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Customer Experience, Engagement Among Top Retail Initiatives: Study

Unified Commerce initiatives, such as enhancing customer engagement, collecting and analyzing customer behavior data, and personalizing the shopping experience, are top priorities for retailers, according to new research from Boston Retail Partners.

The 2014 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current state and planned initiatives, priorities, and future trends that relate to customer relationship management (CRM) practices associated with the retail industry’s shift to Unified Commerce.

“It was impressive to learn how many retailers are now focused on implementing the technologies to deliver Unified Commerce, but there is still a lot of work to be done to deliver these capabilities,” said Walter Deacon, Principal, Boston Retail Partners. “Delivering Unified Commerce requires seamless execution of the right strategy, technology, and business processes.”

One challenge, according to the report, is the convergence of retail and IT functions; while marketing has become the center of the Unified Commerce organization, it is often still on its own with regard to developing marketing technology strategies and evaluating and selecting technology, the study found. With the importance of multiple key marketing initiatives to achieve a seamless shopping experience, retailers need to examine ways to improve the unification of marketing and IT to successfully implement these projects. Many larger retailers have developed a role in the organization that helps bridge this gap – a senior-level role responsible for working with IT to develop a marketing technology strategy and evaluate and implement the technology.

“To deliver the seamless experience, retailers need to gather, analyze and disseminate customer, product, pricing and inventory data in real-time,” said Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners. “Leveraging technology, Unified Commerce provides the platform and real-time retail is key to delivering the experience. Retailers that successfully deliver Unified Commerce will understand and adopt a ‘unified’ approach for: strategic customer initiatives, technology, business processes and execution.”

Key survey findings include:

  • Ninety-five percent of the respondents indicated customer experience/customer engagement is one of their top three current initiatives.
  • Three percent have the ability to identify the customer when she walks in the store, and another 72 percent plan to implement this within five years.
  • Sixteen percent currently have real-time retail from POS (which offers the “Amazon” experience in the store) and another 63 percent plan to implement within five years.
  • Twenty-eight currently use mobile marketing and another 62 percent plan to implement this within five years (56 percent plan to implement mobile marketing within two years).
  • Eighty-one percent have implemented some type of customer database, typically as part of a CRM or loyalty platform.
  • Twenty-two percent of retailers have implemented real-time analytics and 61 percent plan to implement it within two years.
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