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Is It Technologically Practical To Send Two Different Messages Simultaneously To Children And Adults?

May 15th, 2013
One of the most challenging retail sales issues is trying to market products to children. The pitch made to sell a cereal, game, toy or piece of clothing to a child will be different than the one aimed at a parent or guardian. That's tricky when the two are often standing next to each other. A child pitch might focus on a cereal's taste, with an adult pitch focusing on nutrition and price. Or a toy message to a younger customer might emphasize fun, while the adult pitch speaks of education. What if digital signage and in-aisle displays could simultaneously make different sales pitches to children and adults?

Through the use of lenticular technology, it's quite possible. Indeed, it's being used today for something of a much more serious nature. A Spanish operation called the Aid To Children and Adolescents At Risk Foundation has created a series of street signage that was designed to send a message to a potentially abused child, understanding that the abuser could very well be standing right him to the child.Read more...


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Sears Gets A New CIO, And (Once Again) Makes Its Old One Disappear

May 14th, 2013
Sears Holdings has a new chief information officer. On Thursday (May 9), the chain said Jeff Balagna will become executive VP and CIO. Balagna arrives at Sears from drug maker Eli Lilly, where he was CIO for just over a year. Before that, he was CIO at Carlson Cos., the corporate parent of restaurant chain T.G.I. Fridays and Radisson Hotels, and later CEO of Carlson Marketing, a spinoff that specialized in loyalty programs.

What's not clear is what has become of Keith Sherwell, Sears' highly visible (and now former) CIO.Read more...


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Mobile For Shopper Trends? No, But For CRM Depth, Yes

May 13th, 2013
The scenario is tempting. Retailers can have so much richer information about shoppers when they leverage mobile app data, including knowing when any one of those shoppers comes into one of your stores, roughly where they go and anything they scan. Although that's all true, it's also data that is about only a small percentage of your shoppers, and it's about your most loyal shoppers. Would extrapolation of that information yield any accurate trends about the rest of your potential shopper population?

Placed, a mobile geolocation vendor specializing in retail, found some intriguing stats when it was reviewing some of its retail findings. It found that the number of Barnes & Noble shoppers who were older than 55 increased 3.4 percent (for the month being probed) and that the number of customers earning fewer than $50,000/year decreased 2.2 percent. It noticed that Kohl's said its shoppers who earned more than $100,000 increased by 1.8 percent. And Target saw the largest increase in physical visits in the Midwest and Northeast regions of the U.S. Clearly, without many months (and perhaps years) of trend data, those stats are meaningless. But it does illustrate the kinds of insights that are possible when overlaying mobile geolocation tracking with CRM and demographic data.Read more...


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Target’s Joint Program With Facebook Goes Out Of Its Way To Exclude Target.com

May 10th, 2013
Target (NYSE:TGT) has started a trial program with Facebook, where its customers get discounts on products on services that are pushed through the social network, if they buy them inside a Target store. Bafflingly, the effort prohibits users from using the program to work with Target.com, even though that would be the much easier and intuitive way for shoppers to use the service.

This is far from the first time that Target has talked up its commitment to a merged channel/omnichannel strategy, while delivering something that seems to force shoppers to stay in whatever channel Target is pushing at that moment. Consider the chain's giftcard digital strategy deployed during last year's holiday season.Read more...


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C-Store Chain Mapco Express Hit With Remote Access Breach

May 8th, 2013
Regional convenience-store chain Mapco Express (NYSE:DK) said on Monday (May 6) that thieves may have stolen credit and debit card information from all 377 of its stores during March and April.

"The hackers accessed the payment processing systems used in all of our stores from March 19-25, in certain stores from April 20-21, 2013, and at two stores in Goodlettsville and Nashville, Tenn., from April 14-15, 2013. If you used your credit or debit card at one of these locations during these time periods, you card data may have been compromised," the retailer said in a statement.Read more...


Is American Airlines’ New Social Program—Where Influencers Get Free Airport Club Access—Something Retailers Should Try?

