Wednesday May 08, 2013

Legislation Impacting Retailers

Today, select retailers are accompanying NRF advocates to the hill to discuss key legislation with congress.  The Washington Leadership Conference is an opportunity for congress to hear directly from retailers and to better understand the issues they face.  The key issues being discussed are:

  • Sales Tax Fairness
  • Health Care
  • Patent Trolls
  • Tax Reform
  • Loss Prevention and Organized Crime
  • Mobile Location Tracking

The headlines have been focused on the recent passing of the Marketplace Fairness Act, which allows states to begin collecting sales tax for online sales regardless of a seller's physical presence.  This should help level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers vs the pure online retailers, plus it could prove to be a valuable source of revenue for states at a time when the coffers are low.

But for me, the more interesting legislation are those that have to do with technology.  Patent Trolls love to go after retailers for mundane things such as assigning unique transaction numbers to sales, using an online shopping cart, or making product recommendations.  Usually retailers calculate the cost of litigation and then just decide to license the patent for less, but recently Newegg fought a troll in court...and won.  Congress is considering the Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (Shield) Act, which forces patent trolls to pay for litigation costs when they lose.  That might make it easier for retailers to defend themselves.

Another pending issue is that of privacy and the use of mobile phones to track shoppers' location. There's an interesting battle going on between Senator Al Franken and Euclid, a company that provides analytics to retailers based on tracking mobile phones.  On the surface, the issue has to do with shoppers opting-in or -out to tracking, as well as full disclosure on who has access to the data.  That seems reasonable, but if those steps become too onerous then they detract from the relationship between consumers and retailers.  There are huge opportunities for retailers to better serve their customers if the data can be leveraged in a mutually agreeable fashion.

Tuesday Apr 16, 2013

The Day After the Boston Marathon

Those that run know it takes a lot of training to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon.  My friend and fellow Oracle Retail employee Amy Gearing worked hard to get there, so it was disappointing to hear the race was stopped when she hit the 26 mile point.  That's 0.2 miles away from the finish.  Looking at the bigger picture, I'm just glad she wasn't injured.  Had the timing been different, things could have been much worse.  I feel awful for those that weren't so lucky.

But rather than dwell on the sadness, let's lighten things up a bit.  The article J.C. Penney's Real Problem: The Shrinking Middle Class talks about the hourglass economy.  That's where the upper and lower economic classes grow at the expense of the middle, which is of course the target group for JCP.  When I saw the video posted below, I thought Kmart hit the bulls-eye.  Enjoy!

Thursday Apr 11, 2013

The Cookie in My Mobile Phone

The traditional Marketing Mix covers product, price, place, and promotion and often people and process are thrown in for good measure.  Retailers spend their time adjusting these "P levers" to satisfy customers and drive sales.  But the P that interests me most is personalization.  For years the online experience has been personalized to varying extents.  Cookies track the sites I visit, and advertising is changed in real-time to reinforce promotions in an effort to retarget me.  I get product recommendations based on past purchases, and I get invited to "exclusive sales" from time to time.

In general, its not a bad relationship.  I get relevant product information and promotions, and nobody tries to blindly sell me things I'll never want.

These capabilities are slowing making their way into physical stores.  The key enabler of websites is the ability to identify the customer, either generally (e.g. cookies) or specifically (e.g. account login).  Physical retailers have tried to achieve this using the loyalty card.  However, loyalty cards are used at checkout, the very end of the shopping process.  To influence shoppers, retailers need access to the shoppers when the enter the store, or perhaps even earlier.

Smartphones that have WiFi enabled send out signals to nearby routers identifying themselves using a unique number called a MAC. The MAC can be used like a cookie.  Retailers can monitor the MACs that come into their stores, see their paths, measure dwell time at endcaps, and record frequency of visits.  If the retailer can convince the customer to identify themselves and associate a name with the MAC, then that's as good as logging into a website.  Now as soon as the person enters the store, the retailer can personalize the shopping experience.

Perhaps a welcome message is flashed on an overhead monitor: "Welcome back, David.  Thanks for visiting us."  Perhaps product recommendations tailored to interests can be sent to the smartphone.  "To complement the shirt you bought, get 10% off any tie."  Perhaps the manager approaches to shake my hand and offer help. 

