Retailers Favoring Use of IT to Improve Customer Service, Survey Says

Jun 12, 2003
Rick Moss

By Rick Moss

A new study conducted by RIS News, along with Gartner, and sponsored by Lawson
Software, indicates a retail community that is broadly re-energized in many
areas of retail technology development. In one portion of the survey, retailers
voice a newfound commitment to invest technology funds to get them closer to
the customer.

When asked how they can best grow their businesses, 43 percent of retailers
surveyed see changing their value proposition to consumers as most important,
versus 33 percent who would grow through the building of new stores, and 13
percent through acquisition. Said Andrew Gaffney, group publisher, RIS News,
“Retailers are discovering that using technology to keep customers’ loyalty
and meet their increasingly sophisticated demands is a helping them stay competitive.”

Other survey results show that retailers’ primary concern is on improving service
for the time-starved customer:

  • In the next 2 years, 60 percent of the retailers plan to use knowledge management
    software solutions to make personalized customer data available to store personnel.

  • Sixty-three percent will improve their loyalty program data analysis to
    flag “best” customers and their likes and product preferences.

  • As a result, more than one-third of retailers will have behavior analysis
    projects underway by year’s end to pinpoint improving customer relationships.

On the challenge of how to capitalize on the mountains of data generated by
frequent shopper programs, most respondents seemed to be making solid moves
toward data warehousing and analytics implementations.

  • Eighty-two percent of retailers (sales of $1 billion or greater) have or
    will implement data warehousing by the end of this year.

  • Sixty-two percent of retailers will implement business analytics programs
    by 2005.

The survey respondents were 221 senior retail executives from a cross-section
of retail segments. Fifty-one percent of the respondents have C-level or VP
titles. Twenty-three percent of the sample is over $1 billion in annual sales
revenue; 8 percent between $500 to $1 billion; 11 percent between 250 and 500
million; 16 percent between 50-250 million and 42 percent under $50 million.

Moderator’s Comment: It sounds like these retailers
are “stoked”. Are we on the verge of a golden age of retail technology?

Granted, this news release from the researchers and sponsor
is somewhat partisan. The title almost gave me goosebumps: “Retailers Embrace
Technology and Increase IT Spending as a Competitive Differentiator; Enthusiasm
for Technology Seen as Shift toward Retail Renaissance.” But we do seem to have
turned a corner. While the media seems to be unable to shake their post-bubble,
luddite mood, savvy retailers have honed their techno-strategies and have learned
much about where to invest effectively. So yes…I do believe we may soon
be actually seeing some revolutionary results from all this amazing number-crunching,
and the consumer will be the greatest beneficiary. [Rick
Moss – Moderator

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