Customer Experience, Service Top of Mind for Retailers

Customer engagement will rule the retail sector in 2012, according to a recent survey of retail executives conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF) Foundation and tax and advisory firm KPMG LLP.

According to Mark Larson, global head of retail for KPMG, retailers have "vast amounts of customer data at their disposal to create unique consumer interactions," and the most successful players will leverage e-commerce and m-commerce solutions with traditional service methods.

Although 17 percent of the 247 retail executives surveyed already report using handheld technologies in-store, an additional 33 percent plan to make investments in mobile point-of-sale over the course of the year, the survey indicates. Research firm Gartner recently reported that global sales of mobile devices to end users increased 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 from one year earlier; smartphone sales increased by an overwhelming 47 percent for that same time period.

More than half of the NRF/KPMG retail survey respondents—53 percent—plan to implement a Web personalization engine this year for location-based services and tracking. This indicates retailers have identified the need for synergy between the brick-and-mortar and mobile experience.

"Though customers are always a company's top priority, customer satisfaction will get a huge facelift this year," said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay, in a statement. He emphasized the "increase of brand visibility through cross-channel initiatives."

Other survey findings include:

  • About 67 percent of retailers surveyed rank customer satisfaction as the top strategic initiative in 2012.
  • Leadership in the enterprise matters. More than nine out of 10—91 percent—of respondents plan to focus on leadership assessment, development, and succession in 2012.
  • Price optimization is billed as important to more than one third of survey respondents, which is correlated to the rise of the multichannel experience.
  • Online trumps in-store for marketers. NRF/KPMG data finds 81 percent have investment interest in-store compared to 86 percent online.

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