WAKEFIELD, MASS: Most North American retailers equate their brand with customer experience (CX) and understand the need to integrate systems and technologies across touchpoints but less than half have achieved this according to new research.

Econsultancy surveyed more than 225 senior marketers at North American retail companies with annual revenues of more than $100m and found that 80% intended to increase their customer experience budgets in 2015, with one in three planning to up spending by more than 10% from the current level.

But while 97% of respondents said integration of CX technology was "important" or "essential" to their growth, only 40% were currently able to describe their relevant systems as integrated and cross-functional.

"Retailers are overwhelmed by the complexity of data, technology and understanding of the customer journey," said Paige O'Neill, Chief Marketing Officer at SDL.

They were, she added, "acutely aware of their technological shortfalls when it comes to creating a seamless, personalised customer experience across multiple channels".

The research highlighted another area where retailers were not so aware, as they focused on the use of CX as a tool for higher conversion and retention and failed to see the connection to acquisition.

"This is an important disconnect," according to the research, "and one that creates a competitive advantage for those focused on content and social marketing."

And while retailers had invested heavily in mobile, whether apps or mobile-optimised sites for commerce, the study suggested this was only part of the journey and that mobile customer experience remained an untapped resource.

More than half of marketers surveyed said they had a strong understanding of the mobile user experience, but only one third (35%) thought they could differentiate using mobile.

The next step, said the report, is to move beyond simple usability in mobile to more sophisticated merchandising that will be necessary to reach younger, mobile-only consumers.

That, however, means creating an experience that works on a small screen while still engaging consumers with the brand and opening up opportunities for continued shopping and loyalty.

Data sourced from Business Wire; additional content by Warc staff