May 8th, 2013
The idea of retailers assessing customers' value based on their social media influence—rather than what they personally spend—is not new. But the challenge of meaningfully figuring that out is still huge. American Airlines on Tuesday (May 7) announced that it was going to offer people who have a high social influence free access to its airport lounges. On the plus side, this is one of the first major programs to offer shoppers a concrete item of value (people pay a lot to join airline clubs) in exchange for having a high social influence number. The downside is that the company calculating the social influence number—a vendor called Klout—has taken the easy way out. It simply counts up the Twitter followers and Facebook friends (and other social media stats) and looks at forwarded Tweets.

It doesn't take the next logical step and try and determine actual purchasing clout. For example, the most meaningful number would be how many dollars of purchases did that shopper's Tweets generate? It's nice if someone has a lot of Twitter followers and if they Tweet that the shoes on your homepage now are must-haves. But an influence rating needs to factor in what happened after that Tweet went out. Did it deliver 48 purchases of that product from the recipients of that Tweet?Read more...


Nordstrom’s Typhoid Outbreak Used POS Data To Contact Individual Shoppers

May 8th, 2013
After a cook in one of its in-store restaurants was discovered to have typhoid fever, Nordstrom is trying to directly contact customers who might have been exposed to the disease. The retailer is sifting through point-of-sale transactions from the Nordstrom Cafe in the store at San Francisco's Stonestown Galleria mall in an attempt to identify specific customers who could have been exposed, but that's proving more challenging than expected, a spokesperson for the chain said on Monday (May 6).

The San Francisco health department notified the store late last Thursday (May 2) that an employee was diagnosed with typhoid and may have exposed customers who ate in the restaurant to it on April 16, 17, 18, 20 or 27. As of this week, no cases of customers or other store associates having the disease have been reported, according to the health department. But Nordstrom is still trying to track down anyone potentially exposed.Read more...


Best Buy, Home Depot, Gap And Others Lose Major Patent Gift Card Lawsuit

May 8th, 2013
A large group of major chains—Best Buy, JCPenney, Barnes & Noble, Gap, McDonald's, Toys R Us and Home Depot—has been dealt a major patent legal blow Friday (May 3) when a jury unanimously sided with a Texas company that owns a gift card processing patent.

Technically, the jury verdict didn't say that those chains had violated the patents, but merely that the arguments from those chains that the Texas company's (named Alexsam) patents should be ruled invalid failed. The next case will address the issue of whether those chains had in fact violated those patents. That said, much of the evidence that the chains used to indicate why the patents were invalid can be turned right back against them now to prove that their processes are so similar that it must be a patent violation. As a practical matter, it's unlikely that this case will see another jury trial, as the parties will almost certainly work out a deal, in which the chains would simply buy licenses for the Alexsam patent. The question will be how much they'll agree to pay for the patents.Read more...


In Kmart’s Armed Data Breach, Police Somehow Not Told Everything

May 8th, 2013
When a Kmart suffered the loss of sensitive pharmacy customer information in mid-March during an armed robbery, Sears officials and lawyers quickly reviewed details and made sure to follow all federal rules—especially HIPAA guidelines. Somehow, though, Kmart never got around to mentioning the data loss to the police, who were never able to find the gunman because the only physical evidence he took with him—a disk containing that day's data backup—was unknown to them, thanks to Sears.

The Little Rock, Arkansas, police investigating the armed robbery—where the gunman slashed the assistant manager's tires to distract him before ordering him at gunpoint to open the safe—were not happy about being kept in the dark and possibly lied to. The investigating detective, Det. Julio Gil, "only learned of the cartridges being stolen from Kmart when he was called by media," said Sgt. Cassandra Davis, who is in charge of the Little Rock Police Department's public affairs unit. The detective "called Kmart and Kmart only then confirmed. He had to call them and ask about it before he learned what (the gunman) had actually taken. No one from Kmart made a report," Davis said.Read more...


Walmart Builds Own Search, No Competitive Advantage In Buying

May 7th, 2013
Walmart is arguably the most tightfisted retail chain in the world, constantly driving out costs any way it can. So why is the world's largest retailer now focused on building its own technology instead of buying it off the shelf? According to the chain's e-commerce chief, that's the only way it can get a competitive advantage from the technology.

"We can't do what we need to do and want to do with off-the-shelf solutions," said Neil Ashe, Walmart president and CEO of global e-commerce, speaking at a retail conference last week. And one of the first big projects to come from the insourcing is a proprietary search engine that has tighter integration with local stores that will let Walmart continuously customize its search without having to wait for outsiders to develop the features it wants.Read more...


