Tuesday Jan 29, 2013

Change for Charity

In the rare cases where I'm using cash for a purchase, I'll often toss my change into the charity jar.  But for the majority of my purchases, which are via credit or debit, there's no option to "round up for charity." As far as I know, only Toshiba (formerly IBM) ACE builds that capability into their POS.  There's a huge opportunity to allow customers to make donations at the POS, but few retailers want to invest in customizing their POS to handle this.  Integration efforts like this are often costly, and must be re-done whenever the payment processor is changed.

Companies like Mini-Donations, Pennies (UK), or Change Roundup manage the donations, but again, they have to integrate with each different POS or e-commerce product, an expensive proposition.  That's why ARTS is starting a new workteam to build an integration standard.  Our hope is that by defining an XML standard for integrating to POS and e-commerce systems, we will better enable "round up" functionality in the retail industry.  Imagine the good that can come from millions of people donating pennies everyday.  This can provide a steady income for charities that feed the poor, research cancer, and rescue children.

Our kickoff meeting for this workteam takes place February 4th at the San Francisco ARTS meeting where we will write the charter and define the scope.  Then we'll do the work to build the standard with a goal of publishing in the fall (or maybe even sooner).  Anyone that wants to participate can check the ARTS website for membership information.

Thursday Jan 10, 2013

Innovation Labs

Once of the trends I noticed in 2012 was retailers creating standalone innovation labs.  The ones that seem to get the most notice are Walmart Lab and Nordstrom Lab, most likely because they have great marketing to compliment their inventions.  Two new labs that just started are the Staples Velocity Lab and the Home Depot Lab.  In most cases these labs stem from acquiring a start-up, and not wanting to crush the start-up spirit, the retailer keeps the company separate.

Having a separate lab has a few important advantages.  First, since its not part of the larger IT organization it doesn't get sucked into fire fighting, which can be a huge distraction.  Also, its not bogged down by enterprise-class software development processes that tend to slow things down.  An important part of innovation is constant tweaking that can't be documented up-front.  Having labs focused on retail-specific solutions keeps a retailer's edge.

At Oracle Retail we established the Retail Applied Research (RAR) team a couple years ago under the leadership of John Yopp.  They research emerging technology, collaborate with other labs, and convert ideas into prototypes in a nimble fashion.  Their efforts help us better assess the value of ideas and de-risk some of the technology.  This year we'll be demonstrating two of their projects in our booth at NRF.  We'll be demonstrating an Isis payment using NFC with our Mobile POS running on a Verifone sled. Additionally, we'll be showing how voice-response can speed transactions on our Mobile POS.

To foster the innovative spirit, we also have an annual Science Fair in our R&D organization.  Small teams with innovative ideas are given the week of NRF to build prototypes which are then judged based on originality, execution, and presentation.  Last year we had some pretty cool ideas using iPhones and Twitter that led to patent applications.

Technology doesn't stand still, so I'm hoping that more retailers create separate labs to incubate ideas in 2013.  Nobody can afford to stand still.

About


David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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