Technology investment decisions are changing to reflect the ongoing shift in shopping habits away from the high street and towards online, a new study suggests.
The study, from Rackspace, questioned 250 IT decision makers working in UK retail. It found a move towards investment online as visitor numbers to the high street fall, and ecommerce grows: 80% of respondents said their businesses were now prioritising online over in-store. But with the move, say 86% of decision makers, has come greater competition online.
More than half (52%) of respondents said they were responding to a need to drive more traffic to the website, while 44% were reacting to the need to handle more traffic, and more than a third (34%) were working towards a faultless omnichannel customer experience. Four in 10 (42%) cited the need to better integrate customer experiences both online and in store.
The technologies that are benefitting most from immediate investment, over the coming 12 months, include data analytics (48% online, 34% in-store), mobile apps (46% online, 30% in-store) and cyber security (46%/28%). IT departments have accounted for these, dedicating 13%, 13% and 12% respectively of their budgets to them. Also slated for investment are emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (33%/26%), virtual assistants (30%/22%), machine learning (27%/21%) and virtual and augmented reality technologies (24%/19%). However these areas have been dedicated less cash, with an average 8% of budgets set aside for artificial intelligence and for chatbots, while machine learning and VR/AR have between 5% and 6% of budgets. Voice and facial recognition were at the back of the queue for investment, with 20% saying they planned investment in this area online, and 16% in-store, over the next year; on average IT budgeters have set aside 4% of their budget for this.
Lee James, EMEA chief technology officer at Rackspace, said: “The growth and dominance of web and mobile channels has led to waning high-street footfall and the race to transform both the in-store and online experience is putting immense pressure on IT departments. These factors are shifting IT strategies, further complicating the challenges decision makers face in delivering, designing and implementing new highly-secure, bespoke solutions.”
Significant barriers to delivering on this vision remain: respondents cited budget constraints (42%), a lack of IT / technical skills (27%), the availability of partners to support (20%), legal and regulatory compliance (19%), and a lack of strategic vision (18%). Half of IT decision makers who are not planning to implement any new technologies in the year ahead said that this was due to the lack of a clear roadmap.”