Can Ebay Pull Off A Giant Touch Window For New York Shoppers?

May 6th, 2013
Ebay and retailer Kate Spade are doing something this summer that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago: creating a pop-up store in New York that will feature a gigantic touchscreen store window. Let's be clear—what would have been unthinkable would be a relatively small (82-store) apparel chain taking on something this technically aggressive, even with a partner as big as eBay to help foot the bill.

Leaving aside all the obvious unanswered questions—from "how do you physically protect a giant touchscreen?" to "how much of an exhibitionist does a customer have to be to browse a web catalog that's taller than she is, right out in public?"—it's a testament to how inexpensive and physically tough this kind of technology has become that it's viewed as practical. Of course, that all assumes that the chain and eBay will actually get it to work as advertised.Read more...


Domino’s New Live Video Stream: It Could Have Been Quite Useful, But It Wasn’t

May 1st, 2013
When Dominos announced its newest marketing tool, "Domino's Live," on Wednesday (May 1), it looked initially like it could be an extremely useful tool for pizza buyers. It's a Webcam in the Domino's kitchen that watches the pizza being put together and streams it live for anyone to watch. It's initially being done as a one-store (in Salt Lake City) pilot that runs just the month of May. The potential advantages of such an approach are significant. A customer could watch his order of a half-pineapple-half-pepperoni pie being made and notice right away that it's being incorrectly made as an all-pepperoni pie.

By dialing that store immediately, he might be able to have it fixed before it goes in the oven. It would discourage moves such as the time-honored pizza-chain tradition of taking ingredients that drop on the floor and put them right back on the pizza. All things that could truly speak to customer service and that could also give pizza buyers a reason to switch to Dominos. Unfortunately, that's not quite what Dominos has in mind.Read more...


Walmart, First Data Say No To PayPal. (Is That Even Allowed?)

May 1st, 2013
PayPal's plan to use Discover's payment-card network to get its in-store payment system into most U.S. stores that accept payment cards isn't quite working out. Contrary to what the eBay subsidiary has been touting, all stores that accept Discover aren't automatically able to take PayPal payments—at least not until they and their acquirers explicitly sign on.

Result: Both Walmart and acquirer First Data have declined to accept the system, and Discover is now doing deals with acquirers one by one in order to get PayPal's system available in more stores. Discover said on Tuesday (April 30) that it has gotten a green light from 50 acquirers, and it is hoping PayPal will be live in 2 million stores by the end of this year, up from 250,000 now.Read more...


NCR’s Anti-Skimming ATM Tech Could Also Help Store PINpads

May 1st, 2013
New anti-fraud technology that NCR (NYSE:NCR) announced last week for its ATMs might find even broader use in point-of-sale PINpads—but not the way that most PINpads are currently designed. The new features, which NCR is calling SPS (for "skimming protection solution"), involve two elements. First—and most technically interesting—is a jammer that disrupts a skimmer that has been attached to the front of an ATM. When a motorized card reader pulls a payment card into the ATM, the electromagnetic jammer prevents a skimmer from reading the mag stripe on the card.

The second, more mundane technology is having the card-reading device send diagnostic information to the bank in real time when there's evidence of tampering. Read more...


Walmart’s Employee Mobile Trial Is That Rare Bird: It Helps Associates While Helping Corporate’s Bottom Line

April 29th, 2013
Sometimes, a program that makes associates happier—even Walmart associates—can also help the bottom line. Consider Walmart's mobile (and, to a lesser extent, desktop) program to make it easier for associates to find other work within their Walmart store.

Walmart (NYSE:WMT) has announced that it is expanding—to chainwide—an experiment to let associates more easily see work opportunities in other departments at their store, as a way to supplement their pay. "For example, a bakery or deli associate can now request to work an available shift in electronics or the lawn and garden area and vice versa," the Walmart statement said, adding that "this program is showing value beyond filling available shifts. It's providing associates the opportunity to help build their careers by learning about different departments, which helps strengthen our stores and benefit associates and our customers."Read more...


