Retail technology investment slowdown comes to an end

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Some 71% of large UK retailers have a major software project in the pipeline, according to new industry research commissioned by Original Software, the global software quality solutions vendor, bringing to an end the tech investment slowdown the retail industry saw between 2008 and 2013.

The research, which was conducted by Martec and quizzed 42 multiple retailers in the UK, with combined sales of £147 billion, 29,000 stories and equating to 46% of the market by turnover, found that ERP implementations and upgrades are the most common, with a third of retailers with projects in this area. Joint second came e-commerce and store systems replacements and upgrades with 26% of retailers each. Supply chain projects came in third with 24% of retailers.

That level of technology investment doesn't come without its problems, as 69% of retailers say they suffer with system bugs. E-commerce systems were singularly the most problematic for retailers, with 14% saying they have problems with bugs. This is seriously challenging for retailers, as for many, their websites are their only 24/7 communication channel with customers and any problems will have a serious impact on their ability to do business.

As one of the respondents from the survey, a head of IT at a fashion and lifestyle retailer explained: "It is difficult to test the website against every combination of device, browser and operating system and to simulate real-life conditions. The more functionally rich the website is, the more difficult it is to test."

Where software bugs are concerned, the next most serious offenders are business intelligence, logistics/ supply chain and store systems, with six per cent of retailers reporting problems with each. 32% experienced "other" problems and many of these were components of ERP systems.

Commenting on the research, Colin Armitage, CEO of Original Software said: "Since the financial crash, many retailers have been reluctant to invest in IT, even as they witnessed burgeoning online spending and the relative slow down on the high street. However, incentivised by the creation of a multi-channel business model, many retailers need instant visibility of stock, sales and customers in all channels and new technology will help them achieve that.

But tech investment of this nature is a risky undertaking and retailers have to be aware of the software glitches and bugs that can manifest themselves. Having a measured, strategic approach to software quality will help them to improve their business models, but protect them at the same time."

Retail technology research highlights:

  • 71% of large UK retailers have a major software project in the pipeline.
  • 33% have ERP projects coming up, 26% have an e-commerce implementation or upgrade; 26% have store systems replacements; and 24% have supply chain system changes.
  • 69% of retailers suffer from system bugs, with e-commerce systems being the most problematic (14%) followed by business intelligence (six per cent), store systems (six per cent), logistics and supply chain (six per cent) and ERP (five per cent). 32% experienced "other" problems, but many of these were components of ERP systems.
  • Where it comes to making changes to customer facing applications, retailers gave an average of 5.9 out of ten, indicating they find it difficult to make these changes.
  • The two biggest problems retailers have with website testing and user acceptance testing are a lack of resourcing (18%) and a lack of automation to the process (17%).

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