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The Latest In RFID And Digital Signage: The Smell Sell

September 24th, 2006

A New Zealand company is pushing a digital signage/RFID system that fills an aisle with smells to reinforce marketing messages. In the Regency duty free shop at Auckland International Airport, for example, digital images of vodka company Absolut’s raspberry vodka were reinforced by—yep—a strong raspberry smell. The system isolates the smells for specific customers and can spray as many as 2,000 different fragrances into different parts of the store at different times, according to a report in the Sunday Star-Times in New Zealand.

“What we’re getting into now is really something more than digital signage,” said OpenEye chief executive Gareth Croy. “It’s more the digital experience” with one-on-one electronic messaging. “You pick up a bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label and put in your shopping basket. Suddenly, the digital sign near you tells you you can buy two bottles of Johnnie Walker on special for $100. Visual images then reinforce the message.” If a customer uses an infant-carrying pram, OpenEye has the security camera track the customer’s movements and co-ordinates digital signs and audible messages pushing the hottest items for babies. As for smells, options include vanilla for women, leather for men, chocolate for all and cut grass for gardening issues.…


Oracle’s Earnings Suggest It Knew Something SAP Didn’t

September 20th, 2006

Oracle’s latest earnings report is strong, but is also pointedly trying to “rub rival SAP AG’s nose in the fact that Oracle’s applications business is growing faster,” in this wonderful piece in Computer Business Review Online. The bottom line: Oracle’s acquisition strategy seems to paying much better dividends than SAP’s.…


How Smart Are SmartCarts?

September 17th, 2006

The question of whether smartcarts are truly smart investments got a brief exploration in a recent AP story, that spoke of the struggle of smartcarts to make money, but that seemed to miss the point. Ultimately, yes, Smartcarts are intended to boost profits and sales and I believe they will, assuming the CRM-friendly data they generate is put to shrewd use.

In the short-term, though, they have a much more urgent goal: stop the customers from going elsewhere. They are there to show customers that grocery stores can indeed make shopping efficient and fun again. But like any other sophisticated piece of retail technology, they won’t work if they’re not integrated into the store. A store that throws them out there with just a bunch of videos in the screen–as depicted in the story–deserves to lose its investment.…


New Credit Card Rules Crack Down On Wireless, Lighten Up On Encryption

September 15th, 2006

Recent changes to credit card security rules reflect a maturing of the payment rules, with wireless monitoring requirements made much more strict while file software integrity monitoring frequency and the encryption demand have both been softened.

"This is a bow to reality," said Mark Rasch, a former federal prosecutor who now specializes in retail security issues. "The first version was more of a Utopian of what Visa and MasterCard thought were workable standards based on what people should do. This is a minor tweaking based upon what people are doing." Read more...


StorefrontBacktalk Week In Review Audiocast Recorded Thurs., Sept. 14, 2006

September 14th, 2006

This week’s show included a special guest, David King, CIO of the Regal Entertainment Group, which is the nation’s largest movie theater chain, bringing in about $2.7 billion a year from theaters in 40 states. King lead a spirited discussion about the new PCI changes and how his chain is viewing them, including a new wireless requirement. On the RFID front, the panel looked at the new Gen2 support promised from both Wal-Mart and the Metro Group as well as what may be truly behind it. Metro’s experiment with physically separating payment from checkout also prompted a debate of whether two lanes would be seen as being slower even though it’s faster.

Other than CIO King, our panel this week featured the Retail Systems Alert Group’s Paula Rosenblum, IDC’s Pete Abell, Chris Noell from TruComply and former federal prosecutor and security consultant Mark Rasch. StorefrontBacktalk Editor Evan Schuman moderated.…

StorefrontBacktalk Week In Review Audiocast Recorded Thurs., Sept. 7, 2006

September 7th, 2006

Our panel this week whipped up some sweet insights into Starbucks’ headaches with an electronic coupon that they had intended to be strictly localized but the Web had other plans. It also jumped into the renewed interest from some major retailers into using closed-circuit video feeds for a lot more than catching thieves, including CRM and preventing child abductions.

Our panel this week featured IHL President Greg Buzek, the Retail Systems Alert Group‘s Steve Rowen, Forrester Research‘s Sucharita Mulpuru and The Lakewest Group‘s Sunita Gupta. StorefrontBacktalk Editor Evan Schuman moderated.…

Mobile Content Patents Promise Customization

September 6th, 2006

Plenty of options is typically seen as a good thing, unless the screen involved is the size of a cellphone monitor. But which options are displayed and which are hidden? A Santa Clara, CA, cellphone software firm has been awarded a patent on its method of allowing the cellphone itself to make that selection based on the buying pattern of the consumer.

