Future of Retail Includes Digitalized Stores

The retail landscape of 2014 is more digital than ever before, and integrating store and online operations is a key focus for retailers as ecommerce capable solutions increasingly supplant traditional point-of-sale and mobile technologies.

According to a new study conducted by the NRF, Demandware and the University of Arizona that polled more than 200 U.S. and European retail business technology executives, more than one-third (35.8%) of retailers surveyed are considering a single platform to manage interactions and transactions across all channels.

“The future of retail will envelope business platforms that enhance the endless opportunities that new technologies offer, such as systems that allow retailers to provide seamless, relevant and personalized interactions for all of their customers,” said NRF Vice President of Retail Technologies Tom Litchford. “In this consumer-led industry, retailers are working overtime to keep up with the expectations and demands of their savvy customers, and are intent on integrating the digital shopping experience like never before.”

Specifically, a single platform would consolidate and manage key data elements and functionalities that historically have lived in multiple disparate systems to provide customers with consistent, on-brand shopping experiences no matter how or where they choose to interact with a retailer.  Differences between the current process of multiple systems and a single platform include:

Multiple Systems Single Platform
Customer information managed in applications by channel Single view of customer information would enable retailers to more effectively communicate with their customers based on their preferences
Product images, attributes and data created managed in silos, often not available to store associates Commerce and content combined to streamline workflow and allow users to synchronize product data across digital channels with speed and accuracy
Inventory dedicated to specific channels with limited capabilities to fulfill orders from other channels Accurate inventory visibility in real time across multiple locations would enable key omnichannel capabilities such as “buy online, pick up in store”
Limited visibility from one channel to another during the order lifecycle Order status, history and details exposed to associates and customers from anywhere
Prices and promotions are specific to channel New prices and promotions are quickly configured for redemption based on channel, device or segment


Customer expectations are driving retailers to carefully examine their technology spend and investments. Over the next three years, eight in 10 (80%) retailers surveyed expect to maintain or increase store technology investments, and seven in 10 (70%) say their organization is currently deploying or planning to refresh its existing software. Additionally, while traditional point-of-sale software has been a mainstay for physical stores for decades, many retailers recognize ecommerce software as an emerging and logical approach to evolve and establish the sought-after single platform. According to the survey, nearly four in 10 (38%) surveyed plan to leverage an e-commerce software platform for their next generation store software – that is two times the number that plan to use traditional point-of-sale software.

“It’s no surprise that retailers are increasingly looking to leverage e-commerce technology as the single platform for all commerce,” said Demandware Vice President of Industry Strategy and Insights Rob Garf. “This provides retailers a great opportunity to reduce costs, improve operational efficiencies, and enhance the overall customer shopping experience in a dynamic consumer environment.”

As retailers evaluate options for a single transaction platform in the constantly changing retail landscape, technology vendors must heed the top four priorities defined by retailers that information technology must enable: 1.) improving efficiency, 2.) attracting and retaining new customers, 3.) reducing costs, and 4.) increasing enterprise growth.

Key Technology Imperatives

The report analyzes next steps for retailers as they begin to take advantage of the technologies that will give them the ability to understand and meet consumer demand.

  • Understand the market and internal landscape by examining current technology solutions for both stores and ecommerce teams.
  • Establish a technology roadmap that will define success, support business initiatives and identify a path with clear milestones. As part of this effort, retailers should:
    • Consider the cloud as a means to centrally manage consumer-facing systems, among other potential benefits. The survey found that three in 10 (30%) retail executives are currently considering cloud options for their point-of-sale software applications.
    • Mobilize and empower store associates. According to the survey, two-thirds of retailers surveyed indicated that all of their district/regional managers and store managers will or already use mobile devices in the field over the next three years.
    • Invest in wireless to leverage initiatives such as guided selling, clientelling and endless aisle.
  • Drive continual innovation by creating a culture that allows employees to test and learn quickly.
  • Extend capabilities to channels, devices and geographies so the business can innovate quickly.

About the survey

The National Retail Federation teamed with research partner University of Arizona and industry partner Demandware to survey more than 200 retail business and technology executives in the US and Europe to quantify the convergence of POS and ecommerce technology and its impact on digitizing the store.

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