Friday, March 6, 2009

Solution Spotlight: Taggle Brings Mobile Bids To Brick & Mortar Stores

By Amanda Ferrante

The Concept:

Taggle is a new concept designed to allow consumers in a brick-and-mortar retail store to bid on items in a no-hassle way via the mobile device. While designed to work optimally for the iPhone and iPod touch, Taggle can also work for owners of other phones via SMS messaging. In September 2008, the Consumer Electronic Association selected Taggle as one of 15 finalists worldwide as one of the most innovative applications of 2008.

The Team:
Taggle was conceived and developed by Las Vegas-based Sysgain, Inc., a privately held technical consulting and product development company. CEO Ram Thummala came up with the concept to nurture the changing consumer’s preferences. Thummala partnered with Michael Brophy, who had previously worked in retail management/information system for 10 years.

Market Relevance:
“Haggling is a reality of the retail environment,” says Brophy. He introduces an “elastic pricing” concept, which, he says, will ultimately mitigate margin loss. The retailer with Taggle controls the entire promotion, messaging, what SKUs are available, description image, quantity the store is willing to sell and at what price. Brophy says the Taggle application is not limited to the elastic pricing scheme, and can be extended to support a feature similar to eBay’s “Buy it Now” feature, so consumers can purchase on the spot at a designated price.

Without integrating with a POS system, data warehouse, UPC databases, etc., the core offering for Taggle is the piece that sits in the store. Sysgain brings in a wireless infrastructure, or can override the store’s existing one, depending on the type of existing wireless technology. An installed VPN appliance allows secure connectivity back to the Taggle data center where bids are evaluated and sent back to consumers. A back office work station within the store is necessary for nightly reporting and to create and maintain marketing messaging. Sysgain provides in store signage consistent with each retailers’ style and guidelines.

Proof Points:

In November 2007, Sysgain conducted a consumer survey with input from over 2,100 consumers. Those that did haggle had an average 70% success rate at saving $50 or more. Nearly 40% felt so uncomfortable about the idea of haggling that they never even tried. Sysgain recently finished taking applications from pilot retailers to develop a user base and generate buzz. “Retailers know people are using their phones in the store for purposes that are working against the retailer’s objectives,” says Brophy. “A lot of people are price shopping other retailers… let’s try to influence their behavior by giving them a network to join once they’re in the store so you can deliver your messaging.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mobility Moves Up Priority Scale As Retailers Look For Productivity, Sales Gains

By Amanda Ferrante
As retailers struggle to find operating efficiencies while still maximizing revenue opportunities, demand for mobility tools are on the rise and solution providers are responding with applications that are easier and more affordable to implement at the store level.

Relative newcomer to the retail space, DT Research recently unveiled the WebDT series of devices for Point-of-Service, boasting the largest screen size of any handheld POS device in the market today. The devices include a fully-integrated MSR, RFID and/or barcode scanner. The WebDT 300 devices are designed to help companies “do more with less” by improving customer service with fewer employees and reduce costs by streamlining business processes.

The WebDT Point-of-Service handhelds can be designated for specific applications and business processes. The WebDT 400 devices have a rugged design, with an IP65 rating for liquid and dust resistance. The devices’ fully-integrated magnetic stripe reader (MSR), RFID and barcode scanner are designed to enhance ease-of-use and reliability.

The WebDT Handheld Point-of-Service device is designed to allow retailers to increase the quality of customer service by providing on-the-spot service from anywhere in the store, including checkout, payment processing away from the register and POS queue busting.

“As market conditions fluctuate, businesses need to improve productivity and provide high-quality service with limited resources,” said Dr. Daw Tsai, president of DT Research. “By providing on-the-spot order taking, payment processing and ticket scanning, businesses can quickly assist every customer on the premises with a wide range of services and real-time information. Organizations can also increase sales through instantaneous up-selling and cross-selling.”

Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility business unveiled several new solutions at NRF last month designed to improve customer experience, productivity and protect customer data. Highlights of Motorola’s new offerings included:

The new PCI-compliant DCR-7X00-100R mobile payment module, which mobilizes the point-of-sale and addresses a key challenge for retail and hospitality establishments – to more quickly respond to and complete customers’ credit, debit and loyalty card transactions. By providing access to banking and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, businesses can create a mobile point of sale (MPOS) solution that is ideal for applications such as line-busting in retail stores and car rental agencies and table side payment at hospitality establishments. This new Payment Card Industry PIN Entry Device (PCI PED) for the MC70 and MC75 Enterprise Digital Assistants (EDAs) includes a PIN pad for online debit card transactions. With the new payment module, retailers can now offer customers the choice of paying with credit or debit – while taking advantage of lower transaction charges for online PIN debit transactions.

The new DS9808 digital image scanner, which can be used in both hands-free mode for rapid scanning of multiple items, and in handheld mode for scanning items up to 18” away that may be too heavy or bulky to lift. The new solution is designed to eliminate wait times for customers. The device can read 1D, 2D and PDF-417 bar codes, which helps to support business-critical retail applications like auto-population of forms, returns monitoring and age verification.

Addressing the increase of self-service shopping, Motorola’s new MK500 is a compact, micro kiosk designed to run in-store, applications such as price check, gift card balance look-up and loyalty card point balance data. Designed to be mounted just about anywhere in the store, the MK500 enables customers to quickly find the information they need without seeking a store associate.

“Motorola is helping retailers tailor their offerings to meet the changing needs of shoppers through secure access to data and information, when and where they need it, while offering consumers a more personalized shopping experience,” said Frank Riso, senior director of retail solutions, Motorola Enterprise Mobility business. ”With our portfolio of retail solutions Motorola can meet today’s consumer and retailer needs by empowering the store associate to transform the retail enterprise.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

RetailWire: Research Shows Impulsive Displays of Consumer Buying Behavior Still Exist

By George Anderson, Editor, RetailWire

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from one of RetailWire's recent online discussions. Each business morning on, retail industry executives get plugged in to the latest news and issues with key insights from a "BrainTrust" of retail industry experts.

Retailers may be engaged in markdown mania but research from OgilvyAction concludes that if they really want to move product they need to get it out on secondary displays.

The agency's research, which included interviews with 6,000 shoppers across multiple retail channels in February and March found that 29% of consumers made unplanned purchases when going to a store. Of those, 24% were influenced by displays to purchase while 18% cited in-store sampling and 17% mentioned a price promotion.

39% of shoppers said they entered a store with plans to purchase from a category but not a specific product. Thirty-one percent of those consumers were influenced to buy by sampling, 28% by price promotion and 27% by some other form of promotion.

Impulse purchases using displays were most likely to occur in convenience stores where just below 50% acknowledged buying a product they had not intended to when entering the store.

While the research points to the power of displays, the reality is that secondary displays are often stocked with discounted products.

"We know price promotion will always be in the picture for any shopper," Jeff Froud, senior strategic planner with OgilvyAction, told "They will always say they don't want to feel like they're getting ripped off."

The RetailWire BrainTrust board generated quite a lot of buzz around the topic of price promotion and in-store merchandising. “Shoppers vote billions of times every day in stores across the country on what they want, and where they want to go to get it. It's really not that complicated,” said Herb Sorensen, Global Scientific Director, Shopper Insights at TNS Sorensen. “But if you think you can eke out a few more sales by pushing lots of stuff they are not interested in, in front of them (hold them in the store a little longer, hide what they want in a sea of irrelevant--to them--offers) you are cutting your own throat, and richly deserve to have a growing body of savvy competitors eat your lunch.”

Anne Howe, Sr. VP of Market Intelligence at MARS Advertising, added that it is important to make all merchandising and store layouts impactful. “In a nutshell, the concept is that many retailers could see more by keeping shoppers in the store for less time rather than more time. A well organized store that doesn't make a shopper have to spend 50% of her time "searching" the shelves might be more valid.” Howe said.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kiosk, Digital Signage Expos Showcase New Customer Engagement Solutions

Looking ahead to one of the most challenging holiday seasons in more than a decade, retailers are taking a harder look at innovative ways to engage the customer and optimize the in-store experience. With retailers striving to up the ante in-store and online, solution providers pushed the envelope by unveiling cutting edge technology at last week's KioskCom Self Service and Digital Signage Expo in New York’s Javits Center.

