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RBTE: In-store retail fights back

By Retail Technology | Wednesday March 13 2013

UK trade show showcases footfall tracking, assisted sales and queue-busting technologies to maximise the value of physical retail investments, writes Miya Knights

The IT industry turned out at this year's Retail Technology Business Expo (RBTE) to focus on the role of the store in successful omnichannel strategies.

It was clear from the number of exhibitors displaying new products or services based on the latest wireless or internet-based technologies that mobile and cloud came high up the list of new features and functionality. 

But their focus was not the latest e-commerce or m-commerce innovation. Rather it was on how retailers can bring online capabilities to bear instore to create a consistent and engaging customer experience across all channels.

Godiva counts on store assets

Where some retailers look online for growth, others like luxury chocolate company Godiva, were intent on optimising their shop floor. Retail Technology spoke to Sarah Hawkes, senior European retail strategic merchandising manager at Godiva, about the benefits of an investment in people counting technology.

"We've been using it in our Regent Street store for 18 months and wouldn't be without it now," she said, in advance of her presentation at the RBTE conference today. Hawkes has now overseen the roll out of a system provided by Shoppertrak to all of the retailer's stores across Europe.

"It allows us to track and carry out change in our stores," she explained. "That includes helping with staff training and window display changes, as well as developing the instore layout so it attracts customers. Managers can also own it themselves and use it to understand and improve conversion rates."

Todd Starcevich, ShopperTrak chief executive in Europe, Middle East and Africa, said he saw retailers investing in technology to "keep stores important," referencing headlines about the decline of the UK High Street as property vacancy levels reach 12% and major names scale back estates.

"Stores are still often generating 90-95% of sales," he said. "This is still driving business needs, in terms of how to get smart about shopper footfall tracking and path analysis - even if it is to measure any impact of the concept of 'showrooming,' where customers use their smartphones to use apps and compare prices."

Creating seamless experiences instore

The show featured many suppliers that were targeting instore optimisation requirements overall. Omnico – established from the merger between retail software company Clarity and electronic point-of-sale (EPoS) provider Digipos – held an invitation-only roundtable about enhancing customer experience while keeping the financial director happy.

Steve Thomas, Omnico chief technology officer, observed that retailers were best served by starting with a clear understanding of their customers and their needs before finding business strategies and supporting technologies to meet them now that they are online shopping savvy too.

"I call it the 'webification' of the experience instore," he said, referencing a new Windows-based mobile EPoS (MPoS) tablet debuted at RBTE on Omnico's stand.

So, while mobile and cloud may have been the hot technologies, their development this year has very been centred on how they can enhance retail sales conducted face to face. Simon Pont, chief executive of MPoS provider ECR Retail Systems, demonstrated a new handheld sales device with security protection built in.

Mobilising face-to-face payment

"Using GPRS and Wi-Fi, the unit can scan items, swipe cards, print tickets or issue receipts and actually check that funds are available to authorise payments," he said. "It's also the first PCI [Payment Card Industry] compliant MPoS handheld with transactional, credit card and receipt capabilities in one device."

The show also included developments designed to enhance business processes as well physical or virtual customer experiences. One example, WeDo Technologies, provides revenue and business assurance software that its business development manager, Ana Cuhna already well used by the telecoms sector.

"Retailers use our technology to focus on specific areas for improvement like stock availability and anticipating out-of-stocks or the return on promotions," she said. "They need profit protection, compliance and risk management solutions."

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