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Retail Execs Cite Social Media, Analytics As Essential Tools

New York — Social media, mobile and online shopping, and mobile and online promotions and coupons are the top tech trends making “a significant impact” on retail, industry executives said.

According to a survey of 101 senior retail executives by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG, 71 percent of retail companies are using social media to reach more customers and explore new ways of doing business, up from 58 percent last year.  

“Technology is paramount to driving growth and enhancing customer engagement for retailers,” said Mark Larson, KPMG’s global retail leader. “With consumer behavior, spending and demographic profiles changing rapidly, it is absolutely critical that companies take an omni-channel approach to engage consumers, utilizing all the platforms at their disposal, including brick and mortar, online and mobile.”

Data and analytics is also an important opportunity for retailers, the survey suggested. Seventy-two percent of respondents said data analytics plays a key role in helping provide customer insights, while 67 percent use it in brand and product management and 56 percent rely on it for pricing decisions.

 Executives also say they use data to drive operational excellence and actionable insights (50 percent), and to acquire customers (36 percent). However, a gap exists between this opportunity and retailers’ ability to realize it, as 43 percent of respondents rate their companies’ data analytics literacy as only average. 

“A key to success will be investing in technology to harness the vast amounts of structured data that reside in a company as well as the unstructured data online and in social media,” Larson added.  “That data can drive the insights that will allow retailers to interact with consumers more effectively and capture more ‘wallet share,’ as well as identify new markets, new strategies and new operating models to generate growth and profitability.”

Most executives (85 percent) expect capital spending will increase or remain the same over the next year. When asked where they will increase spending most, executives most frequently cited geographic expansion (61 percent), IT (40 percent) and advertising and marketing/branding (24 percent).

Respondents also indicated that business conditions are improving, with 74 percent reporting increased revenue over 2012, up nine points from the previous year. Additionally, 85 percent of retail executives indicate the retail industry will see growth in the coming year, although of those, 74 percent point to only modest gains of 5 percent or less.

The full survey is available here.