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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

EuroShop exhibits omnichannel IT

EuroShop exhibits omnichannel IT
Wednesday February 19 2014

IT companies at European trade fair are embracing the concept of omnichannel retailing, aligning their latest innovations with single views of customers and product, writes Miya Knights

Love it or hate it, the adoption of the term ‘omnichannel’ is gaining traction among retail technologists to refer to the increasing customer-facing challenges the industry is looking to tackle.

This was clearly in evidence this week at EuroCIS [pictured], the area of the EuroShop trade fair held every four years in Düsseldorf devoted to the latest retail IT products and services.

Even though the variety of vendors exhibiting and presenting reflected a world where store sales still dominate, most were keen to highlight there ability to match or complement the same operational capabilities that most retailers have now come to accept they must offer customers online – speed, convenience, consistency and more personalised services.

Streamlining multichannel sales 

Rowan Cape, retail software solutions vice president at Fujitsu, for example referenced the development of its brand new electronic point-of-sale (EPoS)  Market Place application launched in New York last month to help retailers support combined off and online transactions and services that span multiple channels, like click & collect. “The ability to provide context sensitive and dynamic interaction at the point of sale, wherever that might be, is key,” she said.

“Market Place brings together retail channels in an application purpose-built for enterprise PoS. It offers tight enterprise resource planning (ERP) integration, with SAP first for this release, and offers real-time order management and inventory visibility, as well as customer information for social clienteling. So wishlists or baskets started online can be completed instore and available for pick up or delivery, for instance,” Rowan added.

David Concordel, senior vice president and head of retail business group at Fujitsu, said the development of new industry-specific products like Market Place or its latest U-Scan Genesis self-service checkout tills would help increase store efficiency and effectiveness, with their ability to integrate online or mobile transactions respectively. And Fujitsu’s integrated management suite would help manage increased complexity.

“One client puts over 40% of its revenue through its self-checkout systems,” he told RetailTechnology.co.uk. “But it found the queues were longer than its regular tills.” The second generation of its U-Scan Genesis system further increases transaction speeds, but also adds extra remote management and self-healing capabilities, so the retailer can “avoid the most repetitive errors or incidents that make lanes unavailable”.

Updating shelf-edge technology

Another particularly essential area in the store that was a focus for some exhibitors was the shelf edge, with German electronics retail group Media-Saturn receiving an reta award for its Pricer electronic shelf-edge label (ESL) deployment. ESL provider Displaydata (formerly known as ZBD) works with Kiddicare and John Lewis in the UK, was showcasing new colour and mobile-compatible displays.

Jacquie Boast, Displaydata global senior sales and marketing vice president, said dynamic pricing pressures, regulatory compliance and investment returns on the elimination of shopfloor paper-based and labour-intensive processes have driven mid-market ESL adoption. 

“For Tier 1, it’s about richer promotional content and interaction with a wider omnichannel strategy, where prices are updated online and in stores at the same time,” said Boast. “And, considering some retailers use their ESLs to update prices three times a day for instance, we’ve extended their lifespan even further by making the batteries replaceable, centralising the management software and enhancing the two-way communications.”

Updating its Epop ESL range, the addition of replaceable batteries in the new Displaydata ‘Luna’ model complements its improved white state and a wider viewing angle. Two completely new ranges add a black on paper-white display option using the latest electrophoretic display technology with the ‘Aura’ range and a three-colour range called ‘Chroma’.

Boast also highlighted the company strategy for facilitating customer interaction with its graphical ESLs. “We can already display a QR [quick response] or barcode on our labels,” she said. “But we don’t believe NFC [near field communication] is a natural tool here, especially when the likes of Apple haven’t integrated it yet. So we’ve taken the decision not to include it in our roadmap and to use Bluetooth Low Energy beacons instead.”

Optimising the store experience

She said the new wireless technology, also known as Bluetooth Smart, would enable customers to use a retailer’s app instore to communicate with its ESLs for special and personalised offers with the advantage of being able to control the zones where they are effective from as little as 8-10 centimetres and up to 10 feet, “so you can run promotions around entries sections, like TVs or the cereals section, for example”.

“It’s clear continued retailer investment in [mobile] devices is important,” commented Concordel. “But they need devices that are purpose-built and enable, on the application side, core functionality and workflows.” To this end, Fujitsu was demonstrating a modular mobile EPoS system, based on its Windows 8 tablet, with a docking facility and peripherals like barcode scanners built into a removable ‘bumper’ frame.

Meanwhile packaging and labelling specialist Avery Dennison, which yesterday reported on the long-term radio frequency identification (RFID) technology partnership with Marks & Spencer (M&S), was at the show to discuss how RFID inventory tracking advantages are an essential component of an omnichannel strategy to optimise product availability across multiple channels. 

Bill Toney, Avery Dennison global head of RFID market development, said: “Inventory is the biggest asset on a retailer’s balance sheet. But once it gets to the store you get lots of SKU [stock-keeping unit] level distortion. But retailers want to make sure customers can be confident they will have an item in stock, whether they search for it online or want to buy or collect it in a store. Item-level accuracy is essential for omnichannel.”

Tagged as: EuroShop | 2014 | EuroCIS | trade fair | event | exhibition | omnichannel | EPoS | self-service | mobile | ESL | BLE | RFIS | Fujitsu | Displaydata | Avery Dennison