I like walking into my favorite restaurant for lunch and having iced-tea immediately served because the waiter knows me.  Personalized service, even at scale, is now possible for large retailers too.  It can be subtle, like simply tailoring promotions, or it can be more overt.  The technology exists; retailers need only decide the level of personalization and weigh the impact of customer privacy concerns.

Speaking of privacy, the Location Privacy Protection Act is making its way through congress.  (You can see other pending legislation at the NRF Integrated Mobile Initiative site.)  It seeks to limit the ability to track smartphones.  The press has been reporting on the battle between Al Franken, the bill's sponsor, and Euclid, an in-store analytics company started by some ex-Google employees.

Remember, retailers should target technology investments for the future.  Yes, a great deal of your current customers might think tracking smartphones is creepy, but their kids don't, and their kids will be your customers in 5-10 years. As a society we need to ease into these advancements.

Of course if you really dislike being  tracked, even anonymously, you can turn off the WiFi on your smartphone.  That is, until face-recognition is perfected.

Tuesday Mar 26, 2013

SRM Demo

You may have noticed Oracle has acquired several social media software companies.  The video below demonstrates the integration of those assets into a complete Social Relationship Management suite.  This 7 minute video shows how a grocer uses social media to support the opening of a new store in the UK.

Monday Mar 18, 2013


I previously discussed the importance of establishing an innovation lab so that companies can keep up with emerging technology trends. But innovation doesn't just happen in the lab -- it works best when its part of the culture.  Companies need to foster the free flow of information and ideas across the entire organization.  There are many tools that help in this regard, including online forums, instant messaging, social networks, etc.

Take this example from Lowe's.  An enterprising employee in the paint department of a store decided to demonstrate how a Teflon paint tray works by pouring in the paint, letting it dry, then peeling the paint out of the tray.  She left the tray and paint mold on display, and soon she was sold out of Teflon trays.  She described the incident on the company's internal forum and other stores began duplicating the display.  Sales went from 2 units per week per store to 6 representing over a million dollars in additional revenue.

But you can't just expect communication to happen without a little push. To get the juices flowing, Do It Best has an annual education event they call Techapalooza (kicking off today) that has the following mission:

Provide education that will inspire the innovative use of technology to improve our supply chain efficiencies and to help our members grow - all while having fun.

They invite a variety of presenters to this regional conference that speak on varied topics such as Big Data, RFID, Google Apps, cloud deployments -- all for the benefit of their employees. This week-long conference is packed with engaging sessions and networking opportunities that get employees thinking about new ways to go about business.

Companies need to provide opportunities to learn, share, and collaborate through a combination of software and events.  Internal conferences, science fairs, lunch-and-learn, online courses, social networks, etc. are great ways to engage employees and improve the way we work.  It only takes a few good ideas to make a difference.

Tuesday Mar 12, 2013

Shopping with Google Glass

ConAgra Foods, makers of Healthy Choice and Marie Callender's meals, created the video below to show what the future of shopping may look like from behind Google Glass.  This is clearly not possible today but is within the realm of possibility for the near future.

I was annoyed they chose to follow two people instead of just one.  I assume they did it to illustrate the conversation between the women, but it distracts from the overall shopping theme.  If the conversation was that important, it would have been better to ask for product advice.  I was more impressed with the voice response than the augmented reality aspects.  Being able to direct commands to Glass vs people in the room is tough -- usually you need to preface commands with a keyword or press a button.

Being able to overlay text on products is pretty tough as well.  Today you'd need to use a barcode or marker of some sort because image recognition is just too unreliable, especially when all the products look similar.  At best you can count the number of facing items and possibly recognize the brands.

Checkout was certainly fast!  Surprised they didn't have to blink Morse Code for their PINs.  All in all I thought most of what they accomplished would have worked well on their smartphones without Glass.  It certainly has me thinking about the future.

Would have been funny to see one of the women run into an endcap because spam blocked her vision.  Maybe next time.

Monday Mar 11, 2013

3D Printing

Often consumers want instant gratification, which is why my previous post discussed the importance of fast shipping for online retailers.  Getting to affordable same-day or next-day delivery will be an important milestone for the retail industry, and we're already making progress in that direction with "shipping clubs" and local delivery services.  But what if there was a way to skip the delivery process altogether, much like what we've done with digital content.  I don't order music CDs or DVDs from websites anymore; I simply download the content.

