Look customers in the eyes to lock them in the aisles.

Shopkeepers adopt the hard sell with some tailored software, writes Mark Russell.

IN THE film Minority Report set in 2054, a brewer’s advertising billboard identifies Tom Cruise’s character, John Anderton, through a retinal scanner. As he walks past, the billboard calls out: ”John Anderton! You could use a Guinness right about now.”

Far-fetched? Not according to retailers who believe this type of targeted advertising may well be the future of shopping.

New York company Immersive Labs is already using built-in cameras and facial recognition software in its outdoor billboards to determine the gender and age of passers-by so it can customise the advertisement on display to suit them and prompt sales.

So if a man strolls by on a cold morning, the display might change from an ad for women’s clothing to an advertisement suggesting a cup of coffee at a nearby cafe.

As Australian online shopping – expected to be worth $21.3 billion this financial year and $30.8 billion by 2015-16 – continues to threaten bricks-and-mortar businesses, retailers are using the latest technology, combined with social media, including more shopping apps, to lure customers back into their stores.

German shoemaker adidas is planning to install touch-sensitive display walls in stores from next year. The virtual footwear wall will allow customers to view the company’s entire range of 4000 pairs of shoes. If a customer likes a particular shoe the store will order it in.

Two cameras above the screen will watch shoppers’ reactions to determine which shoes are most popular. And like other companies, adidas is also gathering feedback by encouraging customers to use Facebook and Twitter to review its products.

Brisbane company Yeahpoint believes its MiMirror creation is the missing link between instore shopping and social media that will revolutionise fashion retail.

MiMirror is a touch-screen display with a camera that acts as a mirror and takes up to six photographs of customers in outfits they are considering buying. The shoppers then email the images to friends or post them on Facebook to get a second opinion.

No retailers have installed the technology yet, but the company is confident major stores will buy the device in coming months.

”The factors driving retailers’ decisions for the future are basically that the cost of business continues to increase and competitiveness in the retail environment is being challenged by the online market,” Yeahpoint’s John Anderson says.

”On the flip side, you have the time-poor consumer who wants to have a much more friendly, fun shopping experience.”

Sean Sands, of Monash University’s Australian Centre for Retail Studies, agrees, saying many consumers are bored with traditional retail and the only way to lure them back into stores is to offer the latest technology linked to social media.

A recent report released by the centre found that online shopping was creating tougher in-store customers because they were ”better informed due to the power of the internet”.

Half the population now research their purchases online before setting foot in a store.

Many are also armed with a wide range of shopping apps that can be downloaded on to iPhones, iPod Touches, iPads and other tablets and smartphones, that allow them to hunt for the best deals.

The RedLaser app, for example, allows instore shoppers to scan the barcode of an item to get the price and then checks online to see if it’s cheaper elsewhere.

Supermarket giant Coles’ ShopMate app, which notes specials and lets you cross off your shopping list as you go, has been downloaded 400,000 times.

Rival Woolworths does not have a shopping app but has one to locate missing trolleys.

Woolies’ app-lessness is not likely to last, however, as retailers respond to consumer demand.

Russell Zimmerman, of the Australian Retailers Association, says ”every retailer has to be in the online space in the foreseeable future” or they won’t survive.

According to PayPal, 8 million Australians buy goods using the internet, and one in 10 buy them with their mobile phones.

Google Australia’s head of retail, Ross McDonald, says this increasing use of mobile phones to search for stores and products has become a noticeable trend in the past six months.

Previously, 95 per cent of online traffic for shopping searches was from computers but 16-18 per cent of online inquiries were now from mobile phones. ”What we advise retailers is that it’s not so much about the app but making sure you are visible on a mobile device when someone searches for you,” he says.

Jo Lynch from Myer – which has an iPhone app that lets you peruse and buy goods with a tap of your finger – says the company expects its online business to generate sales of $5 million for 2010-11 and be worth up to six times that in the next few years.

David Jones’ Brett Riddington says the future of shopping is all about multi-channel retailing. ”Many customers will still want to go in-store to physically see the goods after checking them out online, but we need to make that a more entertaining and engaging experience,” he says.

The brains behind retail revolution

More than 5 billion bar codes are scanned in shops worldwide every day

Alan Haberman, who died on June 12 aged 81, was largely responsible for standardizing the bar code’s design and introducing it into the world’s supermarkets, a development that has revolutionized retailing and countless other activities.

