Geo-location is the top I.T. priority for retailers, according to a survey.

Retailers planning to invest in new digital marketing technologies want geo-location services more than anything else, suggests a survey of 500 U.S. retailers conducted this spring by CompTIA.

The information technology trade group found that 21% of respondents report already using a geo-location service, such as social check-in network Foursquare, and another 28% plan to start using one soon.

After engaging consumers based on their location, retailers’ top priorities for new digital marketing initiatives are:  customer loyalty program, which 27% of retailers say they plan to start soon; QR codes for marketing (26%);  social coupons with partners like Groupon Inc. (24%); customer-oriented blogs (23%); and e-mail marketing programs (20%) or Facebook pages (15%). Most retailers reported having the last two programs in place already (65% and 62%, respectively). Retailers could select more than one option for their customer engagement technology priorities.

CompTIA also found that:

• 63% of retailers in the study will increase I.T. spending this year, on average by 4.2%. Large retailers will boost their technology budgets slightly more, by 4.8%.


• While only 7% of retailers say they are using technology to its maximum effect, 29% say they are close to where they’d like to be.

• 13% of retailers in the study report already having a mobile payment system that allows customers to checkout with their smartphones or mobile devices in stores and 19% plan to have one in the next 12 months.

Geo-location and mobile payment systems are on the rise for a few reasons. “A number of advancements have been made in allowing these technologies to be deployed within smaller businesses. Barriers to entry have lowered to the point where it can be more mainstream,” says Tim Herbert, vice president of research at CompTIA. The subsequent surge in retailers using these technologies also fuels their demand among consumers. “They are more experienced now, have a better feel for how to use smartphones to help their shopping experience,” he says.

With customers more connected online and via social networks, Herbert was surprised to find that only 21% of retailers say they regularly monitor what customers say about their brand online day to day, though 31% do so periodically. Among those that do not track online comments, 24% say it is because they lack expertise in how to do it, 23% say they lack an efficient way to do it, 18% don’t have time, 15% don’t trust the authenticity of comments, 6% say it’s not worth it and 33% cite no specific reason other than just not getting around to it. Again, retailers could pick more than one response.