. In 2018, retailers will look to revamp their store IT estate to provide higher levels of shopping convenience while delivering immediate cost savings to the business—particularly through a reduced bill of materials and support overhead. One could ask, given market conditions, if not 2018, then when?" East told FierceRetail. 

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Other technical priorities offered for 2018 were improving operational efficiencies, 44%; enhancing security and compliance of in-store IT, 42%; in-store innovation, 34%; mitigating the risk of end-of-life technology, 27%; and bringing all channels onto one platform, 17%. 

It seems retailers were also highly interested in virtual POS systems, with 23% of retailers saying they were already using it while 26% said they would adopt it as soon as possible. An additional 21% said they would adopt in the next two years.

So where do retailers begin? Very few are willing to take the all around approach of a major IT overhaul. East recommended that instead, they take an incremental approach to the challenge, using one initiative for shopping convenience, such as click and collect, or one opportunity for cost saving. 

For example, a retailer could use an infrastructure overhaul as an opportunity to bring in a new architecture—even if it initially only supports a single initiative, the company can gradually migrate other apps and services to the new architecture over time. 

"There is no need for a clean sweep," he said. "The most important decision is to avoid repeating past mistakes and implementing device specific services that just add to existing cost and complexity and don’t provide a platform for future development."

Moving into 2018, old IT solutions will hold stores back from delivering efficient and innovative customer services. So the challenge, according to East, will be getting that infrastructure in place, and then looking to the apps that can change the business.