IT needs to improve network infrastructure for future of retail

IT departments need to up their game and improve networks for the retail sector which is on the brink of massive technology change

IT departments need to up their game and improve corporate networks in the retail sector to make the most of massive technology changes, according to research.

Retailers are experiencing demand from customers for IT services including free Wi-Fi in-store, personalised offers, mobile point-of-sale and smart barcodes.

But the study by Virgin Media Business warned that IT managers need to improve their network infrastructures or retailers will not be able to take advantage of new technologies.

Retailers are also becoming more aware of the need to capture customer data. As part of the "connected store" experience, retailers want to learn more about their customers and offer more digital ways to make the consumer journey easier.

Creating an "omnichannel" shopping experience is top of many retailers' agendas. Omnichannel allows a customer to shop seamlessly across online, mobile and other digital channels as well as encouraging them inside physical stores.

Duncan Higgins, marketing director at Virgin Media Business, said the shopping experience is changing the game for suppliers, manufacturers and retailers as digital expectations become higher.

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“Shoppers still want the 'touch and feel' of a physical store, but also an interactive, multichannel environment,” he said.

“The most successful retailers will be those who can see through the complexity and seize the technology-driven opportunities that lie ahead.”

Virgin’s 30:30 Vision project spoke to business and technology communities to hear what their ideas were for the future of retailing. Brands including McArthurGlen Group, All Saints and BuzzFeed took part in the survey and submitted future visions.

Smart codes which provide information on products in-store were highlighted as one technology that would help the retail market. Retailers are finding that one of the biggest complaints from shoppers is the lack of information about products, and smart barcodes which customers scan with their own mobile devices could solve this problem.

Other ideas shared by retailers included voice-operated shopping apps, interactive virtual mirrors, and mobile data capture.

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