Online Tech Could Aid Retailers

Monday May 24 2:15 PM ET

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - The rise of the Internet may be widely seen as a threat to traditional retailers that draws customers away from stores, but a new study released Monday suggests some Internet technologies could help lure customers into stores, particularly discounters.

In-store technologies such as touchscreen kiosks, self-scanning, electronic point-of-sale signs, hand-held shopping assistants and even body scanning, which allows shoppers to custom fit clothing, could be a big boon to consumers, according to seventy percent of respondents in a survey by Indiana University and consultants KPMG.

``While everyone is focusing on the Internet, in-store technologies and the integration of online and in-store activities may have an even greater impact on the futures of retailing,'' said Raymond Burke, a professor at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, in a statement.

The survey covered 2,413 U.S. consumers around the country, who said discount stores scored high marks on value, product selection and product quality, they fell down on service, speed and amount of product information available.

``It's easy to say that conventional retailers need to respond to the competitive pressures of the online channel,'' Mark Larson, head of KPMG's retail practice, said in the statement.

``Our survey finds that in-store technologies can have tremendous impact on a retailer's ability to build customer relationships, maintain customer loyalty and bolster areas like service,'' he said. ``Those players that set strategic plans in motion now will be well situated to secure marketshare in an industry that is undergoing rapid transformation.''

The study was released at the annual convention of the International Mass Retailers Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

The survey tested eleven different technologies -- three online, eight in-store -- that are all available and directly affect how retailers interact with customers.

Electronic point-of-sale (POS) liquid crystal displays that show the names and prices of merchandise were cited most by respondents as something they would use. Fifty percent said such signs would be a big advantage when shopping.

Seventy-seven percent said a product information kiosk using a computer and video display would be an advantage, with 31 percent saying they were much more likely to shop in a store with such a system.

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