September 30, 2010

Retail: Digital-savvy shoppers drive change

Feature article on self-service terminals/kiosks and smartphone/mobiles. Also points up the inroads that webservices are making against the established legacy in-house POS systems. How to deal with the new multichannel shopper.

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Kohl’s, the mid-price US department store, is deploying touch-screen kiosks across its more than 1,000 stores, one of a number of efforts by US retailers to bridge the gap between their physical stores and their websites.

“We think the kiosk implementation has an opportunity to lift our trend in e-commerce,” Kevin Mansell, chief executive, told investors this year, discussing what the company is calling a “significant” investment in technology.

Kohl’s machines will not only allow customers to browse its e-commerce website, but also complete transactions – so they can order items that might not be immediately available in the store, or in the size or colour they want. Holders of Kohl’s private label credit card will be automatically recognised when they swipe their card, making the transaction easier.

JCPenney, Kohl’s main rival, also has a “Find More” self-service kiosk linked to its website, which is expected to be in about 150 stores by the end of September. But it is taking a different tack, illustrating the kind of decisions retailers are now making, trying to assess the likely return on new technology investment.

Rather than deploy the kiosks to all stores, it is focusing on its 300 or so smaller shops that do not stock a full range. Tom Nealon, chief information officer, argues that customers equipped with smartphones to place orders are less likely to need to use in-store kiosks.

“We are not looking to deploy a lot of hardware at great expense, when we have such conviction that the mobile devices our consumers are carrying in are going to be wired to that capability,” he says.

The kiosk issue reflects the central problem facing CIOs in retail, as they try to determine which of the emerging technologies will eventually become as much a part of shopping as swiping a credit card.

“As part of our customer experience strategy, we are constantly having to decide where we want to invest our money and resources,” says Mr Nealon. “Because you can’t go after everything at once.”

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Posted by staff at September 30, 2010 10:18 AM