Just 27% of 308 U.S. and U.K. retail decision makers questioned in a recent survey described their IT infrastructures as fully able to support plans to improve the in-store customer experience, according to a report commissioned by retail software provider Zynstra.
A further 20% said they had to delay or reject a roll out of new in-store applications as a result of IT limitations, costs or concerns, and 98% of retailers said they would roll out new applications and services if it was easier to do so.
In addition, 35% of retailers said they found delivering consistency of in-store versus online experience difficult because of It challenges, while 35% also identified the lack of local store IT skills as an issue, according to the survey results.
It is worth noting that despite apparent IT challenges, retailers surveyed still feel pretty good about the customer experience efforts they are making around seasonal events like Black Friday and Christmas. About 43% felt they were very prepared when it came to the roll out of seasonal promotions, while 39% felt very prepared to deal with the roll out of customer experience applications during this time.
If you are going to get something right as a retailer, get the holidays right. Often, more attention and testing goes into the highest-profile holiday-related projects than those rolling out at other times during the year, though it is still worth wondering if those surveyed were honest about their holiday preparations or just saying what we (and they) want to hear.
Retailers are always trying to create a better customer experience, but much of that effort can go to waste — turning a potential plus into a minus — if the IT infrastructure can’t support it. That means efforts made to endear customers to brands could end up frustrating them so much that they shop elsewhere. This is an especially critical error at a time when many retailers are betting their entire survival on such customer experience improvements.
Money seems to be a big part of the problem. Budget was cited in the survey by 48% as being a major hurdle to enabling new applications and services. Maintaining a consistent experience between in-store and online shopping sessions is also particularly challenging — yet consistency and seamlessness between these experiences is a must for retailers to live up to their omnichannel visions.
Among other survey responses, 49% of decision makers said they were easily able to make changes and upgrades across all branches, while 32% said they actually managed each store as a separate IT installation. Those who identified lack of local level IT skills as an issue might be onto something. Perhaps retailers need to be more realistic about the IT planning, investment and deployment efforts necessary the local market and store level first.