The top IT investment priority for retailers is mobile commerce and e-commerce, for the first time, according to research.

The annual IT in Retail report from Martec International researches 100 top retailers with annual sales totalling more than £180 billion, representing 50,000 stores and 71 percent of the total UK retail sector.

The main IT investment priority for these retailers, says Martec, is e-commerce and m-commerce, growing from 17 per cent last year to 23 per cent this year. This outstrips investment in store systems, which has been their focus for the previous nine years, says the report.

Martec said e-commerce represents the only growth in sales for many and so it makes sense to invest in expanding their websites, adding m-commerce and improving their multichannel business.

The report, sponsored by BT Expedite, shows that 16 percent of retailers already use m-commerce, which is an increase from five per cent last year. A further 12 percent are planning to take it up.

Investment in new or replacement head office systems is also up, with 25 percent of retailers planning to replace merchandise management systems, an increase of eight percent over last year. The report also says 15 percent intend to replace their merchandise planning systems and six percent are implementing one for the first time.

Brian Hume, managing director of Martec International, said, "Many retailers are struggling to keep pace with the rapidly changing requirements of multi-channel operations, with legacy systems slowing them down.

"Replacing these systems is vital for gaining competitive advantage. Consumers expect a seamless experience across all channels and retailers need to offer a single stock pool that can be accessed from all customer touch points, such as smartphones."