3D printing has the potential to change the way we manufacture and deliver physical products.  The use of the word "printer" implies ink and paper, but 3D printers use drops of different materials to create objects one layer at a time.  Traditional manufacturing converts a block of material into a product by carving the shape.  3D printing, however, is additive.  Instead of removing excess material in a particular shape, it builds the product by spitting out material in layers.

A leading company in this field is Geomagic, which was recently acquired by 3D Systems.  Its founder, Ping Fu, recently spoke at SXSW while wearing shoes designed by Janne Kyttanen that were created by a 3D printer.  (As you can see in the picture, these shores include an iPhone holster as well.)  In the not too distant future, 3D printers could be commonplace in households.  Prices are projected to drop to under $1500 this year and possibly as low as $500 in three years.  I can imagine a new category of commerce where products are selected online and printed either in the home or a nearby store.  These products can be easily personalized, have almost no supply chain overhead, and can be delivered quickly.

But that brings up some interesting issues as well.  Can the product be returned?  Can products be easily pirated?  If a product is found to be defective, does the fault lie with the designer, seller, or printer?

On-demand commerce could soon escape the digital world and infiltrate the physical world.  Which retailers will be ready?

Wednesday Feb 27, 2013

Amazon Winning the Race

Amazon has been at the forefront of innovation in e-commerce, and that's because they are constantly looking for new ways, not to sell, but to satisfy customers.  That's a key point.  Instead of advertising products, they provide information and advice to customers either directly or via other customers.  This helps people make better decisions about their purchases.  Looking back, we can see Amazon has been a leader in many areas:

  • 1995 - customer reviews
  • 1997 - recommendations & bundles
  • 1997 - 1-click ordering
  • 2001 - look inside the book
  • 2001 - where's my stuff?
  • 2002 - free super saver shipping

The latest feature I've seen is the Customer Questions & Answers. On certain product pages, you can click on "Questions" and pose a question to other customers that have purchased the product.  Apparently Amazon send the question via email to past customers that purchased the product and they are encouraged to reply with an answer.  Shoppers can browse past questions and answers as well.

This emulates the physical world quite nicely.  You see a product, like a digital camera, and want to know how many pictures it can take without a memory card.  A current owner responds with an answer, and you are better positioned to make a decision.  Its just like asking your co-workers and friends, except Amazon knows who already owns the product so they do the "matchmaking."  Amazon claims 96% of the questions get answered, and 40% within two hours.

So what should retailer's take away from this?  Focus less on traditional advertising and selling, and shift to satisfying your customers' needs.  The selling part will eventually follow.

Check out this fantastic presentation on Amazon to learn more:

Wednesday Feb 20, 2013

Shipping Wars

I messed up.  My son wanted Borderlands 2 for his XBox so I ordered it from Amazon, but its taking 8 days to arrive.  That's a long time for a kid.  I'm saving him $15 by using the Free Super Saving Shipping, but he really wants it now.  (I've since discovered that Amazon Prime can be shared with family members, so my brother added me to his account and now I get free 2-day shipping!)  I think he's typical of many shoppers, which is why there's renewed focus on next day shipping.

I'm trying ShopRunner, which is a club that offers free 2-day shipping for several retailers, including one of my favorites, Newegg. It's well integrated with the Newegg site so its very easy to use.  Of course its 2-day shipping from when the order is picked, so it can end up being 3 days.  Several retailers have created their own free-shipping clubs because free shipping is very important to web shoppers, and fast shipping delights.  In fact, shipping charges and shipping time account for 76% of cart abandonment.

Now that Amazon has agreed to charge sales tax in Texas (where I live), they are opening three new fulfillment centers in Texas.  This should make it more cost effective to offer cheaper, faster shipping.  With enough scattered fulfillment centers, they could conceivably offer next day shipping to most major population centers.

Not to be outdone, eBay is testing same-day delivery in limited markets via its eBay Now product.  Basically it tracks inventory at nearby stores, sends a courier to buy the item, then delivers it to your door for a fee.  There are several similar services being tested in limited markets.

This is an area where brick-and-mortar stores might just have an advantage over online, especially if the Marketplace Fairness Act goes through and levels the tax playing field.  Being able to ship items from a local store can be cheaper and faster than fulfilling from some warehouse on the opposite coast.  Retailers that have already mastered "buy online, pickup in the store" need only change the pickup to delivery.  Grocery seems to be focused on this, with Fresh Direct leading the way in New York and AmazonFresh in Seattle, not to mention the many successful offerings in the UK which are projected to double in five years.

