Marketechnics Report: Not Much New Going On
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