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NRF report: Retailers to invest in customer engagement

Washington, D.C. -- A report released Wednesday by the National Retail Federation and KPMG found that retailers in 2012 will invest heavily in IT, e-commerce, customer service and mobile platforms in order to build customer engagement.

The report, “Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2011, Forecasts for 2012," polled 247 retail executives from various sectors regarding their top strategic initiatives for 2012.

Findings showed that, nearly 67% of companies rank customer satisfaction as the top strategic initiative for 2012 and, similarly, 82% say customer service strategies will be their top priority in the coming year, up from 75% last year.

“Retailers are poised to enter 2012 with a renewed focus on building up and building out many of their most important operations, hoping to establish a new sense of brand loyalty with all of their customers,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

“From increasing their brand visibility through cross-channel initiatives to providing unique, personalized shopping experiences through every channel, retailers have indicated 2012 is all about the customer,” Shay said.

A major shift found by the report was that, for the first time in the survey’s 10-year history, retailers’ websites or online channels eclipsed physical stores as the top channel for marketers (81% for brick-and-mortar versus 86% online). As such, retail executives say they will invest in programs that directly resonate with today’s shopper. According to the survey, 85% will emphasize increasing online sales, up from 83% in 2011, and 38% will have a greater focus on increasing m-commerce sales over the next year, up from 29% in 2011.

Additionally, more than half (53%) of those surveyed say they will specifically focus on web personalization engines in the coming months, which includes such enhancements as location-based services and tracking methods unique to shopping habits.

To better serve mobile-savvy shoppers in their stores, retailers also stated enhancing handheld technologies, such as mobile point-of-sale, will be a core focus over the next 18 months. While 17% already use mobile POS technologies in their store, an additional 33% indicate they plan further POS investments during that timeframe.

Social media is also becoming more important for retailers, with 45% of companies are actively developing widgets, gadgets or advanced links that can be incorporated with their social media pages, and another 41% planning to develop these items over the next 18 months.

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