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Study: What’s keeping retail execs up at night?


Increased security risks tops the list of a new survey of 300 top global retail executives on the topics keeping them up at night.

According to “Finding Retail Growth: A View from the Corner Office,” sponsored by Demandware and conducted by Economist Intelligence Unit, retail leaders view increased security risks, the rise of globally competitive online marketplaces, shifts in consumer taste and increased globalization as the four most significant challenges impacting the industry.

Among the characteristics that executives view as most important to differentiating themselves in the face of these challenges, 60% pointed to “product excellence,” while 53% cited “seamless service” such as offering high-quality customer services and a unified experience across channels. Executives noted that differentiation has become more complex and difficult given rapid changes in customer behavior and transformation in technology.

Most respondents showed confidence in their ability to succeed in this disruptive landscape. Among those who see “fast fashion” as a key trend, for example, 76% said they were ready to compete in that space. And 70% of respondents expressed similar confidence in their ability to handle mass customization.

In particular, respondents identified as belonging to “high-performing” retailers sees trends as opportunities compared to their lower-performing counterparts. High performers, the data suggest, are particularly focused on growth rather than on simple survival.

For example, 69% of high performers see globalization as an opportunity, while only 43% of lower performers do so. Likewise, 52% of high performers view the rise of the global marketplace as an opportunity, while only 35% of the lower performers see opportunity there.

Also, the high performing segment more often focuses on three top growth initiatives: geographic expansion, strategic partnerships and new stores and formats. They are also far more likely to indicate an intention to increase tech spending (82%) than among lower performers (56%).

“This data tell us that the democratization of retail — with seemingly unlimited consumer access and control — has triggered the next wave of growth for those that adapt and change,” said Rob Garf, VP of industry insights at Demandware. “Retailers can no longer rely on more store locations and larger footprints for growth — they must embrace the reality of reaching customers wherever, whenever and however they demand.”

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