Top 10 retail IT stories of 2011

Retail IT has been a fast-moving part of the technology scene in 2011 - we look back at the highlights of the year.

Retailers raced to develop multichannel strategies in 2011. Despite online spending in 2011 being down on 2010 at times, some retailers experienced double-digit web and mobile sales boosts after deploying mobile websites and new e-commerce platforms.

While retailers accepted the need to embrace mobile and web commerce, the lack of 4G broadband network dampened mobile sales opportunities.

The emergence of new technology platforms, such as near-field communications (NFC), television-based shopping and even augmented reality, means retailers will have to keep pace with consumer technology demand to match competitors’ sales figures into next year.

1.Retailers call for UK-wide 4G to boost m-commerce

The lack of capacity and bandwidth of public networks is limiting the opportunity to develop mobile commerce in the retail sector, according to industry experts. Research from BT Expedite earlier this year found UK retailers plan to spend almost a quarter of their IT budgets on implementing and improving e-commerce and mobile commerce platforms.

2. UK retailers to spend quarter of IT budget on e-commerce and mobile platforms

UK retailers plan to spend almost a quarter of IT budgets on implementing and improving e-commerce and mobile commerce platforms. The latest annual IT in Retail report by Martec International, sponsored by BT Expedite, shows the UK's top 100 retailers' IT investment in e-commerce and m-commerce has grown from 17% last year to 23% in 2011.

3. Debenhams grows web and mobile sales by 70% year-on-year

Retailer Debenhams has increased online and mobile sales over 70% year-on-year. In its financial results for the 2010-2011 financial year, the company said its multi-channel sales grew 71.9% over a 52-week period

4. Moss Bros expects £10m boost after introducing multi-channel customer system

Suit hire firm Moss Bros expects to make an extra £10m next year after implementing a central customer system across its 150 stores and online channels. The company currently has separate systems and databases for in-store and online customers, meaning customers were unable to order online then pick up their goods in-store. From November 2011, customers will be able to shop, order and collect across stores and online.

5. Simply Tap mobile payment service rolled out by UK retailers

The Mobile Money Network has launched instant mobile checkout, Simply Tap, in several retailers across the UK. Retailers Carphone Warehouse, Best Buy Europe, confectionary shop Thorntons, jeweller Goldsmiths, online retailer, fashion retailer Pretty Green and T-shirt maker are the first companies to roll out the technology.

6. Demand for retail IT staff leaps 45%

Demand for IT staff in the retail sector grew 45% in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009. According to the latest survey by Salary Services Limited (SSL) and, the number of permanent staff recruited by retail organisations grew 5% in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to the previous quarter, with 45% more vacancies being advertised than in the same period in 2009.

7. Near-field communications: Are UK retailers ready for Google's mobile wallet?

The Google Wallet is currently being piloted in New York and San Francisco and uses near field communication (NFC) to make secure payments by simply tapping a mobile phone on any Mastercard PayPass-enabled terminal. Orange and Barclaycard recently introduced the first NFC mobile payment system in the UK. O2 also plans to launch its own mobile wallet before the end of 2011.

8. Demand for e-commerce skills spikes 158% as retailers expand multi-channel services

Retail sector demand for IT professionals with e-commerce skills has more than doubled in the past year. Recruitment firm, ReThink Recruitment, received 564 requests for candidates with e-commerce skills in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to 218 in the same quarter in 2009.

9. Tesco trials in-store and online augmented reality technology

Tesco is trialing augmented reality (AR) technology in-store and online to change how customers interact with products. The technology, provided by Kishino, was piloted in selected Tesco stores in September 2011. Tesco will now trial the technology indefinitely in eight stores across the UK.

10. New Look increases sales by 45% after mobile site launch

Fashion retailer New Look has increased sales by 45% three months after the launch of its mobile commerce site. New Look launched its mobile commerce website in April 2011, which was built by Mobile Interactive Group (MIG). The retailer claimed mobile sales increased 500% year-on-year, with a 60% increase in orders and 45% increase in sales between April and July 2011.

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