July Systems, which announced the patent today, argued that the system's support of realtime personalization is "key to overcoming screen size and other limitations" to help "the mass adoption of mobile video, games, music and other services." Read more...

A 21st Century Code Adam

September 6th, 2006

Networked CCTV cameras are doing a lot more in retail than catching shoplifters. The latest track how consumers react to specials and can digitally find abducted children. With a system being piloted today by CVS and other large retail chains, a lost or abducted child has a lot more protection than from a mere Code Adam.

When a parent reports a missing child, the system can—within a few minutes—locate the video of when the parent and the child were last together and then see footage of exactly where the child went and with whom, even showing where the child is at that moment, assuming the child has not left the store. Read more...

Contactless Meets Contactfull: MasterCard Cuts PayPass Deal With the NY Giants

September 5th, 2006

MasterCard on Monday announced the first trial of its PayPass wristband, pledging to onload (excuse me, give away) the wristbands to the first 5,000 fans entering Giants Stadium for the New York Giants-Indianapolis Colts football game on Sunday. MasterCard’s people have painted the giveaway watches with the Giants’ team colors and pre-loaded them with $25, all ready to be used at the game’s concession stands.

The $25 figure was selected because it’s the magic number to avoid the customer having to give a signature and the merchant having to provide a receipt. The irony of pushing contactless for an extreme contact sport was not lost on the MasterCard folk. Maybe their next move will be to offer it to Bausch & Lomb? …

Retailers’ Ostrich Approach To Consumer Data

September 4th, 2006

A major analyst firm will soon report that most retailers still do not have a formal incident response plan for consumer data security. The most likely reason: such a plan would tell retailers things they don't want to hear.

Why would they retail IT execs do that? They know that any reasonable data security and privacy policy would set stringent restrictions on how data can be used, how long it can be stored and how many people can have access to it. The longer such a policy is delayed, the longer the data can be used in whatever way IT and Marketing feel like using it.Read more...

StorefrontBacktalk Week In Review Audiocast Recorded Thurs., Aug. 31, 2006

August 31st, 2006

For your listening pleasure this week, you can hear us discuss video. (That’s probably more fun than watching us discuss audio.)’s video reviews effort, to be precise. Will consumer-generated video content shake up E-Commerce? Also, the panel looks into why fewer than half of all retailers today even have a formal plan for dealing with consumer data security breaches as well as whether technology deployments today are often hurting retail sales.

Our late summer panel this week featured IHL President Greg Buzek, the Retail Systems Alert Group’s Steve Rowen and ABI Research’s Michael J. Liard. Special industry guest was Dave Samuel, co-president of Grouper Networks, which is now part of Sony Pictures Entertainment. StorefrontBacktalk Editor Evan Schuman moderated.…

StorefrontBacktalk Week In Review Audiocast Recorded Thurs., Aug. 24, 2006

August 24th, 2006

Please click to listen in on this week’s audio discussion, as the panel rips into Google’s substantial new challenges, with both Google Checkout and marketshare, the question of whether the major E-Commerce sites are ready for the holiday rush or the holiday crash, and a European look at RFID pricing and ROI struggles.

Our inquisitive panel this week included returning panelists Paula Rosenblum from the Retail Systems Alert Group and former federal prosecutor and security expert Mark Rasch plus Safa Raschtchy, senior research analyst with Wall Street’s Piper Jaffray (who authored the initial report that questioned Google Checkout’s retailer acceptance) and Ben Rushlo, from Keynote Systems Evan Schuman, Editor at StorefrontBacktalk, moderated.…

Privacy Glitch Costs AOL Tech Chief Her Job

August 21st, 2006

Two AOL employees were fired and its chief technology officer has left the company following a privacy breach in which the Internet search terms of more than 650,000 subscribers were publicly released, according to an Associated Press story Monday afternoon. Maureen Govern, the technology chief, will be replaced on an interim basis by John McKinley, who had held that position before becoming AOL’s president for digital services.

The researcher who released the data and that employee’s direct supervisor were fired. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because release of personnel information was not authorized, would not say whether Govern’s departure was voluntary. Although AOL had substituted numeric IDs for the subscribers’ real user names, the company acknowledged the search queries themselves may contain personally identifiable data, the AP story said.

