BrainTrust Query: Looking Back on Retail Technology Predictions for 2011

Discussion
Dec 06, 2011

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt from a current article from Insight-Driven Retailing Blog.

I’ve been busy thinking about what 2012 and beyond will look like for retail. But before I go there, let’s first review this year’s predictions before making new ones for 2012.

Alternate Payments: We’ve seen several alternate payment schemes emerge over the last two years, and 2011 promised to be the year one of them took hold. The iPhone 4S did not contain an NFC chip, so we’ll have to continuing waiting for the iPhone 5. PayPal announced it is moving into in-store payments, and Google launched its wallet in selected cities. Overall I think the payment scene is heating up and that trend will continue.

Engineered Systems: The industry appeared to be moving toward purpose-built appliances that are optimized across the entire stack. Oracle refers to these as "engineered systems" and its first two examples are Exadata and Exalogic, but there are other examples from other vendors. Exadata is Oracle’s fasting growing product, and at the recent OpenWorld it announced the SuperCluster and Exalytics products, both continuing the engineered systems trend. SAP’s HANA continues to receive attention, and IBM also seems to be moving in this direction.

Social Analytics: While tools provided insight into how a brand is perceived across popular internet sites, the next step needed to be mining the data and determine how it should influence retail operations, including aiding in promotions, buys and customer engagement. Vendor consolidation was expected to help make this happen. In March, Salesforce.com acquired leading social monitoring vendor Radian6 and followed up with acquisitions of Heroku and Model Metrics. The notion of Social CRM seems to be going more mainstream now.

2-D Barcodes: QRCodes are everywhere. ‘Nuff said.

In the words of Microsoft, "To the Cloud!": It appeared that retailers were going to start relying on cloud services, both public and private, in the coming year. And there were no shortage of announcements in this area: Amazon’s cloud-based Kindle Fire, Apple’s iCloud, Oracle’s Public Cloud, etc. I saw an interesting presentation showing how BevMo moved their systems to the cloud. Seems like retailers are starting to consider the cloud for specific uses.

F-Commerce: I called 2011 The Year of F-Commerce, and that was probably accurate. JCPenney and ASOS both put their entire catalogs on Facebook, and lots of other retailers have connected Facebook to their e-commerce site. I still think selling from the newsfeed is the best approach, and several retailers are trying that approach as well. I just don’t see Google+ as a threat to Facebook, so I think that battle is over.

It’s good to look back at predictions, but we also have to think about what was missed. I didn’t see Amazon entering the tablet business with such a splash, although in hindsight it was obvious. Nor did I think HP would fall so far so fast.

Discussion Questions: Which retail technology trends did you see gaining traction in the past year? Were there any technology advances that surprised you?

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7 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Looking Back on Retail Technology Predictions for 2011"


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Adrian Weidmann
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

The acceptance of the tablet computer and an understanding of its potential as a tool for retailers and their customer-facing employees. I am intrigued with the continued growth of engineered systems and the acceptance of the use of cloud computing systems by retailers. I have been surprised that retail organizations have taken to the cloud computing architecture as readily as they have. It is a great way for retailers to maintain their technology infrastructure and applications keeping pace with what their shoppers have access to.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

I’m surprised that TV did not emerge as a direct selling vehicle (beyond HSN, QVC, etc.). Be that as it may, the impact of mobility and the computerization of IT hasn’t even begun to peak yet…watch out world!

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
9 years 5 months ago

Consumerization of IT, definitely high on the list. The idea that the evolution of technology is permanently in the direction of see it first in consumers’ hands, then adapt it for the enterprise. I think this is one of the most important retail trends of 2011 — and will continue to have enormous impact in 2012 — because retail, as a consumer-facing industry, is at the front line of this particular wave of change.

Ed Dunn
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

The best traction I’ve seen in 2011 was mobile device interaction with signage via QR codes, hands down.

The QR code wall poster shopping model in subways in Latin America, Europe and Asia had a huge positive response. This changes the paradigm from Madison Avenue displaying a “brand” to bringing the products and services offered for sale directly to the customer to initiate a transaction on the spot.

In 2012 and this is my extreme bold prediction but NFC is going to correct itself. Right now, I’m not happy with the media bias of wanting to position NFC with mobile phone operators, technology firms and banks. There is no need for mobile operators and banks — NFC can work as prepaid and direct debit and I believe this is how NFC will be used in 2012.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
9 years 5 months ago
When evaluating technology, I like to think of it from the perspective of the four fundamental retail drivers: Inventory Turns, Gross Profit Dollars, Labor Cost, and Shrink. Technology can benefit each of these drivers, but often the glitter of the technology overrides the fundamental driver. When it comes to the implementation of novel technology I am reminded of the saying “It’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.” The impact of inventory turns is a combination of product flow and payment terms. In terms of product flow, I think we all expect to see RFID become more instrumental in the management of store level inventories. For 2012 I see more retailers beginning to use RFID from their own distribution centers to track pallet and case movement. I also see asset tracking for store equipment based on RFID. As far as payment terms, I think greater use of consignment (scan based trading) to minimize retailer investment in exotic inventory will go a long way to help retailers. Gross Profit Dollars are a product of volume, merchandise… Read more »
Joel Rubinson
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

The big thing waiting to happen is when mobile hits the tipping point. I did not think it would happen this year which was accurate. However, now, we see that tablets are becoming preferred by tablet owners for online purchasing. That has surprised me a bit and leads me to believe that tablets could be as or more impactful vs. smart phones on the shopping process, starting with the pre-shop.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 5 months ago
Alternate payments are far more advanced overseas than in the US. It will be only a matter of time, I predict less than 18 months, for 50% of all US retail transactions to be completed via mobile technology of one “brand” or another. Engineered systems, yes, as an IBMer I can definitely say this area will continue to grow. Social analytics. Regardless of what you may hear from some retailers, the vast majority of marketers feel they have not identified social channel activity ROI. 2012 will be the year for that. Not so fast on QR codes. I don’t see the fire others are saying it has caught in the marketplace. It to, will pass. Cloud? Yep! It’s “en fuego!” Facebook? It’s actually leveling off. We’ll see who’s still interested in another year. Although it has been around for decades and we are all tired of it, do you think RFID will finally have a place in society on a grand scale as technology is getting cheaper and better?
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