RFID Beyond The Supply Chain

by Deepak Sharma on Friday, July 29, 2005

Forrester Report, RFID Beyond The Supply Chain in the Microsoft Executive Circle Magazine.

Forward-thinking consumer products (CP) manufacturers and retailers aren't limiting RFID to the supply chain. Firms like Kraft Foods and GlaxoSmithKline are testing new RFID processes like production management, market research, promotion execution, and in-store consumer services. As the uses of RFID become more fragmented, so does the vendor landscape. The result? The death of the RFID market as we know it and the emergence of process-centric solutions and technology innovation networks.

Toyota of Retail Industry

by Deepak Sharma on Thursday, July 28, 2005

A research study in Wharton is trying to find out the Toyota of Retail Industry.

It started out as an academic puzzle of sorts. The researchers already knew that in the airline industry, customers and employees revere Southwest Airlines. With computers, Dell stands out as superior in customer satisfaction. And Toyota remains the company to emulate in the automobile industry. But when it comes to the retail industry, what company sets the standards for customer and employee satisfaction?

Pretty much all the preliminary conclusions (like Customer Satisfaction, No Out of Stocks etc) drawn out of this study are known to the retail industry but it would be interesting to see who gets termed as the "Toyota of Retail".

Retail Intelligence to predict number of people in stores

by Deepak Sharma on Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Now you have Retail Intelligence technology which can predict the number of customers likely to enter a store at a given time.

"We use through traffic in the store and match that against traditional retail variables," he says.
"Those are things such as how long it takes the average person to get through a store, or what's the average transaction, the sorts of things they can get from their point-of-sale system."

From the retailer's point of view, the system promises more efficient use of staff and increased productivity. It uses sensors in the ceiling to detect inward and outward traffic.

The store's service manager has a computer screen displaying two numbers, one the number of staff the store thinks it will need, and the other a plus or minus figure supplied by the Beonic software that tells the manager if more or less staff are needed.

Beonic, the company which makes this technology has another very interesting system which improves customer service - by giving early warnings of customer queues to store managers.
Called QEW, the Queue Early Warning system uses Beonic’s advanced people counting sensors to track visitor traffic within large department stores or supermarkets while the system’s smart analytic software gives advance warning before queues begin to form.

Beonic’s breakthrough is the absolute simplicity of this system. Although it uses sophisticated calculations to estimate visitor movements, the system displays only two numbers to store managers. One is the number of employees rostered for cash register operation and the other is the number of extra cash register operators needed to meet anticipated customer demand.

New Retail System Peeks Under Shopping Carts

by Deepak Sharma on Monday, July 18, 2005

CIO Insight has a story on how Retailers are using cameras and pattern recognition software to fight back against shoplifters who try to hide items in the compartments underneath grocery carts.

Here's how the system is designed to work: When the shopping cart enters the checkout lane, it passes by a small lane-mounted camera that records images of the products beneath the cart and compares them with a database of known products that are considered likely to be stored underneath the cart, Sakaguchi said.
Using visual pattern recognition—which considers the colors, shapes and images on the product but not its barcode or RFID tag—the system tries to identify the product and then automatically puts that product into the point-of-sale system. If it works, the item automatically appears on the display just as if its barcode had been scanned by hand, Sakaguchi said.

Here are more details about the LaneHawk system refered in the story:

Retailing: What's working online

by Deepak Sharma on Friday, July 15, 2005

Mckinsey Quarterly - Successful companies should examine all available channels and then tailor an approach according to their capabilities.

  • Today's successful online retailers, depending on their underlying economics and whether or not they have physical stores, choose one of four strategies.

  • To avoid cannibalizing their offline sales, multichannel retailers must integrate their online, catalog, and store activities and properly coordinate their marketing.

  • By optimizing each channel and building efficient fulfillment processes and operations, even low-margin retailers can succeed.

Retailers Struggling with Workforce Management

by Deepak Sharma on Sunday, July 10, 2005

New Report from AberdeenGroup suggests Retailers are struggling with Workforce Management (WFM).

Most retailers are striving for better planning and labor forecasting, but about one in five retailers reports that its workforce management strategy is reactive and emergency-driven, with little or no long-term staff planning, according to research published by AberdeenGroup. Fewer than 20% of retailers say they can schedule accurately and regularly match labor needs with budget and customer peak periods, according to findings in Aberdeen's new report, "Workforce Optimization in Retail: From Point of Hire to Point of Sale."

"Stores today fail to consider the lifecycle management of the employee," said Dr. Katherine Jones, Aberdeen's research director of enterprise applications and report author. "Instead, they exhibit emergency-driven hiring, haphazard employee management, and often capricious scheduling and labor forecasting. This formula produces low morale, frustrated managers, and high turnover."

Although technology has enhanced hourly hiring practices, performance management, and employee scheduling, according to Aberdeen research, today's workforce management policies, procedures, and technologies are often poorly integrated, reducing retailers' success in optimizing labor force investments....

WFM is just not limited to Forecasting and Scheduling but also touches other things like, integration with POS systems, Reporting and Analytics, integration with Finance systems etc. Even with this much complexity, a sizable Retailer should look for managing its workforce using a WFM. This is necessitated even more in the view of more varied and diverse workforce, labor laws and unions which varies from state to state, part-time/full-time workers etc.

Oracle buys another Retail Tech Co

by Deepak Sharma on Tuesday, July 05, 2005

After $700 Million acquisition of Retek which makes software for retailers in April, Oracle today purchased privately held ProfitLogic Inc.

"ProfitLogic's software provides analysis that helps retailers put the right product, in the right store, for the right customer, at the right time," said Duncan Angove, general manager, Oracle's Retek Global Business Unit. "Our acquisition of ProfitLogic will create the most comprehensive software solution for the retail industry. With ProfitLogic's Retail Profit Optimization software, Retek's end-to-end retail products, and Oracle's infrastructure software and ERP applications, we will be able to offer an integrated solution for retailers of any size and in any industry."

"ProfitLogic has been a pioneer in the area of merchandising analytics and optimization for more than 20 years. Our solutions help many leading retailers enhance their merchandising with greater insight into customer demand, enabling more localized assortment, allocation and pricing decisions," said Scott Friend, co-founder and president, ProfitLogic. "This powerful combination will enable us to accelerate our ability to drive dramatic financial improvement for a larger set of leading retailers worldwide."

In my view, the biggest draw for Oracle in this deal is ProfitLogic's customers with likes of American Eagle Outfitters, Ann Taylor, Bloomingdale's, The Children's Place Retail Stores, Famous Footwear, JC Penney, Marshall Field's, Nordstrom, Reitmans, ShopKo Stores, and Toys R Us, among others. Second reason could be the rebounding of retail industry which would result in increased spending by the Retailers in Technology.

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