Retailers Not Buying Google Checkout

August 21st, 2006
Not a good way for Google to start on a Monday. Wall Street analyst firm Piper Jaffray released a survey Monday morning that Google Checkout is not winning over a lot of retailers, mostly because those retailers don't want to surrender that much customer information to Google. This follows a MarketWatch report that had officially abandoned Google Checkout.

In an apparently unreleated move, Web traffic analysis firm Comscore Networks released a report showing that "Google's share declined 1 percent from the previous month [June], ending its impressive 11-month run of consecutive gains." That news sent Google shares down, losing 1.58 percent of its value by mid-day. Read more...

GERS Retail Systems, Ecometry Merge

August 21st, 2006

Ecometry, which owns Blue Martini multi-channel software, and supply chain vendor GERS Retail Systems have agreed to merge and relaunch under the brand Escalate Retail, the companies announced on Monday. The terms of the deal, funded by Bay area private equity firm Gold Gate Capital, were not disclosed. The combined firm will be run by CEO Stewart Bloom, President John Marrah, and CFO Michael Larkin, with headquarters in both San Diego and Delray Beach, the statement said.

The companies said the combined Escalate Retail will have more than 650 retail clients across North America and Europe, including Home Depot, Williams Sonoma, Nordstrom, Hot Topic, Sainsbury, Harry Rosen, Louis Vuitton, Blue Fly, Z Gallerie, Brooks Brothers, Saks, Lamps Plus, Sony and Raymour & Flanigan.…

E-Tailers Listening Better With People, Worse With Servers

August 20th, 2006

Two new reports show that retailers are getting better at answer customer's E-mail, but this summer's load handling statistics predict a very crashy Christmas.

A small part of the reason behind those load balancing problems is constantly increasing traffic and whether equipment upgrades and additions have kept up—Keynote Systems reported more major E-Commerce site outages in 2006 compared with 2005—but a more significant issue is increasing site sophistication. As retailers add to their sites more advanced services—such as push to talk and multimedia demonstrations—it is causing more drag on their systems than they might realize. Read more...

StorefrontBacktalk Week In Review Audiocast Recorded Thurs., Aug. 17, 2006

August 17th, 2006

This week’s audiocast looked at a key payment system issue: the feds cracking down on giftcards. We also explored some of the hotter topics this week in RFID, including the enviable positioning of Impinj. In Online, we explored the implications of Amazon’s patent to suggest gifts based on—among other things—religion and sexual orientation.

This week’s panel featured return visits from IDC‘s Pete Abell, former federal prosecutor Mark Rasch and the Retail Systems Alert Group‘s Paula Rosenblum. The newcomer to StorefrontBacktalk’s Week In Review this week was Bruce Cundiff, a former payments analyst for Jupiter Research and today a senior analyst with Javelin Strategy.

Feds Cracking Down On Bank Giftcards, Retail-Issued Giftcards May Be Next

August 16th, 2006

Federal regulators on Monday clamped down on bank-issued giftcards, forcing the banks to much more prominently disclose expiration dates and any inactivity fees. Industry observers expect federal authorities to soon extend such rules to retailer-issued giftcards.

These rules could actually help retailers as few retailers want to make a lot of money from keeping unspent giftcard dollars. First, the tax and related business issues make the money less profitable but the much concern is that a gift card's objective is to encourage more consumer spending and merchant loyalty. A card that dies with cash on it represents dollars not spent, up sell opportunities lost (where a consumer uses a $25 giftcard to pay for part of a $50 product) and likely yields a very unhappy customer. Read more...

Bath & Body Works Joins The Cellphone Marketing Parade

August 15th, 2006

Falling within the continuing trend department, 1,500-store chain Bath & Body Works has agreed to start a mobile marketing campaign. Bath & Body adds its name to a laundry list of retailers who have recently started toying with cellphone sales, including McDonalds–which is preparing to allow customers to place orders while standing outside one of their restaurants–and Subway, which is starting to test sending coupons to customer’s cellphones.

Bath & Body is working with Cellfire, which is a free downloadable application that provides coupons from local and national retailers within the user’s geographic region.…

Rethinking The Multi-Channel Strategy In A $3/Gallon Gas World

August 15th, 2006

As gasoline prices continue to soar to ludicrous heights and consumers get more comfortable with E-Commerce, some retailers are starting to question what to push—and play down—this holiday season. For example, the popular shop-online-pickup-in-store and buy-online-and-return-at-the-store both end up forcing the consumer to use up that precious gas. Do these kind of approaches merit being thought through again?

