Marketechnics: Figuring Out Next Steps

Mar 04, 2004

By Ron Margulis

Attendees to the Food Marketing Institute’s Marketechnics Conference were treated to a good working meeting in San Francisco this week. Strong workshops designed to help retailers figure out their next steps in a variety of technologies, coupled with a solid — if not wow-inducing — exhibit floor, provided the kind of knowledge that IT managers need to help move their companies forward.

On the show floor, there were notable advances in product and service offerings from several vendors. Nothing earth shattering, but certainly not boring.

While most of the applications focused on adding productivity or removing costs from the supply chain, there were a few that were developed to help retailers build top-line growth (although there were certainly more of these at the National Retail Federation show earlier this year). Examples of this were seen at the Tomax booth, which recently acquired solutions from Retail Pipeline that feature the concept of Distribution Resource Planning, and at Symbol, which introduced a new wireless switch that accommodates the use of in-store CRM technologies.

While not as prominent as at the NRF show, RFID was featured in several booths and workshops. It was the talk of the coffee and lunch breaks.

The workshops, which were in general very good (kudos to Michael Sansolo, Ernie Monshein, Pat Shinko and Wayne Breckinridge), featured a good mix of the technical and business.

On the tech side, the session on data synchronization gave an in-depth view of what it takes to make this kind of project work. James Sheehan of Shaw’s presented details on the planning and execution of the New England chain’s data synch project that had my head swimming, but was clearly beneficial to the IT folks in the audience.

The Metro session (see also RetailWire
1/13/04, METRO Brings Future Store to New York
) was excellent, as was
the session led by Sanjay Sarma of MIT’s Auto-ID center and Spartan Stores’
Dave Couch. The latter session presented both the business and technology cases
for RFID, and gave a non-hype overview of where the industry is today with RFID
and where it is going in the near-term future.

Moderator’s Comment:
Is there a trend in the retail technology business
toward developing solutions that help companies drive top-line growth? If not,
should there be? Is it more appropriate for retailers to invest in these types
of solutions rather than RFID?

The only disappointment I had at the show was the lack
of new ideas from vendors on how to use technology to improve the customer engagement

Other than the Symbol offering and those of a few other
vendors, nearly all the solutions on the show floor were marketed for their
ability to take costs out of the system.

There was a workshop on this issue, which I heard was
very useful, but vendors need to look at this issue much more closely, as customer
service is one of the few areas traditional supermarket retailers can compete
effectively with Wal-Mart.
Margulis – Moderator

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