Bar codes, also known as universal price codes, were invented in 1949 by Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver, who had the idea of vertically extending the dots and dashes of Morse code and using it to encode product data. They secured a patent in 1952, but because scanning technology was in its infancy, their invention went largely unused.

Over the next 20 years, some manufacturers and retailers introduced their own product coding systems, but there was no standardization and, as a result, grocery manufacturers such as Kellogg’s and General Mills feared that they would be forced to produce different packaging for each supermarket chain.

In the early 1970s Haberman, who was executive vice-president of First National Stores in Boston, convened a committee to choose a standard symbol that could be used across America. By this time the original patent had lapsed, and the committee examined submissions from several companies including colourcoded, dots and dashes and bull’s-eye designs. Although many technology experts favoured the “bull’s eye,” which could be easily read by a scanner, Haberman came out firmly in favour of cheaper black-and-white vertical bars, created by George Laurer of IBM.

On June 26, 1974 a supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, became the first person to swipe a bar code (on a 67-cent pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum) across a scanner, but the new system took some time to catch on. Early scanners cost $10,000 and tended to be unreliable; in 1976 Business Week ran an article with the headline “The Supermarket Scanner That Failed.” By the early 1980s, despite Haberman’s best efforts, fewer than 30 per cent of supermarkets in America were using his universal price code design. The breakthrough came when the “pile-’em-high-sell-’em-cheap” retailers got in on the act. In 1984 Walmart, Kmart and Bullocks decided to introduce the bar code and other chains soon followed suit. As the system developed, it enabled retailers to keep track of inventory with unparalleled accuracy, making possible the introduction of “just-in-time” ordering, minimizing the need for storage and waste, and providing a huge range of sales data which allowed greater responsiveness to customer demands.

Despite resistance from conspiracy theorists, who considered bar codes to be intrusive surveillance technology, and from some Christians who thought the codes hid the number 666, more than five billion of the codes are now scanned in shops worldwide every day; the technology has yielded savings running into the trillions of dollars.

Bar codes have also spread into many other fields, from allowing airlines to locate lost luggage to helping beekeepers to monitor the movements of honeybees, via tiny bar codes attached to their backs.

Haberman compared the development of the bar code with the Biblical story of creation: “Go back to Genesis,” he advised an interviewer in 2004. “God says I will call the night ‘night,’ I will call the heavens ‘heaven’. Naming was important. Then the Tower of Babel came along and messed everything up. In effect, the (bar code) has put everything back into one language, a kind of Esperanto, that works for everyone.”

Alan Lloyd Haberman was born in Worcester, Mass., on July 27, 1929. After taking a degree in American History and Literature at Harvard, he took an MBA from Harvard Business School. He worked briefly on Wall Street before joining Hills Supermarkets as executive vice-president.

HMV picks new CRM system

HMV’s new rewards scheme, PureHMV, is using a customer relationship manager (CRM) system from EHS Brann Discovery.

PureHMV allows customers to collect points for transactions, then trade them in for ‘money can’t buy items or experiences such as autographed guitars or concert tickets.

EHS Brann Discovery is supporting the launch of the unique scheme, which has now gone nationwide after a six month trial across 33 stores in East Anglia and the West Midlands. The agency’s approach will utilise reward scheme data from multiple sources including HMV’s point-of-sale systems and in-store and website sign-ups, all of which will feed hourly into the CRM system.

The system will analyse sales data by customer types and spending behaviour to allow for better targeted and more relevant communications on promotions and offers. This aims to make the customer’s journey more personal, relevant and valuable and HMV’s marketing more efficient, profitable and insightful.

“The implementation of a CRM system will enable HMV to maximise the value it derives from PureHMV, and provides the tools to ensure that its approach to customer loyalty remains current and credible. Investment in customer loyalty generates a vast quantity of customer insight, and by carefully analysing this data and applying it to the interactions it has with its customers, HMV can continue to enjoy profitably and long term relationships,” says EHS Brann Discovery managing director Richard Greenhalgh.

Procter & Gamble Deploys Analytics Software for Product and Branding Research

The Procter & Gamble Co. is leveraging predictive analytics in an effort to gain a complete view of customer attitudes and preferences about its products.

The Procter & Gamble Co. is using Chicago-based SPSS Inc.’s Predictive Analytics Software (PASW) to gather and analyze direct consumer feedback to improve its marketing research and brand evaluation.

