The New Cost Structure of Retail IT

We are in the age of the WIW-WIWI (what I want, when I want it) consumer. With consumers increasingly enabled by personal technology (such as smartphones, tablets, social media, Internet connectivity) and driven by value consciousness, their shopping habits and preferences have changed dramatically. In response, a Utopian vision of a seamlessly integrated, all knowing, customer-centric, agile retailer has emerged. Technology is often spoken of as a strategic enabler of new-age retail: Of deeper customer insights, tighter channel integration, transparent inventory visibility, seamless order management, complete customer visibility, smarter merchandising, digital customer engagement, store transformation and enterprise mobility among a seemingly endless list. Yet, peel back the details, one capability at a time, and you’ll find a large, technology-shaped hole. Do retailers have the resources – financial and intellectual – for such a transformational undertaking? Do retail CEOs truly believe technology to be the answer to their growth goals and if so, is the technology available today to enable this Utopian state? With so much stock invested in technology’s role as a strategic enabler of the “Retail Singularity”, these are extremely pertinent questions. We found that existing research was either focused on defining why retailers must consider a more integrated approach to retailing or on identifying technology trends that are likely to play an active part in retail’s transformation; both very important investigation areas that we have contributed to as well. However, very little is available that would help develop a better understanding of retailer’s current IT cost structure and establish how well they are placed to execute on this oft-glorified vision of an integrated retailer. EKN set out...