Marketechnics Report: Not Much New Going On

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Feb 17, 2005
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Commentary by Ronald Margulis

Last year, after the Food Marketing Institute’s Marketechnics Conference, I wrote that there was a distinct lack of really new ideas, and wrote the same after the NRF show last
month. Unfortunately, there was precious little to make me change my mind on this at the Marketechnics Conference in Washington this week. While attendees heard from several innovative
retailers in the workshops, and there were some advances on the exhibit floor, there wasn’t a killer application that can revolutionize the industry, and that is what several
of the IT folks I talked with are waiting for.

And what is the average IT exec waiting for?

The conversations I had during the conference focused on two areas: collecting and analyzing data; and then making actionable information available to the front-line staff. The
objects are to more appropriately engage customers and, by deploying technology, to help the corporate business user (mostly the buyer/category manager) optimize his or her decisions.
RFID was also mentioned, but supermarket operators are mostly playing a wait and see game with the technology.

In terms of using data to improve customer engagement, Symbol has a new “ruggedized” manager’s PDA that can be used with Store Perform or other software to keep the manager on
the floor servicing the customer and making sure the staff is doing the same. For buyers and category managers, Galleria Retail Technology Solutions is entering the U.S. market
with an interesting assortment and shelf planning application that has already been deployed at Tesco and other operators. The tool helps retailers customize the store to the
shoppers being served by reviewing POS data.

In the workshops I attended, which were once again quite good, retailers suggested that the most successful deployment of technology during the last year and likely the next
one focus on store-level operations. From customer loyalty technology to reducing out-of-stocks, the easiest projects for a CIO to sell to his or her board are systems that payoff
in customer retention and market share growth.

Andrew Zolli, a futurist, was the highlight of the general sessions. He presented a thought-provoking and often humorous medley of concepts based on the idea that things are
changing faster and faster, and those businesses that can interpret trends the soonest will be the ones to succeed.

Moderator’s Comment: What technologies are retail CIOs and their teams waiting for?

I’ll repeat what I wrote last year, and this year it may come to be true — Many technologies that were once a solution looking for a problem to address
may finally get their shot during the coming year. Portable shopping devices and electronic shelf tags are the two most likely candidates here, but other wireless applications
for in-store productivity are also in the running.

Ronald Margulis – Moderator

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7 Comments on "Marketechnics Report: Not Much New Going On"


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Tom Zatina
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Tom Zatina
15 years 9 months ago

The “next big thing” does not show itself on an every year basis, but rather on an occasional basis. And when it does, the development is very special and (potentially) highly impactful.

I know a few CIOs who feel that the next really big thing will be RFID checkout at the front end. There are still some obstacles to address so it may be too early to tell when it will become a reality, but when it does it will be “big”.

In the meantime, a lot of attention will be focused on our pursuit of more effective use of data.

John Hennessy
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John Hennessy
15 years 9 months ago
I agree that there wasn’t a silver bullet at this year’s Marketechnics show. But if there were, it would simply lower the value of silver bullets. Once everyone has a silver bullet, silver bullets aren’t so special. What was on display were some very valuable puzzle pieces that need to be put together in the right way. This will not result in the same finished puzzle for any two retailers. The opportunity for retailers is doing the homework on the pieces and understanding how each is capable of supporting your mission. The level to which suppliers can help varies widely, but you’re the one inside your organization. Only you know what needs to be fixed and in what order. The wait and see retailers who want someone to show them the picture on the puzzle box are in trouble. Retailers who have an image of their finished puzzle in their heads are combing through the pieces to find the ones that will complete their picture. Those retailers likely found a lot of value at Marketechnics.
Ragnar Haugan
Guest
Ragnar Haugan
15 years 9 months ago

Engaging customers and your workforce with the help of mobile phones, pda’s, and the ability to communicate the important information when needed!

Those who can bring the correct information out on the floor to their workforce, and have a workforce that can understand and use the information facing the customer and their suppliers, will have a future!

– “Do you want my personal recipe downloaded to your phone/pda?”
– “Your delivery of tomatoes stinks! Picture enclosed!”
– “Dear wholesaler – these shelves are my responsibility, and after my latest order – where you only could deliver half of my ordered goods – it looks like this!! Picture enclosed!”

Engagement and communication with qualified people!

William Young
Guest
William Young
15 years 9 months ago

Wal-Mart, a supermarket operator NOT taking a wait and see approach to technology, is also the #1 supermarket operator and posting double digit supermarket sales growth. Coincidence? I think not. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. Wal-Mart’s motions have left a lot of the “wait and see” crowd resting in peace.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 9 months ago

The problem with tech and non-tech people is that they’re always looking for the next big thing–before they’ve even tried using the last 10.

It’s great to see the sexy new stuff; I’m not a techie and I love it. Marketechnics has always been a good showcase for that. But it’s the things that already exist that still need work. This industry still has to reach a level of collaboration between trading partners and data synchronization that will enable the sexy stuff to work.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 9 months ago

Hitchhiking on the astute comments by Len Lewis, retail CIOs want their teams to be able to fully understand, embrace, integrate, and utilize the technology they already have. But more often than not, CIOs impose new technology on their minions without first checking with them to confirm what’s needed, make sure new stuff works with existing stuff, and that employees have the desire, understanding, and ability to operate the new technology.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve talked to mid-level merchandisers or store managers about new technology that they do not agree with, or for which they have no understanding of the purpose or stakes. If they’ve not participated in developing the solution in some way, they usually won’t support and embrace it.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 9 months ago
If I can tag on to a couple of the previous comments, I offer the observation that there may be a huge gap in the technology that CIO’s and their teams may be waiting for and the technology that merchandisers and store managers believe they need. The gap is a result of a lack of real interest in the development of the technology that is needed by those areas, in many cases. This leaves the door open wide for misinterpretation of the strategy and cost/benefit decisions that are often made. Retail technology should be based on one thing and one thing only, that is – How does it enhance the customers experience? Based on the answer to that question, imagine the difference in answers between a CIO or IT interpretation and a merchandiser/store manager interpretation. Closing that gap may lead to real enhancements to the consumer experience in ways we can’t yet even imagine. I believe the appropriate action in closing the gap might be described as “engagement.” How that takes place could mean all… Read more »
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