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updated: 6/28/2012 5:19 PM

Retailers adopting more technology to get shoppers involved

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Getting more customers to shop, or at least be drawn into the store, has retailers leaning more heavily on technology.

Seventy-two percent of retailers surveyed said technology is important to their business, and that figure is expected to increase to 83 percent by 2014, according to a CompTIA Retail Sector Technology Adoption Trends Study released this week. Downers Grove-based CompTIA is an association for technology professionals.

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The survey included 500 U.S. retailers in health and beauty, sporting goods, apparel and home goods. They indicated that 63 percent of them expect to increase technology spending this year, while the rest plan to cut back or hold the line.

Large retailers expect to boost technology spending the most -- 4.8 percent, on average. For all firms, the planned average increase is 4.2 percent, the survey said.

New developments with digital signage, social networking, mobility, payment processing and other areas have given retailers new tools and capabilities.

In addition, shop owners are adopting geolocation services. The survey shows that 1 in 5 retailers now use geolocation technologies to reach customers. They believe it helps to prevent "showrooming," where shoppers visit a store to assess a product but make the purchase from an online retailer to get the lowest possible price, the survey said.

So are these technology advances at retailers driven more by consumers or by the companies themselves hoping to save money?

It's a combination, said CompTIA spokesman Steven Ostrowski.

"The highest rated reason for considering some of these new technologies, like digital signage and mobile payment, is to find new ways to engage with customers; to generate more repeat business with existing customers; and to attract new customers. Retailers also want to use technology to address operational and cost issues," said Ostrowski.

Similar to most industry sectors, retail is dominated by small businesses, which historically have been slower to embrace technology, he said.

"But just as small retailers realize they can no longer open at 9 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. and still be competitive, they're also more willing to use technology to run their business," Ostrowski said.

The effects of technology on retailers have shown that in a short period of time, the Internet and the business models that it facilitates have displaced entire groups of retailers, such as music or book stores. Technology provides a mechanism to efficiently manage inventory and supply chains.

"Technology is also more accessible to more small businesses," Ostrowski said. "It used to be prohibitively expensive, but today there are many affordable options available to even the smallest business. But a retailer still has finite resources. So while they may want to invest in upgrading their payment systems or in digital signage, they may not be able to do both at the same time."

•Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter. Write to her at akukec@dailyherald.com.

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