Two unrelated surveys released on Tuesday—one from Harris Interactive that was paid for by vendor Newgistics and the second from BigResearch that was paid for by the National Retail Federation--beg that question.Read more...

Amazon Files Patent To Suggest Gifts Based On Religion, Sexual Orientation

August 11th, 2006
The Santas on Amazon may soon know if intended gift recipients have been not only naughty or nice, but also whether they're Muslim, Gay and Unemployed. has filed a patent application that would allow Amazon customers to use Amazon to gather information on other customers, including religion, sexual orientation and income-level?according to the submitted to the government on Thursday.Read more...

StorefrontBacktalk Week In Review Audiocast Recorded Thurs., Aug. 10, 2006

August 10th, 2006

This week’s audiocast looked at issues ranging from payment systems—practical problems with retail PCI deployment as well as a new POS/Loyalty card program from Subway–to a new search feature unveiled on Thursday by and a look at the RFID industry after Alien Technology’s failed IPO. This week’s panelists featured return visits from IDC’s Pete Abell, Solutionary senior VP and former federal prosecutor Mark Rasch and Jupiter Research’s Patti Freeman Evans. Newcomers to StorefrontBacktalk’s Week In Review this week were Cathy Hotka, senior VP for the Retail Industry Leaders Association and Jupiter‘s Edward Kountz. StorefrontBacktalk Editor Evan Schuman moderated.

The PCI discussion was a fascinating realworld look at how PCI is great on paper but much more challenging in live retail environments. No panelist kept out of that free-for-all. You really should listen to it, if for no other reason than to get better excuses for PCI hiccups.…

VoIP Meets RFID In a Japanese Dressing Room

August 9th, 2006

In a dressing room in the huge Japanese department chain Mitsukoshi, half-dressed customers scan RFID-tagged jeans and then use an IP telephone to check inventory and call for more clothes to be brought in. Workers at the $8.5 billion retail Tokyo-based chain traditionally waited outside dressing rooms, listening for instructions to bring more clothes. In the new experimental system, the workers can stock shelves while waiting for their Voice-over-IP phone to ring and for the customer to ask for something.

But those requests will most likely be quite specific. With most of Mitsukoshi's clothing already RFID-tagged, customers can scan the clothing in to quickly check inventory displayed on the RFID-reader-equipped Cisco phone's 3.38 x 4.5 in. touchscreen display. Read more...

Subway Merges Payment, Loyalty And CRM Programs

August 9th, 2006

In what one executive of the $9 billion 26,000-restaurant Subway chain dubbed "the single largest integrated cash card program in the world," the new card handles payment, instant loyalty rewards and highly-targeted promotions that can be tracked by customer.

The program takes a very basic mag-striped giftcard and, through a unique 16-digit identification number, takes the card through Point Of Sale (POS) through to CRM. "It's a very sophisticated CRM program," said Marina O'Rourke, Subway's director of retail technology. "It has the ability to target consumer behavior and reward and entice that behavior. It can look at cardholders in a geographic area. We can drill down to the store level. We want to understand if we can change behavior by offering, let's say, a free cookie." Read more...

StorefrontBacktalk Week In Review Audiocast Recorded Thurs., Aug. 3, 2006

August 3rd, 2006

This week’s audiocast panel discussion of the StorefrontBacktalk retail technology week that was …. was decidedly global in topics. This week’s group of retail technology analysts that sat down late Thursday was Patti Freeman Evans from Jupiter Research, Sucharita Mulpuru from Forrester Research and Paula Rosenblum from the Retail Systems Alert Group. StorefrontBacktalk’s Editor Evan Schuman moderated.

The group opened with a hard look at the German Metro Group’s Item-Level RFID plans and whether Wal-Mart can survive as a retailer outside (and, as one panelist argued, inside) the U.S.

The group also discussed retail attempts at mobile marketing, focusing on the Subway chain’s experimentations with cellphones, which raised issues of how far ahead of the U.S. much of Asia and Europe are and how that should impact retailer’s global IT strategy.

The panel also jumped into a report expected next week from Jupiter Research that looked at how e-tailers—including Netflix–are making some surprising decisions about incorporating user-generated product reviews.…


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