Interactivity, self-service and streamlining information were some of the key themes at the shows. Innovations at the shelf-edge, new tools to collect and measure customer feedback as well as applications which help retailers engage through their mobile devices were just some of the solutions debuted. Retail TouchPoints walked the aisles of both shows and the following report highlights some of the ground-breaking tools that made waves at the events:

Smart Shelf Technology
Marketing experts emphasize that messaging is more powerful when it’s relevant and timely. The folks at Nanonation say Smart Shelves do just that—deliver a message to the consumer at the point of interest to inform and engage. Consumers can pick up a product and be instantly greeted with pertinent information and insights delivered through digital screens and intelligent triggers. The application is dual purpose, as it works to provide employees with timely, consistent and in-depth information to enhance their training and selling ability.

Customer Feedback Management

Cleva Technologies debuted Xit Poll, which is currently deployed in Filene’s Basement stores. The solution is a whole new take on exit polling. To help retailers attain valuable and relevant information, the Xit Poll combines a versatile platform with a user-friendly Web-based data management system. The wireless device can be placed in any area of the store, as it gathers real-time data to provide intelligence on each user’s shopping experience. In addition to its survey capability, the Xit Poll has an interactive map which enables retailers to manage the device based on geographic location.

Smartphone Integration

Addressing the huge expansion of iPhones and other mobile devices, Intava announced the integration of smartphone technology to marry mobile phones with in-store digital signage to inform and communicate with customers, not only in the in-store environment, but beyond. The integration is designed to offer retailers the opportunity to deliver any in–store interactive system or marketing campaign to a variety of smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone. With Intava’s new smartphone solution, retailers can create personalized, mobile interactions to be used within the store environment, delivering promotions, marketing messages and product information directly to the mobile phone.

Home Scanner
Retail TouchPoints previously reported on the Ikan grocery scanning device. The company showcased the second generation device, the Ikan v2, which now offers a more compact, touch screen version. Offering consumers a chance for engagement in their own kitchen, the device facilitates shopping list building via the countertop device. Ikan plans to add weekly circular, personalized specials and coupons to the device interface, designed to help retailers drive incremental sales by having these features accessible to the consumer right in their kitchen.

High-Touch Service

Experticity and NCR announced their partnership to offer a new channel in customer support. The retail-specific solution engages shoppers at the point of purchase with high quality, live video customer support. Rather than having to ask a sales associate for help, or find product information on their own, shoppers can interact with a live person through video. Remote expert service agents-- supplied by the retailer, consumer goods manufacturer or a third party-- can be accessed by the shopper. NCR's team will now stage, deploy and support the Experticity platform.

TableTop Dining Solution
Casual dining restaurants can address their turnover rates and customer satisfaction initiatives with the first pay-at-the-table & digital promotion solution, from Dallas, TX-based startup TableTop Media. The device is designed to increase table turns by enabling customers to split checks, email and/or print receipts and offer a digital survey at the end of the meal. The device is fully interactive as it provides nutritional information, displays menu options and can be customized appropriately. If a survey shows evidence of a less-than-perfect experience, restaurant managers can be automatically notified to make a visit to the table, increasing customer loyalty. The device also serves as a form of “infotainment,” where diners can view movie titles and times, and even purchase tickets.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Retailers Work Web 2.0 to Craft Their Own Bailout For Fall and Holiday 2008

Written by Amanda Ferrante

Retailers are expecting Web 2.0 applications to “work it” to help pull out a decent holiday season amid a tough year. In fact, many major retailers are already in full swing with fall campaigns that stressing innovation and customer engagement to spark a bleak economy.

“Value-added services like how to’s and customer product reviews are now considered the norm in the retail industry,” says Doron Levy, president of Captus Business Consulting. “Customers are always looking for resources, especially when it comes to higher priced products, such as cosmetics and electronics. These services build confidence for the customer and can drive them to purchase based solely on the extra information they receive.”

