From big-box behemoths to mom-and-pop neighborhood stores retailers provide an important link within the flow of products and services from producers to consumers. With an estimated $4.5 trillion in annual sales, retail is one among most vital |the biggest"> the most important and most important sectors of the U.S. economy.

“Thus, the will to become more efficient and more customer-friendly, and therefore the intent to use technology to accomplish this goal”

The retail industry has gone through many changes throughout its history. Over the last 10-15 years, the importance of disturbing technologies has been specially decided. Almost every condition of retailing–from the opportunity chain that brings goods to store shelves to the sales undertaking at the register or online store–has been touched by technology.

Given its size, retail has historically lagged other industries when it involves tech spending, though it’s not an insignificant sum. It estimates the annual spend on technology solutions by the nation’s retailers range from $23.5 billion on the low end (U.S. Census Bureau) to nearly $46.5 billion on the high end (research firm Gartner).

Clearly there's a huge hunger among retailers for technology that delivers a meaningful return on investment while addressing business objectives.

In the CompTIA research report Retail Sector Adoption Trends, retailers analyzed their top business preferences. They included:

• Finding and implementing strategies to succeed in new customer segments.

• Reducing costs and overhead.

• Improving staff productivity and capabilities.

• Leveraging technology to enhance customer services and engagement.

• Enhancing and refreshing product lines.

In the same CompTIA study, 83 percent of shops surveyed said technology was important to their business. The survey also admitted that retailers’ technology preferences clearly match up to their business priorities. Their top five tech areas of interest included the following:

• Modernize IT infrastructure

• Upgrade website and e-commerce capabilities

• Upgrade mobile presence

• Improve security (digital and physical)

• Enhance marketing automation, social media, e-commerce, digital signage and related tools to enhance the customer experience.

With its characteristics of close competition, thin margins, costly overhead, and flighty customers, the retail sector is clearly troublesome ambiance to try to business in. Thus, the will to become more efficient and more customer-friendly, and therefore the intent to use technology to accomplish this goal.

But the safety element is rapidly moving to the highest of the priority list for several retailers. Physical security– combating retail shrinkage thanks to employee theft and shoplifting–has long been a challenge for the retail community.

Physical security systems were actually dedicated, independent systems services by natural security specialists. But in current years the development of technology concurrence, abundant and affordable storage and cheap computing power and endpoints has moved many natural security systems firmly within the IT realm.

Digital, IP-based security cameras capture video which will be transmitted wirelessly to a cloud-based storage system for processing. Intelligent motion-tracking, face recognition, analytics and remote monitoring via mobile devices have also become standard features of IP-based security systems, many of which are offered at price points attractive to even the littlest retailer.

Retailers’ need for digital security is as important, if less, as physical security.

Retailers inherit contact with large quantities of customer information; process high volumes of online activity; and should hold important amounts of currency (at least temporarily) that creates a beautiful target for hackers and cyber-criminals.

However, during a pattern that unfortunately continues to play out, an alarming number of retailers–one in four during a CompTIA study–fail to ascertain the potential risks related to cybersecurity threats. Moreover, micro retailers demonstrated far less concern about security than large retailers (45 percent vs. 79 percent). this might flow from a belief that they don’t have sufficient assets to be a target. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. VISA has reported that 95 percent of Mastercard data breaches occur at small retailers.

Another factor to think about maybe a lack of technological sophistication, especially among the tiny businesses that account for the massive majority of retail establishments. Few small retailers have dedicated IT staff. Most believe a do-it-yourself approach, where the business owner or another staffer assumes IT duties on a part-time, informal basis. But someone capable of resetting a router or replacing a toner cartridge might not be qualified to require the required actions to secure customer data and digital assets.

There’s also a dollars-and-cents aspect to the DIY practice. Every minute a business owner spends handling a technology matter maybe a minute removed from what they know best– running a retail business. Retailers should run the numbers to work out where going the DIY route with their technology makes business and financial sense, or whether they’d be better services by partnering with a technology solution provider.