Retail Insight from our friends at RSR Research

Intel recently published a thought piece entitled, Envisioning Technology’s Role In Transforming Retail’s Future. The article led off with this: “Developments in technology keep accelerating, and few industries are being pressured to change as quickly and completely as retail. The astounding speed and power of shoppers’ computing devices are turning shopping into a constant, instantaneous activity. Meanwhile, merchants are relying on new technology to meet customer expectations and to strengthen their businesses – or at least help them to keep pace.”

Let that sink in for a second: shopping has become a constant, instantaneous activity. Just ten years ago, that notion would have been laughable to most retail business executives. Consumers didn’t physically shop every waking hour of the day. But of course, that was before the iPhone and its Android-enabled competitors blew away the “four walls” of the store by making anywhere/anytime shopping a reality for consumers the world over.
Fast forward from about 2010 to today, and one routinely hears business executives talk about esoteric concepts like “the Cloud”, “APIs”, “SaaS”, “big data”, and “responsive design”, without really knowing exactly what they all mean beyond the fact that they are “necessary to enable the Brand”. These are truly “IT” concepts that require a tech-focused corporate mindset. And yet retailers continue to give us signals via our benchmark research studies that IT is constrained. Those signals can be seen in our soon-to-be-published study on Mobile in Retail. In that study, we found that the top three inhibitors to making an effective mobile offering available to consumers and employees are (1) not enough IT resources, (2) difficulty getting more IT resources, and (3) budget issues.

And there you have it: the business equivalent of a deadly embrace. But getting back to what Intel made so startlingly clear: shopping has become a constant, instantaneous activity. Obviously, since consumers don’t live 24X7 in physical stores, that means they are “living” in the digital space – and that means IT is responsible for ensuring that the digital store stays open and the digital lights stay on, all the time. That in turn means that whereas “service level management” used to be strictly an IT operational issue, it is now at the heart of the Brand offering.

That should be making Retail business executives squirm, because in the past IT service level management was strictly “back office”. Now it is front-and-centre for consumers.
So retailers have to think of their digital selling environment, and particularly their mobile environment, as truly mission critical, and invest accordingly.

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