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Retailers sharpen focus on IT investment.

NEW YORK -- A dramatic increase in retailers' information technology budgets and the growing influence of marketing on IT spending are likely to impact retailers in the coming years, a recent study has found.

According to the recent RIS/ Gartner Retail Tech Trends Study "Embracing Change," the way retailers use technology and the kinds of systems they employ are evolving quickly, opening up a wide range of opportunities for those who are willing to make what some analysts term "smart, bold moves."

For instance, the report notes, the rising influence of marketing on IT spending is driving big investments in mobile, social media and cross-channel technologies.

"These developments are so dramatic, in fact, that I can't help but think of the mission statement written for the voyages of the starship Enterprise as it moved through the many iterations of "Star Trek" on TV: to explore strange new worlds where old rules no longer apply, to seek new opportunities and business models, and boldly go where no retailer has gone before," Retail Info Systems News editor Joe Skorupa recently wrote in a blog on the company's website.

"I think even Captain Kirk, if he were a retailer, would be hard pressed to cope with all the changes unleashed in such a short period of time by the consumerization of technology and empowerment of the shopper."

According to the Gartner report, the No. 1 priority for most retailers this year is leveraging social media. Retailers stress that having a social media presence is important because it provides a platform that delivers content directly from shoppers.

The second most mentioned priority cited by retailers was developing a mobile enterprise or store strategy, something that ranked seventh in last year's survey.

While developing mobile commerce is also cited as a high priority, it remained at about the same importance to retailers as it had in 2011.

"This indicates that retailers have a clear picture of their priorities," Skorupa said in his blog posting. "Mobility in retail will be a game changer. But mobile commerce, although important, is still a tiny fraction of revenue.

"Better to spend money on IT, where it will have the most bang for the buck."

The impact that technology is having on retailers is becoming more apparent to many in the executive suite, the report notes.

With most IT budgets based on a percentage of revenue. In this year's survey twice as many retailers as last year said their IT budgets are 3% to 5% of sales and three times as many indicated that their budges were greater than 5% of sales.

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Title Annotation:TECHNOLOGY
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Date:May 21, 2012
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