Blog | October 10, 2012

It's Gut Check Time For Retail IT VARs

By The Business Solutions Network

If you don't find the following fascinating as a technologist, it might be time to retire.

Yesterday, I received the latest email newsletter from retail software developer pcAmerica. One of the things I appreciate about Gosman and company's newsletter is that it often contains topics and stories that are about retail, but slightly off the beaten path.

This week's lead article focuses on using digital price tags to enable demand pricing -- a retailer or restaurant (brick and mortar or online) strategically, quickly, and easily adjusting prices based on any number of factors. Time of day, seasonally, or even based on who the customer is. Prices go up and prices go down.

In some cases, price adjustments are made by humans. In other cases, adjustments can be automated. Here's where I get really geeked up. Check out this example that provides a great example of video surveillance and POS integration:

[quote]Imagine, your digital surveillance system recognizes that John Smith has just entered the store. Your point-of-sale system knows that James Smith buys Crest Pro Health Tooth Paste once a month. Your point-of sale system sends a signal out to your digital price tag which raises the price by 25 cents. After Mr. Smith leaves the store, the digital price tag reduces the displayed price by 25 cents.[/quote]

Pretty cool, eh? That was my first reaction, quickly followed by feelings of outrage that someone could take advantage of me in that way.

I shared this story with one of my tech friends from back in my VAR days and found out he was already aware of such a thing. His version steered me to an article in the Wall Street Journal regarding Orbitz, the book-your-everything-needed-for-a-trip site. In the article, Orbitz reveals that:

[quote]people who use Apple Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.[/quote]

Wow. Personal feelings aside, that's a pretty creative use of fairly simple Web analytics.

Why do I bring all this up? Apart from finding it interesting, this shows where the world of retail is heading. The examples given above involve digital price tags, video surveillance, most likely a loyalty tie in, data mining (big data comes to retail), and web analytics. Then the good old POS comes into play.

The future isn't POS, it's retail IT. If you're stuck in the "I just sell POS terminals and ECRs" mentality, you won't be able to offer your customers a solution like those referenced above. In general, you won't be able to offer your customers any of the solutions they'll need in the future. If you can't wrap your mind around that, or pass this off as science fiction that will never be within the grasp of your customers, you're wrong, and maybe it really is time to retire.