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Retailers' shopping list for 2010: Linked sales channels, mobile and web 2.0

How to face the recession with a little help from tech
Written by Tim Ferguson, Contributor on

How to face the recession with a little help from tech

Facing another challenging year with sales continuing to fall and cost-cutting putting pressure on customer service levels, retailers need to take a fresh look at technology.

The use of tech to maintain customer loyalty and improve staff efficiency will be critical for the industry, according to a recent report by analysts Ovum.

In order to boost customer service, retailers should look at exploiting as many sales channels as possible.

Retailers who have not yet fully embraced the internet as a sales channel should do so this year as it will provide the only real opportunity for growth in 2010, Ovum said.

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(picture credit: Shutterstock)

However, businesses will need to be prepared for the significant changes such a shift will bring, with their processes and IT system requirements having to adapt to help integrate the new channel.

The linking up of the different sales channels, such as online and in-store, will also be important in 2010 - for example, in the case of reserve and collect systems, where shoppers reserve their item through the company's website then pick it from the store.

Retailers should also prepare for the advent of m-commerce as mobile technology continues to develop. According to Ovum, mobile could generate significant sales growth in the longer term and so retailers need to look at it now or risk being left behind.

Businesses will need to make sure their websites are compatible with the various mobile operating systems and address issues around payment and data security.

Web 2.0 technology to improve customer feedback is another area Ovum recommends retailers invest in, including the use of business intelligence and analytics tools to monitor feedback and help plan sales strategy.

Consequently, varying customer-feedback channels such as blogs, social networking sites and other online outlets will also need to be integrated into CRM systems.

And with many retailers likely to have fewer employees due to cost pressures, the more efficient use of staff will also become more important - and here too technology can play its part.

For example, staff could be issued with mobile handsets to provide customers with in-store customer services and make sure they're always in the areas that they are most needed.

The use of human capital management technology could also be beneficial, by making sure tasks can be distributed among staff more effectively, and therefore time can be saved on recruitment and senior staff can spend more time on customer-facing work.

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