Retailers in 2012 will focus on their customers as they strive to increase their “share of wallet” and accelerate sales growth, according to a new report.

Retailers, customers, National Retail Federation, NRF, president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay, KPMG LLP, Mark Larson,

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Itís all about customer service

March 5th, 2012

WASHINGTON – Retailers in 2012 will focus on their customers as they strive to increase their “share of wallet” and accelerate sales growth, according to a new report.

Their efforts will include enhancing their information technology and e-commerce capabilities, boosting customer service and improving their mobile platforms.

"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," said National Retail Federation (NRF) president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay. "Though customers are always a company’s top priority, customer satisfaction will get a huge face-lift 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."

A new report from the NRF Foundation and KPMG LLP outlines retailers’ top strategic initiatives for 2012, including those related to merchandising, e-commerce, store and field operations, supply chain, and human capital.

Of the 247 retail executives from various sectors who were surveyed, 82% said customer service strategies will be their top priority in the coming year, up from 75% last year.

The survey also found increased interest in online and mobile retailing and marketing. According to the survey, 85% will emphasize increasing online sales, up from 83% in 2011, and 38% will have a greater focus on increasing mobile commerce sales over the next year, up from 29% in 2011. In addition, 53% of those surveyed said they will specifically focus on Web personalization engines in the coming months. Their efforts will include adding such enhancements as location-based services and tracking methods unique to shopping habits.

To better serve mobile-savvy shoppers in their stores, retailers also stated that enhancing handheld technologies, such as mobile point-of-sale, will be a core focus over the next 18 months. While 17% already use mobile POS technologies in their store, an additional 33% indicate they plan further POS investments.

"Compared to the past few years, retailers have turned their attention to growth acceleration, with an emphasis on improved customer engagement strategies and tactics," said Mark Larson, KPMG’s global head of retail. "Harnessing the vast amounts of customer data they have at their disposal to create unique consumer interactions will be critical, especially as digital sales grow. Clearly the retailers who master the one-to-one customer approach, and who also leverage the full potential of e- and mobile-commerce platforms, will be in a much stronger position to gain wallet share."

Other survey findings:
• After years of cost containment, this year 52% of respondents plan to increase their information technology budgets.
• Leadership assessment, development and succession will be a priority for 91% of retailers, up from 83% in 2011. And 52% will increase associate training, up from 39% last year.
• New customer acquisition is the top strategic priority of 59% this year, up from 55% in 2011.