December 30, 2013, 3:49 PM

One e-commerce platform to rule them all

70% of today’s fastest-growing retailers say their e-commerce platforms will become their base technology for digital sales across desktop, mobile and stores, says RSR. Most retailers plan to use platforms for in-store payments and mobile commerce.

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The ghost of retail future has been visiting some merchants this year, and its message resounds: consolidate digital platforms or fall behind. 70% of retail “double-digit winners” say they believe their e-commerce platforms will one day become the foundation of all their digital sales technologies, including for the web, mobile and in stores, according to a new report from Retail Systems Research LLC. In contrast, just 42% of “laggard” retailers agree that their e-commerce platforms will one day be the backbone of all their digital sales technologies.

RSR defines double-digit winners as retailers with double-digit or higher annual sales growth and laggards as those with less than 3% annual sales growth, which is the retail industry average, it says (There are two in-between categories: “Winners” have growth between 4% and 9%; “average” retailers are at 3% exactly). The firm surveyed 137 retailers online in September and October for the report entitled “The Great Leveler: E-commerce’s Next Move.”

Most retailers in the survey are acting in accordance with their premonitions. 30% of double-digit winners already use their e-commerce platforms to support in-store associates—for instance, giving them Internet-connected tablets to help shoppers order items online from inside the store. Meanwhile, 70% of laggards aren’t even considering such a move, RSR says. Additionally, 60% of the double-digit winners say they are investing in a streamlined technology platform or infrastructure, compared with 43% of winners, 47% of average performers and 33% of laggards.

“RSR believes this vision [of a single technology platform] is a wise one,” write the authors, managing partners Paula Rosenblum and Steve Rowan. “As long as the foundation is solid, supporting current and future channels with one foundation makes all the sense in the world.”

In part, the difference in opinion between the vanguard and struggling retailers can be explained by the laggards’ focus on better streamlining e-commerce and store staffers before streamlining their use of technologies, RSR says. Of the laggards, 52% say improving store and web coordination is a top priority, versus 30% of double-digit winners, 27% of winners and 32% of average performers that say the same. “Laggards and average performers want to experiment, while double-digit winners want vendor ecosystems and partnerships,” the authors write. “Laggards focus on coordination with stores. Winners want solutions that don’t burden I.T. departments.”

Of all the respondents, 64% say they plan to or have already begun using their e-commerce platforms to support in-store point-of-sale transactions, 73% say the same for mobile commerce, 45% for in-store digital kiosks and 46% for employee-held mobile devices, the survey says.

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