I think the lesson here is that fast delivery is becoming a differentiator in some markets, so retailers would be wise to make sure the basics are ready.  Make sure perpetual inventory is accurate and visible, labor scheduling is efficient, and shipping/delivery partners in place.

Monday Feb 18, 2013

Senses for Retail

When we talk about computer innovation, we often talk about how powerful computers have become.  But another aspect of computing is the advancements in the man-machine-interface, or the usability of computers.  We've gone from punch-cards to GUIs to tablets with each step of the progression getting us closer to the goal, which is transparency.  Using computers should be so natural that we don't expend any additional effort to use them.

So I was glad to see that IBM chose the five senses for this year's 5 for 5, five trends that will touch us in five years. From a retail perspective I'm not really interested in the taste and smell senses, although they are important for restaurants and grocers.  But the remaining three (touch, sight, and hearing) make up what I like to call Augmented UX.

In the retail industry there have been some interesting examples of user experiences that have been augmented by the senses.  For example:




The increase in computing power allows these complex technologies to move out of the labs and into stores, helping both consumers and employees.  How long before I'm asking HAL for advice on buying a new tie?

Wednesday Feb 13, 2013

What's Next from Apple?

Apple has had a profound impact on the retail industry with its amazing stores, mobile POS, and devices that allow people to shop on-the-go.  So it makes sense to monitor the boys in Cupertino so we don't get blindsided.  This week two big rumors were revealed that might give us some hints of what's to come.  First, Bloomberg is reporting Apple has a team working on a smart-watch, a wearable device that has some of the iPhone's features.  I find it hard to believe they can pack enough battery into a wristwatch for it to be anything iPhone-like, but perhaps its just a conduit for alerts from a bluetooth connected iPhone.

This "iWatch" concept has me thinking about even faster payments at the POS.  No need to whip out that phone, as perhaps the iWatch will  transmit payment credentials.  This could be the second step toward the wearable computer, the first being Google Glass.  The future may bring real-time product previews and offers magically popping up in your field of vision.  (BTW, our Retail Applied Research team has been working on iPad-based augmented reality for delivering contextual reports to store managers as they walk the aisles.)

The second rumor is that Apple is looking to buy a high-end television manufacturer.  The potential for Apple to apply what it learned from the music industry could really change the way in which we consume TV.  And of course, Apple would be well positioned to optimize Second Screen Commerce, allowing viewers to easily buy what they see. PayPal has teamed with Tivo to allow viewers to buy from ads, but a true Apple TV might just allow purchases from sitcoms.  The Big Bang Theory meets QVC.

I just hope the iWatch isn't waterproof, because the shower is my only remaining refuge.

Friday Feb 01, 2013

The Metamorphosis of Retail

This isn't a Kafka knock-off story about a retail associate turning into a giant bug, although the conclusion could be just as hideous.  I have always thought that the airline industry illuminates the way for retailers in some aspects.  I saw kiosks and QRCodes used at airlines before I saw them in stores, for example.  And airlines invented loyalty programs.  I appreciate the customer service and perks I get from my airline, and I wish I would be treated similarly by my retailers. But regardless of how much I spend with a retailer, I'm always treated as any other member of the herd, with the exception of high-end boutiques and possibly departments stores.  An article by Jeff Katz suggested that retail is following the path of airlines, and it gave me pause.

Katz, a former airline industry executive, points out that airlines determined that their customers are driven by price more than any other factor, so they have lowered their prices and stripped down service accordingly.  Then they let their customers pay for the things that matter to them, basically relying on add-on services, like preferred seat and bag fees, for profit.  The retail landscape isn't that much different with today's customers myopically focused on price.  Traditional retailers can't expend the effort and dollars to provide service to customers that whip out their phones and buy from a lower-price competitor (hello Amazon and eBay) that has less overhead.

Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and venture capitalist, has been trumpeting the coming downfall of brick-and-mortar stores based on the fact that the overhead doesn't allow them to compete with online retailers.  And while I understand where he's coming from, I don't agree at all.  Competition has and will continue to cause retailers to change.  Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are leveraging new touchpoints (notice I'm staying away from the dreaded "channel" term) and understanding how to provide greater personalization.  (Whenever I receive coupons from Target, I just have to wonder exactly how much they know.)  And while the technology exists for my pre-teen daughter to order clothing and shoes online, she will never do it.  She enjoys shopping too much.