The Legal Risks Of External Surveillance

April 25th, 2013
The cooperation of retailers like Lord & Taylor in the Boston bombing investigation proved to be invaluable and provided the most important clues to catching the two terrorism suspects. But retailers should be wary about using that incident as an invitation to increase the amount of surveillance that they conduct both inside and outside of their stores. Video surveillance, although a very powerful tool for certain things, can lead to loss of customer confidence, and even to liability, writes legal columnist Mark Rasch.

In the United States, it is generally presumed that the use of video surveillance technology in non-"private" places ("private" as in bathrooms and changing rooms) is perfectly legal. Unlike audio surveillance, which is regulated by federal and state law, there appears to be little regulation of video surveillance technologies. Retailers regularly employ them for loss prevention purposes, inventory management, and to defend themselves in liability lawsuits such as workers’ compensation claims or "slip and fall" claims by customers. Video surveillance technology can also be useful in tracking customer behavior and traffic patterns; footfall analysis; to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising or displays; and even to evaluate the gender, age and behavior of customers.Read more...


Facial Recognition May Not Work For Security, But For CRM, …

April 24th, 2013
With all of the in-store changes being pushed by mobile—including the long-overdue-predicted disappearance of the cashwrap—retailers are going to be moving payments in-aisle and pretty much anywhere instore. Does facial recognition make sense? One vendor on Tuesday (April 23) tried, with a system that allows facial recognition to unlock a refrigerator, which determines which products are removed based on weight.

Although the current version of the system has serious technical limitations, the potential is probably greater for facial recognition than any other technology. Unlike PIN, cardswipes or any other form of biometrics, facial recognition has the promise to do far more than verify identity, including guessing at emotional state, gender, age and other attributes. Selling suntan lotion? How about the ability to identify shoppers with deep tans? Want to be able to tailor suggestions made to first-time shoppers based on gender or age? With a thermal scan comes the ability to pitch hot cocoa to shoppers whose skin is especially cold or ice-cold lemonade to those whose skin is especially hot. (It could factor in the outside temperature so that it doesn't confuse someone who has been working in the sun with someone who is just running a fever. And if that shopper does have a fever, how about 50 cents off Tylenol?)Read more...


Online Sales Tax Bill Could Help Chains With Taxes, Too

April 24th, 2013
Online sales taxes are marching toward reality much faster than anyone would have expected even a month ago. The "Marketplace Fairness Act," which would allow states to collect sales taxes through online retailers even if the merchants don't have physical operations in those states, is being debated in the U.S. Senate this week after being fast-tracked to avoid the Senate Finance Committee, where every previous version of the bill since 2001 has died.

One key element of the bill that won't relieve the tax pinch but should simplify the implementation: A state can't start requiring collection of the taxes until it provides free software that nails down all the complexities of that state's sales tax structure, including automatic calculation of what rates are owed on which products for any location in the state.Read more...


Gap’s Take On Typical Buy-Online-Pickup-In-Store Programs: Too Efficient

April 24th, 2013
When Gap looked at buy-online-pickup-in-store programs, the president of Gap digital saw the programs that others chains have as very efficient. Indeed, far too efficient. It allowed the shopper to come in, get their merchandise and leave far too quickly. The chain on June 10 will launch its answer to this feature, something called reserve-in-store, and it is designed to get the shopper into the store and to keep them there for as long as practical.

The most concrete difference between the two approaches is that Gap will force shoppers to pay for their goods in-store. After it's reserved online, the customer has until the end of the next business day to show up, pay and pick it up. That's good for getting shoppers deeper into the store, but not so good for guaranteeing the sale.Read more...


Data Breach At Gunpoint: Kmart Armed Robber Gets Pharmacy Files

April 23rd, 2013
It is IT's worst nightmare: What if an armed violent criminal hits the store and empties the safe and, perhaps unintentionally, takes our unencrypted data backup? It happened to Kmart at its store in Little Rock, Ark., according to a statement parent company Sears issued Monday (April 22). The statement, which came more than a month after the March 17 armed robbery, was forced by rules from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). At 8:55 PM, some 55 minutes after the store had closed, the intruder confronted the store's assistant manager, who had just closed the store for the night, when he went into the parking lot to get to his car.