Saks Fifth Avenue is taking Levy’s advice to heart. As part of its fall promotional campaign, Saks Fifth Avenue is pulling out an arsenal of Web 2.0 tactics to engage and entertain online customers. offers a video catalog called “Fashion in Action,” which treats cosmetic shoppers to step-by-step instructions on proper skin care, makeup application, and combining scents. The new element is designed to give customers a “real sense of the product,” which is a big step forward in the Web 2.0 world, where video is vital.

Among other new Web features, developed the Fashion Incubator, “as the source for what’s new, what’s now, what’s next.” Here customers can read up on new featured designers, and shop their collections.

Many retailers have already rolled out the Christmas allocation, while others will implement right before Halloween to try to get a jump on sales. Macy’s Inc. and Costco have already put out holiday merchandise. “There will definitely a sense of Christmas in the air much earlier than previous years,” says Levy. “It will be interesting to see the circulars this seasons and the aggressive promos and price reductions to get inventory moving.”

Levy says Wal-Mart and Target will be aggressive players this holiday season—Target will offer a gift card that doubles as a digital camera.

Hot products make the difference
Since prices have come down on electronic gadgets like MP3 players, smartphones, and LCD TVs, analysts say these items will be hot gift choices this year. “Prices have come down on many of the televisions, making them more accessible to more economic groups,” says Levy. “Video game consoles will also do well, especially since there is improved allocation on Playstation3 and the Wii. Blu ray disc players have also seen some price reductions.”

As part of its marketing campaign, Bloomingdale’s is integrating music into print advertisements, email messages, catalogs, Web site, shopping bags and window displays, bringing the concept to its customers across all channels. The retailers will offer live performances by musicians and bands in stores, in addition to selling artist CDs and DVDs distributed by the Sony Music Label Group division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Jack Hruska, executive vice president for creative services at Bloomingdale’s in New York told The New York Times the music campaign was inspired by the recent fashion trend for clothing inspired by rock and roll, like “rocker t-shirts, skinny pants, leather and siren pants.” But the campaign isn’t limited, as it will include genres like jazz, show tunes, pop and classical in the campaign. Bloomingdale’s plans to include music in its Christmas campaign as well, which is scheduled to start November 20.

One analyst says retailers need to focus on their customers rather than getting “caught up in all the teenage angst of the financial, commodity, political circus.” “Those who put their nose to the grindstone, work the long hours, connect with their customers and shut their mouths about anything related to disappointment, lack or worry will do fine,” says Bob Phibbs of The Retail Doctor.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Personal Shopping Devices Preparing For Tipping Point In Adoption In 2009

Personal shopping devices for consumers are reaching their “tipping point.” With at least one high-profile retailer signaling success with an initial test, experts say 2009 could be the beginning of the handheld device era for grocery, warehouse clubs and pharmacies.

That retailer is Stop & Shop. As a strong regional supermarket chain with a lot at stake in its current rebranding effort, Stop & Shop could have focused on any number of changes to call attention to itself. It shows some confidence that in addition to its new logo, color palette and employee uniforms, Stop & Shop’s publicity effort is highlighting its personal shopping devices.

Called Easy Shop, the device allows consumers to scan, track and bag their purchases as they shop. The software application is provided by Modiv Media; hardware is from Motorola. All parties in the Stop & Shop initiative are playing business models close to the vest. However, Modiv Media’s new CEO Paul Schaut says “we are absolutely saying that we can influence key metrics. We’ve proved that for the last eight months.” Among those metrics Schaut is willing to prove to potential clients: Larger basket size for grocery retailers, higher purchase levels for time-pressed shoppers, more total trips to the store, and higher coupon redemption rates.

The universe of consumer-facing handhelds at retail is still small. According to Retail System Research analyst Paula Rosenblum, it is in the “early adopter phase.” However, employee facing handheld devices and consumer facing devices are ranked numbers two and there by retailers as opportunities fro improving the in-store customer experience. The Stop & Shop rollout is one of the only high profile consumer handheld retail applications. The question is how to drive its success to more chains, and increase the awareness of its capabilities to more consumers.