Back to the airline industry... Retailers have the technology to track every interaction with me, and they can even personalize offers based on my patronage, their inventories, and the state of the local economy.  So just like I know my fellow passengers in row 20 (the exit row on MD-80s) each paid a different price for the exact same flight, we could be moving toward personalized pricing in stores.  And why stop there?  Browse the aisles, use a dressing room, make a return -- all might someday have fees associated.  (Remember re-stocking fees?)  Of course those fees will be waived for their most loyal customers, plus we get to use the express checkout as well.

So will consumers put up with the airline-ification of retail?  In some ways they already have. Just look at big-box, rock-bottom price, self-checkout stores.  The associates are about as friendly as TSA agents, and yet we still buy because we are so driven by lowest price.  Do you pay a fee to enter a Costco or Sam's Club?  Yes you do.  This Kafka "monstrous vermin" is starting to look pretty scary.

Fortunately, there's enough room in the retail industry for bare-bones retailers all the way up to personal shoppers and many points in between.  Retail is not going to die, nor is it going to merge with USAirways (although American Airlines might).  It is definitely going through major changes, most of which will benefit consumers. Every retailer has the opportunity to stake a claim to their market, their brand, and their offering. They are differentiated on price, service, and experience.  Some will neatly wrap my purchase in tissue-paper while others will charge me for a shopping bag.  Its all good because I make the choice.

So we'll take some lessons from the airline industry, but we'll also avoid some of their mistakes.  I look forward to the opportunity to tune my shopping experience to fit my needs, both online and in stores.

Tuesday Jan 22, 2013

Picking a Winner for Payments

Probably the most common question I get asked is, "which emerging payment system is best?"  Its a good question, and unfortunately, my crystal ball is a bit cloudy.  Remember, it took credit cards a while before they got traction.  Some of the same things I hear today ("we don't need a new payment scheme," and "it compromises my privacy") I'm hearing in reference to emerging payments.  And just as those complaints eventually quieted, the same thing will happen and people will adopt new ways of paying.  One thing I can say confidently is that the payment landscape will change over the next 3-5 years.

Is NFC dead on arrival? No. I'm not going to count Google, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and MasterCard out this early in the game. They are behind thanks to a lack of NFC support in iPhones, but they are still viable solutions.  With retailers needing to upgrade their POS terminals to accept EMV cards, now is a great time to also install NFC capabilities.  Once there are more NFC readers out there, more and more innovation will occur around them.

PayPal is definitely in the lead since they are able to leverage their e-commerce base of users.  Their lack of reliance on NFC has worked in their favor, at least in the short-term.  Of course if NFC takes off, I'm sure PayPal can add that technology as well.  Their flexibility and reach are strong points.

Google and Isis have great systems, but since they are limited to Android devices they are not serving enough of the market.  That, of course, will improve over time. While all three (Google, Isis, PayPal) are addressing consumer convenience, none are really addressing transaction costs for merchants.  That's where MCX, the retailer led mobile wallet, could shine. Since they are not on the forefront, they have the luxury of watching the market and picking the best ideas.

At the recent NRF conference, MCX representatives said they are planning to use barcodes for payments in order to support all mobile phones.  They are also focused on lowering transaction costs for merchants as well as protecting customer data, something that differentiates them.  The approach sounds right, but they are far behind in development unless they acquire or partner to gain access to an existing wallet.  Best potential of all the solutions, but furthest behind.

I suppose I could put all my retirement savings into one stock, but I'd rather spread the risk across many.  By the same token, there's no reason for retailers to pick winners at this early stage.  The best advice is to get into the game and try supporting one of the new wallets. In many cases, there's funding available to help offset costs.  This invaluable experience will prepare you to take advantage when winners are more apparent.

Thursday Dec 13, 2012

2013 Predictions for Retail

Its that time of year to roll out the predictions for next year.  I can't say I've really nailed it in the past, but feel free to look back at my 2012, 2011, and 2010 predictions.  I'm not expecting anything earth-shattering this year; just continued maturation of several technologies that are finally taking hold.

1. Next day delivery -- Amazon finally decided it wasn't worth fighting state taxes and instead decided to place distribution centers everywhere so they can potentially offer next-day deliveries.  Not to be outdone, Walmart is looking to leverage its huge physical presence to offer the same.  Clubs like ShopRunner are pushing delivery barriers as well, so the norm is shifting to free shipping in a few days or relatively cheap shipping overnight.  Retailers need be thinking about how to ship from physical stores.

