CompTIA: Technology increasingly important to retailers

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. — As technology is becoming crucial to retailers' businesses, innovations in information technology continue to transform the retail sector, with digital signage, payment processing, customer engagement and other solutions playing increasingly important functions, according to new research from CompTIA.

According to CompTIA's "Retail Sector Technology Adoption Trends" study, 72% of the 500 retailers surveyed rated technology as important to their business — a figure that is projected to increase to 83% by 2014 — however, a mere 7% of retailers reported being exactly where they want to be in using technology, while 29% rated themselves as being very close. In line with this, 63% of retailers said they expect to increase IT spending in 2012 (as the remaining 37% plan to cut back or hold the line), with large retailers expected to boost IT spending the most: 4.8%, on average. For all firms, the planned average increase is 4.2%.

"Reaching an optimal state of technology utilization is a high bar for almost any business to reach," CompTIA VP research Tim Herbert said. "But the vast majority of retailers clearly want to improve their technology utilization. For some this will involve adoption of new technologies; for others, improving the use of what they have in place."

New developments in the areas of digital signage, social engagement, mobility, payment processing and other areas haven given retailers new tools, capabilities and challenges, CompTIA. According to the study:

  • 1-in-3 retailers currently use digital signage, with an additional 20% intending to do so soon. Sales and promotional announcements and other direct engagement with customers are the most popular uses, cited by 71% of respondents;

  • About 1-in-5 retailers now use geo-location technologies and other location-based solutions to reach customers. One reason for the strong interest may be as a defensive threat against "showrooming," the practice where consumers visit a physical retail shop to assess a product but make the purchase from an online retailer to get the lowest possible price. "Location-based technologies can give retailers the tools to incentivize in-store purchases, such as special discounts for in-store customers who check-in via an app," Herbert said; and

  • 13% of retailers say they are currently using a mobile payment system, while another 19% plan to deploy the technology over the next 12 months. 

"Reliable wireless connectivity, robust security, quality end-points, data back-up and other IT basics cannot be overlooked by retailers anxious to add new capabilities," Herbert said.

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