Technology grows in importance for retailers

Innovations in information technology (IT) continue to transform the retail sector, with digital signage, payment processing, customer engagement and other solutions playing increasingly important functions, according to new research released today by CompTIA, the non-profit association for the IT industry,

Seventy-two percent of retailers surveyed rate technology as important to their business, CompTIA's Retail Sector Technology Adoption Trends Study reveals. That figure projects to increase to 83% by 2014.

A net 63% of retailers expect to increase IT spending in 2012. Large retailers expect to boost IT spending the most – 4.8%. For all firms, the planned increase is 4.2%.

One in three retailers currently uses digital signage, with an additional 20% intending to do so soon. Sales and promotional announcements and other direct engagement with customers are the most popular uses, cited by 71% of respondents.

Among all emerging technologies, adoption intent ranks highest for geo-location services. About one in five retailers now use geo-location technologies and other location-based solutions to reach customers.

"One reason for the strong interest may be in response to 'showrooming', where consumers visit a physical shop to assess a product but make the purchase from an online retailer to get the lowest possible price," says Tim Herbert, vice president, research CompTIA. "Location-based technologies can give retailers the tools to incentivize in-store purchases, such as special discounts for in-store customers who check-in via an app."

Retailers are experimenting with technologies that improve upon point of sale systems or leapfrog those systems entirely and leverage new platforms for payment processing. In the CompTIA study, 13% of retailers are currently using a mobile payment system. Another 19% plan to do so over the next 12 months.

Herbert noted that adoption of new technologies must be accompanied by a broad-based technology strategy that addresses foundational needs as well.