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Retail Must Reinvent Itself for the Omnichannel Future

By Michael Friedenberg
March 31, 2014 09:48 AM ET

CIO - If ever there was an industry ready for a massive technology shake-up, it's retail. Consider the confluence of pressures it faces: customer showrooming, evolving payment ecosystems, a meteoric rise in online shopping and the constant danger of being the target of the next high-profile security breach.

No wonder IDC analyst Robert Parker recently predicted that retail must "reinvent itself" by 2017 "as omnichannel leaders reach for customer relationship, relevancy, and reciprocity." I rarely dive into vertical industries in this column (in consideration of the breadth of our readership), but these trends affecting retail today are bound to manifest themselves in almost every other industry, especially those directly serving consumers.

In light of these likely developments, I offer up a selection of our sister company IDC's retail predictions for 2014, along with my advice and observations in parentheses.

  • Fast followers are chasing the top 50 global retailers as they transform in-store, mobile and e-commerce channels, as well as supply chains, merchandising and marketing for omnichannel customers. (Put anytime-anywhere customers at the core of your business, too.)
  • Business transformation will drive retail enterprise software investments to 9 percent compound annual growth rates through 2015. (Connect your systems from the back office to customer front lines.)
  • By 2017, marketing and advertising tech investment will increase by 50 percent. (CIOs, make sure you're tight with your CMO partners.)
  • Retailers will rethink big data and analytics projects this year as up to 30 percent of those projects last year fell short of their goals. (Be sure you're asking the right questions before investing in big data projects.)
  • Emerging consumer privacy concerns will force 50 percent of early adopters to reconsider the wisdom of offering hyper-personalized promotions by 2015. (Don't underestimate the chilling effect of high-profile data breaches and abuses.)
  • Retailers will double down on the rate of supply chain investments this year. (Managing the supply chain and improving customer engagement will be key business battlegrounds in the years to come.)

These are certainly exciting (even nerve-wracking) times for retail. How many of these predictions seem likely to come true for your industry? Write to me at the address below and share your thoughts.

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Read more about retail in CIO's Retail Drilldown.

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