The thief stabbed the assistant manager's car's front driver side tire, presumably so that the assistant manager would be occupied when the thief pointed a silver gun at him and ordered him to open the store and to then open the safe, according to the police report. The thief helped himself to the contents, including about $6,000 in cash and that day's backup disk. The disk, which was unencrypted and apparently not password-protected, included the full names, addresses, dates of birth, prescription numbers, prescribers, insurance cardholder IDs and drug names for some 788 customers, according to Sears. Read more...


Boston Bomber Caught On Lord & Taylor LP Camera?

April 17th, 2013
Loss Prevention security footage from a Boston Lord & Taylor located across the street from where two bombs had detonated near the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday (April 17) captured footage of someone leaving the bag with the bomb in position. This is far from the first time retail security video has been used to help solve a crime that does not directly involve that retailer, but it might go down as one of the most historic.

The bombing, which killed three people and injured 176 others, was one of the more devastating terrorist attacks in the U.S.. The footage from a surveillance camera at Lord & Taylor "has provided clear video of the area" but law enforcement officials were initially vague about what was captured, according to The Boston Globe. "The camera from Lord & Taylor is the best source of video so far," said Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.Read more...


Interchange Judge Orders Retailers To Change Anti-Settlement Websites

April 17th, 2013
Retailers who oppose the proposed payment-card interchange settlement will have to change the information posted on their websites, a federal judge ordered last Thursday (April 11). The changes required include links to the official site that merchants are supposed to use for objecting to or opting out of the settlement—and a banner stating that the judge determined previous information on the sites to be misleading.

In a hearing in Brooklyn on Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson said that unhappy plaintiffs, including the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Restaurant Association and the National Grocers Association, and their lawyers in the class-action suit have until today (April 18) to decide on a plan for fixing the information on the sites.Read more...


As Many As 2.4 Million Card Numbers Stolen in Breach at Regional Grocery Chain Schnuck’s

April 17th, 2013
Who says regional chains can't compete with the big boys? On Sunday (April 14), the 100-store Schnuck Markets grocery chain revealed more details about the breach it reported in March, and the numbers are impressive: 79 stores breached, with as many as 2.4 million payment card numbers potentially stolen over a four-month period. That puts it in the same class as breaches in recent years at Barnes & Noble, Michaels, Aldi and Hancock Fabrics stores.

But unlike those attacks, Schnuck's said its PINpads were not tampered with—the attack was apparently done entirely through malware implanting somehow on Schnuck's payment-related systems. An even more troubling revelation: The breach activity seems to have begun on Dec. 1, less than a month after the chain's QSA validated its systems as PCI DSS compliant.Read more...


Walmart Joins NRF, Ends Longest-Running Retail Feud Ever

April 16th, 2013
Walmart has now officially joined the National Retail Federation (NRF) as a member. For those new to retail, this may seem to be no big deal, but the background is that Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and the NRF have been in what amounts to a blood feud for decades.

Why have the world's largest retailer and the world's largest retail organization been doing this Hatfields-and-McCoys thing? This all started back in 1969, when the NRF was known as the National Retail Merchants Association and Walmart's annual revenue was about $30 million (about $190 million in 2013 dollars). According to several people involved, the bad feelings started when Walmart founder Sam Walton came to New York City—where the association was based at the time—and lobbied to join the group. They did something that one doesn't do to Sam Walton: They rejected him, saying that they didn't want Walmart as a member. Given that there is nothing that has been more a part of Walmart's culture than holding a grudge, that rejection kept Walmart out of the association for 44 years.Read more...


Starbucks Weighs In On “Download Mobile App Vs. Get Customers In-Store” Debate. And The App Won

April 15th, 2013
A classic retail mobile question is whether it's better to get shoppers in the store or to get them to download the retail mobile app. Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), which has one of the most successful mobile payment programs in retail and also happens to not have the typical online-offline internal corporate conflicts, has come down squarely on the "'tis better to get the app downloaded" side.

For years, the coffee chain has pushed a promotion called Pick Of The Week, where it gave free copies of various pieces of digital media (songs, apps, games, etc.) to shoppers who went in-store and grabbed a card with a code on it. As of April 9, Starbucks has changed the program, no longer requiring the card to get the digital goodies. All it requires is downloading the app. "The intent is really to build a relationship. You don't need to go into our stores," said Linda Mills, a Starbucks senior manager for global brand public relations. "This is about educating about our product offerings and just engaging with our customers."Read more...


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