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Most US and UK retailers agree that IT is becoming critical to operating retail branches, according to research.
A study by IT software provider Zynstra found 97% of businesses believe IT can be used as a strategic asset for operating stores as retailers are beginning to realise the role IT plays both on and offline.
Businesses hope to use technology to adapt stores to cope with future demands, with 70% of firms saying IT will help them reduce operating costs, speed up the roll-out of new stores and streamline IT management.
Nick East, CEO of Zynstra, said retailers are looking to technology to ensure stores can cope with growing customer demand and ensuring consumers get the experience they’re expecting.
“In the retail branch IT space, technology is playing an ever-more important role in helping businesses meet both current and future demand – not only from an operational point of view, but also in enhancing the customer experience,” said East.
“However, as the research points out, the application of this technology – or the readiness to adopt it – can be a challenge,” he added.
Retail is now embedded in the omni-channel era, where customers are interacting with brands across various channels – including mobile, web and in stores – while expecting a consistent experience across each.
Mobile payments capabilities were pegged as the most in-demand branch technology by 65% of retailers.
Other important technologies to implement, which focus more around growing customers demand, include self-checkout, scan as you shop, click and collect and customer analytics in-stores.
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Many consumers now expect a more personalised experience and want retailers to use information from across each channel to offer a better experience in stores.
But more than half of C-suite retail professionals said they do not have the proper support, resources or infrastructure to meet current demands for in-store technologies.
The technology industry is currently suffering from a lack of skilled workers, and across the UK many lack the basic digital skills needed to operate in the modern world.
Store associates are increasingly expected to use technologies as part of their day-to-day working practices, including tech such as point-of-sale systems, customer relationship management systems and shop floor mobile devices.
A lack of IT skills for in-branch staff was cited as one of the challenges 35% of retailers are currently facing, and the cost of managing remote systems as well as keeping systems updated and secure were also some of the problems retailers claimed to face.
Almost 40% of retailers said a lack of technical infrastructure was standing in the way of meeting the growing demands for in-store technology and improved experience, with many retailers also stating they had a lack of network connectivity and legacy infrastructure which is incompatible with new technologies.