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Retailers say e-commerce and mobile is now the top investment priority

The latest annual IT in Retail report which researched the UK’s leading 100 retailers has revealed that for the first time ever, top retailers’ priority for IT investment is e-commerce and mobile commerce.

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Retailers say e-commerce and mobile is now the top investment priority

The latest annual IT in Retail report which researched the UK’s leading 100 retailers has revealed that for the first time ever, top retailers’ priority for IT investment is e-commerce and mobile commerce.

The research by specialist retail consulting company Martec International and sponsored by BT Expedite, found that e-commerce and m-commerce is the main investment priority, growing from 17% last year to 23% this year. This overtook investment in store systems, which has been the focus for the previous nine years.

The research found that 16% of the retailers already use m-commerce, a significant increase from 5% last year, with a further 12% planning to take it up. 

Some of the leading 100 retailers said the investment was being used to set up a transactional web site for the first time – 24% of the top 100 do not have one, although 5% are planning to set one up.  For others, e-commerce was an investment priority to improve the customer experience, add more products, ranges or brands, internationalise their web site and improve multichannel integration.    

Investment in new or replacement head office systems was also up, with 25% of retailers planning to replace merchandise management systems, an increase of 8% over last year.  15% said they intended to replace their merchandise planning systems and 6% were implementing one for the first time.

Brian Hume, managing director, Martec International, said: “Many retailers are struggling to keep pace with the rapidly changing requirements of multichannel operations with legacy systems slowing them down. Replacing these systems is vital for gaining competitive advantage. Consumers expect a seamless experience across all channels and retailers need to offer a single stock pool that can be accessed from all customer touch points, such as smartphones to check stock availability, pricing and product information.”
 
The research found that some retailers were postponing EPOS replacement plans due to the recession and e-commerce being a higher priority. Those who were planning to do so had fallen to 15% this year compared to 23% last year.  For most, the investment in store systems was because of an EPOS replacement project, but others were adding mobile technology in store or systems to improve the customer experience with mobile tills and enhanced functionality or kiosks.     
    
Richard Lowe, CEO, BT Expedite, said “Retailers are generally holding IT spending constant again in 2011, but there’s a positive indication of an increase of retailers planning to upgrade key business systems to keep pace with the continuing shift to multichannel retailing, as well as the growth of mobile internet access and m-commerce. If this happens IT spend next year is likely to increase, but is dependent on both local, and increasingly, international economic factors.”

The study based on primary research, was carried out in the spring and early summer of 2011, on the systems used by the UK’s 100 leading retailers.  Martec International carried out a detailed telephone interview with the IT Director or senior IT Manager for each company covered in the report. 

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