Consumers interact with the retail world on a daily basis. Whether browsing the Web for a new sweater, or heading to the grocery store for a loaf of bread, shoppers take to numerous channels to explore their options and complete their transactions. But, as purchase habits continue to evolve, so must the retail landscape and the way brands engage with these connected consumers.

Infogroup Targeting Solutions and Retail TouchPoints' recent "Breaking Through Customer Engagement Barriers with Innovative Marketing and Technologies" report explores the current state of retail and how companies plan to hone their strategies to meet the needs of shoppers in the future. The study, which polled 100 retail executives, focuses on the use of technology and data in marketing and sales, highlighting goals and expectations for 2018. While most retailers plan to integrate mobile technologies to a greater extent, the majority anticipates an increased concentration on developing the customer experience, for most recognize that this component will be an essential differentiator in the coming years.

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The following statistics examine what the retail landscape looks like today and where executives expect their companies to be in five years: 

  • Overall, 84 percent of retailers struggle with combining and leveraging customer data across multiple channels, with 47 percent claiming to be particularly concerned with utilizing the data they already have.
  • While retailers are committed to marketing across all channels, brick-and-mortar stores continue to receive the highest percentage of funding (72 percent).
  • Retailers anticipate that brick-and-mortar stores will continue to receive the greatest share of the marketing budget (50 percent) in 2018, for they currently generate the largest amount of annual revenue (76 percent).
  • Only 37 percent of retailers currently provide a consistent multichannel marketing message across channels.
  • Twenty-four percent of retailers have already deployed purchasing through social channels, while 46 percent plan to implement such capabilities by 2018.
  • For the 53 percent of retailers that utilize real-time data to generate customer offers, most are triggered by website purchases (38 percent), in store visits (37 percent), and in-store purchases (36 percent).
  • Of those retailers polled, 28 percent have deployed mobile POS (mPOS) technologies, while 51 percent plan to integrate such tools by 2018.
  • Retailers remain skeptical about providing free in-store Wi-Fi, with only 32 percent of those surveyed currently offering such access. Even fewer respondents (29 percent) expect to have this technology deployed by 2018.
  • Instead, retailers have focused their efforts on other mobile-related capabilities, with geo-targeting (46 percent), in-app purchasing (45 percent), and shoppable videos (40 percent), expected to be the biggest movers by 2018.

Key takeaway: Overwhelmingly, customer experience stands as the number one factor for retailers seeking approval for sales and marketing investments (65 percent). But, if companies are to build and leverage customer relationships, they must embrace the cross-channel marketing techniques that will inevitably bring their future goals to fruition. "Almost all marketers are collecting and analyzing increasing amounts of data, but must improve their ability to design and deliver communications gained from what they learn," says Michael Penney, director of agency services at Infogroup Targeting Solutions. "Often these communications need to be made within moments or hours, not weeks or months. Those who aren't regularly seeking insights and developing and deploying relevant communications are missing opportunities, and increasingly will fall behind their competitors."