“At P&G, we believe that high-quality, focused market research is an indispensable tool in the successful development and marketing of our consumer products,” said Patrick Hogan, consumer research solutions manager for global business services at Cincinnati-based P&G. “SPSS Predictive Analytics Software is instrumental in our understanding of how consumers think about and interact with our products, how they make purchase decisions, and how they respond to new ideas.”

P&G uses PASW Data Collection software to manage the entire research lifecycle by authoring and conducting surveys, and then sending feedback to analysts for improving process efficiencies. PASW Data Collection was designed to provide an open, scalable and customizable solution for multi-channel survey research and reporting needs.

“SPSS Predictive Analytics Software has enabled P&G to improve on and execute our research with consistent standards, quality and comparability across the globe,” said Hogan. “Using Predictive Analytics Software, our organization has made strides in effectively promoting brands, resulting in considerable savings to our organization and value to our consumer.”

Future Group Deploys Next-Generation Database for Enterprise Data Analysis

Future Group, India’s largest retailer, with banners that span the retail market, has deployed a new database for its Enterprise Data Cloud in support of large-scale data analytics for its multi-format nationwide chain of retail stores.

The retailer is working with San Mateo, Calif.-based Greenplum on the project. “Flexibility and agility are core requirements in our IT infrastructure,” said Ushir Bhatt, CEO of Future Knowledge Services within Mumbai-based Future Group. “Greenplum Database is a centerpiece of our strategy to use a cloud-like approach to our data warehouse. Greenplum’s leadership in bringing forth Enterprise Data Cloud is another example of how they are leap-frogging their competition in the data warehousing market and adapting to the business needs of retailers.”

The Greenplum Database stores and analyzes terabytes to petabytes of data using clusters of commodity servers, moving processing power as close as possible to the data, so processing always occurs in parallel for better query and load performance, according to the company.

“Greenplum brings Future Group the speed and scalability of a massively parallel data warehouse but does so in a very cost-effective manner,” said Parakh Dave, head of technology services, Future Knowledge Services. “As we increase the amount of data under management, we will be able to make smarter decisions about customers, products, pricing and promotions across all of our retail outlets. We are setting a new standard for retail analytics by enabling our decision-makers to run Future Group as a data-driven enterprise.”

Tata’s Trent to Deploy Dassault PLM

Trent Ltd., a Tata Group company and operator of Trent Westside, one of India s largest and fastest growing retailers, is planning to deploy the ENOVIA Apparel Accelerator for design & development.

With 38 Westside stores in India and plans to expand rapidly in 2010, Trent Ltd. will need to manage its margin and profitability by rapidly responding to changing market conditions and consumer trends. A key element of its long term success will be based on how effectively the company is able to work with the core elements in their ecosystem including internal resources, partners, buyers, sourcing offices and suppliers, according to a statement.

Dassault Syst mes (DS) a player in 3D and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions, will provide the accelerator to Trent. According to Dassault, the ENOVIA Accelerator that takes nine weeks to implement, will be integrated with Trent s existing ERP systems. Greater visibility into the new product development process will enable the company to reduce sample development time and increase seasonal options by leveraging the market knowledge and design capabilities of key suppliers while also tracking commodity prices to negotiate better costs with them.

Sainsbury’s to improve product availability with new supply chain systems.

Sainsbury’s is to transform the management of its supply chain to improve stock availability through a five-year deal with IBM.

IBM will introduce new systems to help Sainsbury’s and its 4,000 suppliers find smarter ways of managing the supply chain and support continued growth in the grocer’s business.

Sainsbury’s will use an electronic trading network provided by Wesupply, and IBM will manage the migration of the grocer’s suppliers onto the system.

The retailer has previously suffered from problems with product availability in stores, and last year merged its supply chain and retail director roles in a move that analysts said could ease these issues.

The solution will allow Sainsbury’s to monitor the status of orders across its entire network and manage the availability of products. The Wesupply service will allow information flows to be streamlined. The grocer will also benefit from improved visibility of supply chain performance which will allow it to heighten stock control.

As part of this migration, Sainsbury’s will be transitioning its electronic data interchange (EDI) service to EDI network provider Inovis. Hundreds of Sainsbury’s suppliers are already using Inovis’ network to exchange documents with their customers.

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