July 5, 2012, 11:03 AM

Retailers want to go local with technology

Geo-location is the top I.T. priority for retailers, according to a survey.

Amy Dusto

Associate Editor

Lead Photo

Retailers planning to invest in new digital marketing technologies want geo-location services more than anything else, suggests a survey of 500 U.S. retailers conducted this spring by CompTIA.

The information technology trade group found that 21% of respondents report already using a geo-location service, such as social check-in network Foursquare, and another 28% plan to start using one soon.

After engaging consumers based on their location, retailers’ top priorities for new digital marketing initiatives are:  customer loyalty program, which 27% of retailers say they plan to start soon; QR codes for marketing (26%);  social coupons with partners like Groupon Inc. (24%); customer-oriented blogs (23%); and e-mail marketing programs (20%) or Facebook pages (15%). Most retailers reported having the last two programs in place already (65% and 62%, respectively). Retailers could select more than one option for their customer engagement technology priorities.

CompTIA also found that:

• 63% of retailers in the study will increase I.T. spending this year, on average by 4.2%. Large retailers will boost their technology budgets slightly more, by 4.8%.

• While only 7% of retailers say they are using technology to its maximum effect, 29% say they are close to where they’d like to be.

• 13% of retailers in the study report already having a mobile payment system that allows customers to checkout with their smartphones or mobile devices in stores and 19% plan to have one in the next 12 months.

Geo-location and mobile payment systems are on the rise for a few reasons. “A number of advancements have been made in allowing these technologies to be deployed within smaller businesses. Barriers to entry have lowered to the point where it can be more mainstream,” says Tim Herbert, vice president of research at CompTIA. The subsequent surge in retailers using these technologies also fuels their demand among consumers. “They are more experienced now, have a better feel for how to use smartphones to help their shopping experience,” he says.

With customers more connected online and via social networks, Herbert was surprised to find that only 21% of retailers say they regularly monitor what customers say about their brand online day to day, though 31% do so periodically. Among those that do not track online comments, 24% say it is because they lack expertise in how to do it, 23% say they lack an efficient way to do it, 18% don’t have time, 15% don’t trust the authenticity of comments, 6% say it’s not worth it and 33% cite no specific reason other than just not getting around to it. Again, retailers could pick more than one response.

Comments | 1 Response

  • It's only natural that retailers understand the value of geo-location. And it's not surprising that they are looking towards networks like Foursquare to catch mobile users at the right time and in the right location. But I think many retailers may be overlooking the biggest opportunity in geo-location, being able to deliver personalized experiences on their websites based on a variety of implicit and explicit data points including where the visitor is. Most consumers use the web for researching products. whether they are attracted to a brand's website from search, social posts or online ads, they all come to get out the products, compare with the competition and of course, look for deals. The technology exists today, and is being used by some of the top brands in the world, to present differentiated, contextual content based on, among other things, where you're located. It's the pairing of a robust content management system with a recommendation engine. Basically, its capturing the location upon arrival on the website and based on pre-established business rules, grab specific content' articles, reviews, graphics, images, videos... and serving it up on the site. Voila, personalized experience that is much more relevant and therefore much more likely to drive conversion. While its wise to explore the opportunity to connect with someone when they're near your store, don't forget to connect with them when they come online and knock on your digital door.

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