“The challenge is right now to get these devices into stores,” says Schaut. “I’m very confident that they will be of huge value to retailers, consumer packaged goods companies and consumers. They’re very logical and they provide new touchpoints within the store.”

If they do achieve widespread adoption, retailers should be prepared for handheld devices to affect two key areas. The first is in-store marketing: After signing into the system, targeted marketing programs can be easily sent to consumers based on their past purchase behavior and even their position in the store. That screen can produce coupons for suppliers as well as retailers. It also creates a situation in which in-store marketing becomes competitive. The “at shelf” decision to buy a certain toothpaste, for example, can be disrupted by a wireless message from a competitor.

“When they buy on the Internet consumers are used on having a lot of data at their fingertips,” says IHL: retail analyst Lee Holman. “The handhelds bring that data into the store. You can compare promotions. You can compare competing offers.”

The second is loyalty programs. Motorola industry solutions principal Scott Moreland believes cross-channel retailing will be greatly impacted by handheld devices. He believes loyalty programs, in particular, will be enhanced. Consumers can join the programs more easily, enter recent purchases, see their loyalty point accrual in real time and redeem them immediately.

The business model for the retailer-handheld supplier relationship is starting to get some attention, and attract some controversy. Off the record, suppliers say that many retailers want to have a skin in the handheld game. The “skin” model would mean that suppliers charge retailers very little per unit, and then share a percentage of purchase revenue with the supplier. The straight model would sell the handheld units for full-price, and have no claim on revenues gained by having the handhelds in store. Suppliers would rather see the straight model.

The wild card in the evolution of personal shopping devices is the involvement of CPG companies. Technologies have advanced to the point where a cola brand could alert a valued customer when they come into the store that a sale is on. It could send coupons via the wireless device. It could also send an ad for another brand, and then capture the customer data from registered information. Retailers will want a share of that revenue if it’s called advertising. Hardware suppliers and software solution providers will want to be involved in selling those deals.

To that end Modiv Media recently added Microsoft’s Atlas AdManager to its Modiv Shopper 1.0 and Modiv MediaHub platforms. The Modiv platforms were designed to enable campaign management and media delivery based on scan-and-bag activity. Atlas AdManager expands those targeting opportunities to include media delivery based on real-time activity in-store. For example, a shopper buying hot dogs can now be delivered a message to "remember to buy the ketchup," accompanied by a branded discount. That kind of targeting will be hard to resist for CPG companies, according to Schaut.

“For the future I think this will be an evolution rather than a revolution,” says Schaut. “Retailers need to know that they can make more money through more sales, increase the amount of data they generate for each customer and potentially provide some very valuable impressions for advertisers.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Industry Execs Share Expertise to improve the in-store experience

By Debbie Hauss, Executive Editor

AT&T, Virgin Megastores, Bon-Ton and others present at Customer Engagement Conference

Analyzing customer behavior, implementing the latest technologies and focusing on loyalty are three key strategies that will help retailers across industries and geographies keep the best customers and improve top-line sales.

A number of the retail industry’s top executives shared their own strategies with attendees at the recent Retail TouchPoints Customer Engagement Conference, the retail industry’s first virtual trade show. These sessions and others presented at the August 6, 2008 live event, are available on-demand through October by visiting

The three sessions related to the in-store experience each focused on important aspects of reaching the best consumers more proactively:

Investing in the In-Store Experience at Virgin
A roundtable featuring Robert Fort of Virgin Megastores and Andrew Austin from AT&T brought discussion about implementing technologies such as digital signage, traffic counters and loyalty programs and using mobile technology to communicate with customers and employees.

During the session titled “Investing in the In-Store Experience,” Fort described the entertainment chain’s digital listening stations, the introduction of the Virgin VIP Loyalty Program and the retailer’s use of traffic counters. “We have enhanced the store experienced and created a loyalty program while monitoring in-store behavior,” noted Fort, CIO of Virgin Megastores.

