Impressions: Retail Tech Developments

Jun 15, 2005
Al McClain

By Al McClain

When a non-tech writer visits a technology show (the recent Retail Systems convention in Chicago), it can be a bit daunting trying to sort out what everyone’s doing, and what’s really “new and different.” Under the assumption that this may be a problem for many retailing industry execs, I thought I’d share a few quick observations as to what struck me this year:


Dell – seems to be developing into a retail solutions powerhouse. Coming on the market in 2002, the company launched its first Dell-branded POS product in 2004 and rolled out new products like thermal receipt printers this year. Dell’s decision to push open standards appears to be helping it make serious headway in the marketplace.

The keys to Dell’s success so far seem to be parallel to the company’s path in the consumer market: low cost due to a direct business model and quick problem resolution. Based on their track record with consumers, it would seem a safe bet Dell will succeed in the retailing marketplace if it has a strong commitment to it, which it seems it has


Visidot – is providing an alternative to radio frequency identification technology (RFID). My assumption had been that the RFID horse had left the barn long ago with Wal-Mart’s pronouncements as to what suppliers would have to do. While Visidot seems to acknowledge there is no turning back with Wal-Mart, it claims that with its tags and readers, suppliers will be able to improve their shipment tracking and lower their costs with read rates approaching 100 percent. Is this race already over or is there a chance for Visidot?


Applied Intelligence Solutions – has a product called AllocationXpert™ that enables typically entry-level allocators to run this software and improve their pattern recognition and sales performance. It apparently works especially well for apparel and accessories and AIS has had particular success with Sears, recently receiving three vendor awards from them.


Brickstream – has a system of automated cameras that track shoppers, providing retailers with traffic analysis so that they can maximize their store layouts. These cameras and software help retailers perform basic functions like traffic count, but also provide information on keys such as wait time and performance of displays and aisles. Brickstream works with Best Buy, CVS, Travel Centers of America, Office Depot, Walgreen’s and others.


The other technology that seems to be in vogue this year is video – high definition, flat screen video.

In the past, in-store video wasn’t all that great, because the screen images weren’t all that compelling. This year, a number of companies are offering “retail TV”, which Panasonic
has trademarked. High def screens in store certainly provide a compelling advertising and informational platform for retailers and suppliers, reaching consumers at the moment
of decision. The issue, as always, will be how do you measure return on investment (ROI).


Moderator’s Comment: What do you see as the most compelling new retail technology this year?
Al McClain – Moderator

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3 Comments on "Impressions: Retail Tech Developments"

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Bill Bittner
Bill Bittner
15 years 8 months ago
I am looking at technology from the supermarket perspective. I have to agree that open standards are finally beginning to have an effect at point of sale, where “new” vendors are entering the arena with their solutions. As the hardware becomes commoditized, the software and processes around it will become more important than ever. Just as a new set of Pings are not going to do much for my golf game (it’s that bad), the latest gadget by itself will not improve retailer results. Only by intelligently integrating the technology with the people and processes in the store will the retailer see benefits. With that thought in mind, I think the emerging technology will be an emphasis on “total store” support. Instead of integrating point solutions with the gaps and overlaps in functionality that impact store operations, retailers will choose fully choreographed solutions that integrate the item and labor management activities of the store efficiently. By looking for a “Store ERP” solution whose point solutions may only be 90%, but whose integration is 100%, the… Read more »
Warren Thayer
15 years 8 months ago

In my little niche of the world, I keep hearing about pricing elasticity, and how to price wisely for maximum profit by category without turning off your shoppers. But everyone says the cost of the software/consulting is still too high. I also hear about retailer/vendor data integration issues, with the usual finger-pointing. I haven’t seen research on this, but my instinct is that IT budgets are fairly lean, given the tough competition and “investment in margin” that’s been going around.

James Tenser
15 years 8 months ago

I expect we’ll see new operational-focused technology, beginning from the store level on up. Store managers need a fighting chance to succeed, based on real consumer response, not strategic plans built from rolled-up, “cleansed” data then handed down to them. The key is to capture the data retailers already generate and put it to work in the right ways, using smart analytics, filters and decision-support tools.

Like Warren, I also see a deeper understanding of demand elasticities as a new core competency for retailers. This will help refine pricing and inventory level decisions – not to mention store-level operations.


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