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IT back in fashion T

his time last year, most minds were still fi rmly set on saving money and stripping cost out of retail operations in the face of unprecedented economic uncertainty. As we close out the fi rst quarter of this year, I detect a positive shift in attitudes towards retail IT spending. Coming hot on the heels of all the major regional retail technology trade shows, there seems to be more willingness to look at how IT can deliver effi ciencies in the back offi ce and multichannel innovation front-of-house. As reported in the last, January/February 2012

issue of Retail Technology magazine, National Retail Federation (NRF) annual expo and convention in New York this January was extremely well attended. At the event a number of vendors told me that demand was high for instore technology that could bridge the gap between ‘clicks and mortar’ and capitalise on the explosion in consumer smartphone penetration. The difference between this and the last few year’s shows was that retailers weren’t just browsing, they were there to buy. This is why our annual ‘multichannel retailing’

Member of the Audit Bureau of Circulations 7,092 Jan 10 – Dec 10

ISSN No 1359-0146

feature (from page 12) will hopefully provide a timely guide to what trends technologies are likely to shape the shopping journeys and supply chain processes across stores, online, mobile, call centre, catalogue and every other retail channel. The technologies that emerged as having biggest return on investment included the integration of electronic point-of-sale and online systems to facilitate ‘click & collect’ services; new online customer communication features, like dynamic media, live chat and sales feedback mechanisms; and, of course, retail management software suites for joining back-offi ce processes up around the customer experience. It may, however, be easier to justify IT spending on customer-facing systems than ones that safeguard the bottom line. But again, the issue’s annual loss prevention and security feature (from page 21) proves that a number of savvy retailers see the protection of sensitive data as not only protecting their business, but also strategically protecting customer relationships by safeguarding the integrity of their brand. These retailers also recognise that, as more consumers embrace technology during the shopping journey, cyber thieves and fraudsters are determinedly coming up with more sophisticated ways to steal from or compromise consumers and retailers alike. While IT security spending may never fall out of fashion thanks to security and privacy regulations from the likes of the Payment Card Industry and European Union, the strength of implementation examples in this year’s loss

prevention and security feature also demonstrates how retailers can no longer afford to neglect IT-enabled operational and support systems. This was also evidenced by the strong attendance at the second major regional retail IT event this year – EuroCIS in Düsseldorf (Events, page 11). Again attendance was up and retailers seemed eager to learn best practice from other successful implementations and also put these learnings into practice with new IT investments of their own. Knowing how busy most of Retail Technology’s

readers usually are, we try to fi lter the important deals and report on the trends from major trade shows, so you don’t have to. But the upcoming second Retail Business Technology Expo, taking place in Earls Court next week (13 to 14 March) is local and vast enough not to miss. As one of the show’s media partners, this issue of Retail Technology also features a preview of just some of the hundreds of exhibitors setting out their stalls at the UK retail IT trade show so you can go forearmed to get the best out of the biggest UK gathering of retail technologists of the year so far. Only time will tell whether all the positive discussions, pilots and IT implementations highlighted here will prove successful. But I think retailers are realising that they will never know until they try. And it is only those retailers that were able to optimise existing IT systems to weather the worst of ongoing economic storm that are now in a position to invest and innovate on top of leaner and more effi cient operations. The difference nowadays is that, if they don’t try and move more quickly to respond to rapidly evolving customer demand, chances are much higher that they will get left behind.

Miya Knights Editor

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