Virgin also focused efforts on the back end, that Fort said directly impacts the overall customer experience. A new data warehouse provides real-time sales information to stores and a recently introduced portal facilitates communication between the home office and each of the 10 Virgin destination stores in the U.S. In addition, a new voice and data network is creating a “unified communication strategy in which stores can communicate rapidly with other stores or the home office,” Fort said.

Moving Mobility Forward at AT&T
AT&T is accessing customer profiles as soon as someone enters the store. “When a customer enters an AT&T store they are greeted by an employee using the AT&T Tilt,” said Andrew Austin, director of retail customer experience at AT&T. “The greeter will sign the customer in and while that customer is exploring the technology offerings in the store, that employee is researching information on the customer.” When it’s time for the customer to be served store staff is prepared with individualized information and promotions for that particular customer.
In a partnership with Microsoft, AT&T has become the first retailer to launch Microsoft Surface, “to fantastic success,” said Austin. At presstime the communications retailer had 50 Success tables set up in 13 stores. At the Surface tables, customers can review features of the products by simply placing them on the table.

AT&T’s goals with its in-store technology are to get the customers to “touch the network,” said Austin. “We help them envision what using the services will feel like…through digital signage, touch screen information stations and experience tables.” The company introduced its first Experience store in Houston in early 2007 and now operates 20 similar stores across the U.S.

Analytics for Customer-Centric Marketing at The Bon Ton
Segmenting customer groups and analyzing macro trends has helped The Bon Ton refine its marketing strategy and position the 280-store department store retailer for future success. The Bon Ton is achieving this by focusing on its best customers.“Some folks shop on a seasonal basis or just in one category, such as cosmetics,” explained Mike Hayes, SVP, The Bon Ton Stores, Inc., during his session titled “Customer Centric Marketing.”
“Ultimately our goal is to move what we call the customers’ ‘lifetime value’ to greater heights, improving their transaction profitability and frequency of shopping,” Hayes said. The Bon Ton program is data-driven by macro trends and demographically defined shopping habits. “We first looked at the macro level – economics, competition, top-line sales and the holiday effect,” said Hayes. That information, combined with outside industry research, helped Hayes describe customer behavior. By determining where the best customers were located geographically, The Bon Ton can refined its marketing and promotional messages to reflect that distribution.

During his presentation, Hayes also addressed how the current economy is affecting The Bon Ton’s marketing plans and he explained how other retailers can implement this type of analytics program.

Taking the Customer Loyalty to the Next Level
“Foot traffic is down in stores worldwide,” said Jon Stine, director of the retail sector for Consumer Products at Cisco Systems, “and retail comes in right next to economy class on airlines for customer experience.” With those two strikes against the industry, retailers must focus on their current and best customers to create loyalty that leads to repurchase intent and repurchase behavior, Stine noted during his session titled “Delivering Winning Retail Customer Experiences.”

Retailers must move forward with the latest technology to compete for customers in today’s environment, Stine notes. “Already 10 percent of today’s consumers are texting each other across the aisles in the store.”

During his presentation Stine described three keys to gaining customer loyalty: the brand promise, shopping stages and touch points. He asked: “Can you as a retailer consistently exceed your customers’ expectations where and when it matters most?”

The brand promise describes who you are as a retailer, Stine said. “Eighty to 90 percent of all retailers offer either dependable quality or quick response/service.” The other 10-20 percent, he noted are the trend or cost leaders. Consumers’ shopping stages consist of: awareness of product need, research and decision-making, purchase and the quality of service received. Finally, the touch points relate to different points of contact with the consumer including the store, the Internet, catalog, contact center or mobile phone.

And although research suggests 75-80 percent of customers are “satisfied,” that doesn’t mean they are loyal. “In only up to 40 percent are loyal and IBM suggests that number is 27 percent in grocery,” noted Stine. “So our goal should be to turn satisfied into loyal customers.”

During his presentation, Stine also addressed IT. “Ask your IT people the question: ‘How quickly can we roll out functionality out to all stores?’ And ask yourself how quickly the competition will pass you before you get it out to all stores.”