2. Bring your own device -- Earlier this year Intuit bought AisleBuyer, a mobile self-checkout start-up, at least somewhat validating the BYOD approach.  Grocery stores, especially in Europe, have been supporting in-aisle self-scanning for a while and I'm betting it will find a home in certain verticals in the US too.  There's also the BYOD concept for employees.  Some retailers are considering issuing mobile devices at hiring along side the shirt and name-tag.  Employees become responsible for the hardware until they leave.

3. TV shopping -- Will Apple finally release a TV product in 2013?  Who knows?  But the industry isn't standing still. Companies like QVC and HSN are already successfully combining the TV and online experiences for shopping.  Comcast is partnering with Tivo to allow viewers to interact with ads with Paypal handing payment.  This will be a slow maturation, but expect TVs to get smarter and eventually become a new selling channel (pun intended) for retailers.

4. Privacy backlash -- It only takes one big incident to stir the public, and I'm betting we have one in 2013.  Facebook, Google, or Apple will test the boundaries of what the public is willing to accept.  It could involve a retailer using geo-location technology, or possibly video analytics.  And as is always the case, the offender will apologize, temporarily remove the technology, and wait 2-3 years for it to be generally accepted.  Privacy is a moving target.

5. More NFC -- I've come to the conclusion that adoption of any banking technology is going to be slow.  It was slow for credit cards, ATMs, and online billpay so why should it be any different for NFC?  Maybe, just maybe the iPhone 5S will have an NFC chip, but we're not going to see mainstream uptake for years.  Next year we'll continue to see incremental improvements from Isis, Google, and Paypal and a plethora of new startups, but don't toss your magstripe cards just yet.

6. In-store location -- The technologies for tracking people inside stores is really improving.  Retailers can track people using video cameras, infrared, and by the WiFi radios in mobile phones.  We're getting closer to the point where accuracy could be a shelf-facing, which will help retailers understand how people shop, where they spend time, and what displays attract them.  Expect CPG companies to get involved and partner with retailers, since the data benefits both parties.  Consumers will benefit by being directed right to the products they seek.  (In 2013 ARTS is forming a workteam to develop new standards in this area.)

7. M&A -- Looking back at 2012 there were some really big deals involving IBM, Oracle, JDA, and NCR and I expect that trend will likely continue as vendors add assets to bolster their portfolios.  Many retailers are due for an IT transformation to support anywhere, anytime shoppers, and one-stop-vendors can minimize complexity and costs.

Predictions from other sources:

Friday Nov 30, 2012

Facial Recognition for Retail

My son decided to do his science project on how the brain recognizes faces.  Faces are so complicated and important that the brain has a dedicated area for just that purpose.  During our research, we came across some emerging uses for facial recognition in the retail industry.

If you believe the movies, recognizing faces as they walk by a camera is easy for computers but that's not the reality.  Huge investments are being made by the U.S. government in this area, with a focus on airport security.  Now, companies like Eye See are leveraging that research for marketing purposes.  They do things like track eyes while viewing newspaper ads to see which ads get more "eye time."  This can help marketers make better placement and color decisions.

But what caught my eye (that was too easy) was their new mannequins that watch shoppers.  These mannequins, being tested at European retailers like Benetton, watch shoppers that walk by and identify their gender, race, and age.  This helps the retailer better understand the types of customers being attracted to the outfit on the mannequin.  Of course to be most accurate, the software has pictures of the employees so they can be filtered out.  Since the mannequins are closer to the shoppers and at eye-level, they are more accurate than traditional in-ceiling LP cameras.

Marketing agency RedPepper is offering retailers the ability to recognize loyalty shoppers at their doors using Facedeal.  For customers that have opted into the program, when they enter the store their face is recognized and they are checked in.  Then, as a reward, they are sent an offer on their smartphone.

It won't be long before retailers begin to listen to shoppers are they walk the aisles, then keywords can be collected and aggregated to give the retailer an idea of what people are saying about their stores and products.  Sentiment analysis based on what's said or even facial expressions can't be far off.

Clearly retailers need to be cautions and respect customer privacy.  That's why these technologies are emerging slowly.  But since the next generation of shoppers are less concerned about privacy, I expect these technologies to appear sporadically in the next five years then go mainstream.  Time will tell.


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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