Money is being funnelled into improving retailers’ back end technological and digital capabilities as IT jumps to the top of their priority lists.

That’s according to Mike Webster, senior vice-president at Oracle Retail, who believes investment in new store openings and supply chain infrastructure has taken a back seat as retailers’ priorities fundamentally change.

“There’s a change in the allocation of capital -  retailers that once directed all capital to new store openings, physical DCs and warehouses, are converting some [to be] sent to robust IT systems, customer engagement systems and digital experiences,” he said at NRF in New York.

“We’re seeing shift in capital towards the IT community.”

Webster pointed to figures that show 58% of global retailers are seeing IT budgets increase this year compared to 2013.

Part of the newly diverted money is being spent on advanced personalisation, according to Webster. “The industry has made great strides in building great digital experiences. It has set the marker in terms of how we use mobile and online ecommerce to build a brand and drive recognition. We’ll see the industry work more aggressively towards hyper personalisation.”

Webster added that one of the major obstacles retailers come up against is supporting customers on the multiple buying journeys they can now make – whether it’s buying on a mobile device, ordering pick up to a different store, click and collect etc.  “Oracle is trying to solve the biggest challenges that retail customers face and helping them support any customer journey.”

Add to that the complication that consumers want exactly the same journey in store than they do through digital channels, and retailers also have to make both channels “interchangeable”, according to Mark Hurd, president of Oracle. 

Nowadays, consumers don’t just want to interact with retailers, they want to be genuinely engaged, he maintained. “It’s not just enough to connect, you have to engage me. You have to enable them to shop, learn, and transact.”

Behind the scenes, retail applications such as the Oracle Retail Version 14 (see box) can help achieve this, Hurd claimed. He described Oracle as a “problem solver for the industry - helping retail customers to get to their customer and give them a single view of inventory”.

The retail application can aid “POS and merchandising planning,”, Hurd said, while Webster added Orcale can help “shape planning, pricing and promotion; ranging to optimise sales and marketing; and [provide] complete visibility and transparency of inventory”.

Oracle launches new solution for retailers

Version 14, the largest-ever release of Oracle Retail solutions, claims to improve the customer experience with new end-to-end functionality and more flexible integration.

Among its key features is the “ability to deliver inventory alignment, real-time inventory accuracy and transparency across business models and channels by integrating planning, supply chain, merchandising, store and operational processes with the consumer buying and fulfilment patterns,” according to Oracle.

It also connects every possible permutation of the consumer’s journey to the retail processes and data needed to deliver on them.