2012 will be all about the customer

WASHINGTON — Retailers are set to build customer engagement by investing in information technology and e-commerce, as well as enhancing customer service initiatives and building on mobile platforms, a new report from the National Retail Federation and KPMG found.

According to "Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2011, Forecasts for 2012," which surveyed 247 retail executives, found that many retailers are taking on customer-centric initiatives. For instance, nearly 67% of companies rank customer satisfaction as the top strategic initiative for 2012 and, similarly, 82% said customer service strategies will be their top priority in the coming year, up from 75% last year.

NRF and KPMG noted that this year marked the first time websites/online channels "eclipsed physical stores as the top channel for marketers" (81% for brick-and-mortar stores versus 86% online). In line with this, 85% of those surveyed said they will emphasize increasing online sales (up from 83% in 2011), while 38% would focus on boosting m-commerce sales over the next year, compared with 29% last year. What's more, 53% of those surveyed said they will specifically focus on Web personalization engines, including location-based services and tracking methods unique to shopping habits. And as 17% already use mobile point-of-sale technologies in their store, an additional 33% indicated they plan further POS investments during that over the next 18 months.

When it comes to social media, which increasingly has become more important for retailers, 45% of companies are actively developing widgets, gadgets or advanced links that can be incorporated with their social media pages, and another 41% planning to develop these items over the next 18 months.

“Retailers are poised to enter 2012 with a renewed focus on building up and building out many of their most important operations, hoping to establish a new sense of brand loyalty with all of their customers,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Though customers are always a company’s top priority, customer satisfaction will get a huge facelift this year. From increasing their brand visibility through cross-channel initiatives to providing unique, personalized shopping experiences through every channel, retailers have indicated 2012 is all about the customer.”

Click here for the full report.