Magazine Article | July 31, 2006

What's On Your Mind?

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

When tech vendors and CIOs align priorities, everyone wins.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August 2006

We at Integrated Solutions For Retailers have a vested interest in aligning our editorial content with the technology and operations solutions our readers seek. That’s why our staff make daily outreach calls to subscribers to discuss their needs and priorities. Chances are good that we’ve recently been in touch with you, or will be soon. Every Friday morning at 7:30, we meet to compare notes on the retailers we spoke to during the week and what projects they’re planning or working on. This exercise helps us keep our editorial relevant and our team educated.

Technology Editor Laurie Pasquerell and I are often quizzed on our opinions of the vendor community’s offerings. Most often, it’s representatives from the vendor community asking the questions, seeking validation that they’re on track. I’ve noticed that increasingly they are. For the most part, the RFID (radio frequency identification) hype curve is beginning to flatten as vendors of that technology temper the enthusiasm that hasn’t yet been matched by the bulk of the retail community. That’s not to knock the technology’s merits – it has a future in retail, and we’re seeing business cases beginning to take shape here. But vendors of RFID technologies, along with those of some biometric and contactless payment applications, for instance, had to face disappointment the last few years as retail buying appetites fell short of their expectations.

What Are You Buying Next?
Retailers are spending money on solutions, though. They’re just spending that money on solutions that have a proven return. That’s what we hear every day in our conversations with the buyers themselves. The editorial featured in this Annual Resource Guide To Retail Solutions, and in each issue of our monthly publication, further exemplifies retail’s current buying habits. In this issue, we feature a story on a furniture retailer’s deployment of real-time wireless technology from CipherLab for inventory management, which resulted in better customer service and drastically reduced labor needs at inventory time. We also highlight Virgin Megastore’s Eqos supplier management solution, which replaced a costly, disparate, mismanaged spreadsheet-based system. Finally, Laurie’s interviews with executives from MegaPath, New Edge Networks, and iPass highlight some of the real-world retail advantages of broadband WANs that keep the networking space thriving in our industry.

I’m noticing a return to these basics by the vendor community, and I think it’s a good thing for the industry. Take companies like SAS and ADT, for instance. Both companies have stakes in the RFID game, and they let retailers know it during the course of the past few years. But this year, we’ve seen them refocus on their bread-and-butter applications in the retail industry. Make no mistake; companies like these continue to lead innovation in RFID technology and will be positioned well in the industry once retail business cases for the technology are stronger. In the meantime, SAS’ core business intelligence products and ADT’s merchandise and business security products have regained the spotlight. If our take is on the mark, vendors that focus on the basic, here-and-now needs of retailers will win, and help create winning retailers, too.