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The National Retail Federation Annual Convention & Expo kicks off in New York City today, as scores of exhibitors and attendees pack the Jacob K. Javits Center for a look at the latest of what the industry has to offer. But Retail's Big Show isn't about designer duds, instead serving as a stage for customer engagement and technology solutions ranging from self-service shopping apps to kiosks and POS supplies.
As retailers vie for the business of today's connected shopper, and competition mounts with the rise of e-tailers, efficient and innovative uses of technology can be a key differentiator — driving customer loyalty, increasing profits and ultimately cutting costs.
Here's a look at a few solutions in the self-service space debuting at the show:
The Motorola MP6000
Motorola's booth at NRF will host a range of products under the tagline 'Experience is Everything.' One of those includes an imaging-based bioptic solution that the company said will help customers quickly checkout at retail stores.
The challenge of scanning poorly printed, damaged or overwrapped bar codes is overcome by the device's full six-sided coverage. According to Motorola's John Britts, the senior director of product development, the scanner's speed and ease of use will make for a pleasing customer experience.
"Many retailers have unmanned lanes that utilize self-checkout," he said. "It tends to be more important that the technology is unobtrusive and you don't need a degree to operate it. The shopper's livelihood is not learning how to operate the device, it's getting in and out as quickly as possible."
The MP6000 not only scans traditional paper-based bar codes but also 2D bar codes delivered on the screen of a mobile device — a growing trend with smartphone penetration in the U.S. forecasted to hit 70 percent by the end of 2016, according to Portio Research.
"The codes these scanners need to read are evolving, but scanners have not," said Britts. "We took imaging technology and applied it to the scan space."
Preparations for future requirements like RFID are built in to the MP6000, as well as adaptability for other potential technologies like a mobile shopping basket that would require a transfer of data from the shopper's phone to the self-checkout.
And the device satisfies retailers looking to up their green factor, too, Britts said.
"We hear from our retailers that they want conservation of energy from a green perspective," he said. "They are constantly asking us to drive down operating costs. The MP6000 has no moving parts, so it uses about 30 percent less than traditional bioptics."
NCR Retail and the Mobile Shopper
Industry veteran NCR expanded its solutions and services portfolio over 2012, and it seems like 2013 could carry the same momentum. The company is now tackling m-commerce with its new Mobile POS Optimization Consulting Services division and its launch of the Mobile Shopper, a scan-as-you-go application that allows shoppers an array of conveniences through the use of their smartphones. The system went live last week in a Wisconsin supermarket.
NCR recently released survey findings hinting at its focus on filling the mobile void:
Along with the in-aisle scanning ability, the Mobile Shopper solution enables users to create virtual shopping lists before going to the store. To complete their purchases, shoppers use the self-checkout stations and scan a QR code on their phones to transfer their mobile shopping information to the checkout kiosk, which then confirms the weight of the items scanned with the phone against the items being bagged.
NCR will be offering demonstrations of the NCR Mobile Shopper technology at the NRF Big Show, and NCR Vice President and General Manager of Mobile Solutions Chris Lybeer will present the mobile study findings on Monday, Jan. 14.
Comark ruggedized kiosks
The Comark Corporation is a privately held, veteran-owned small business known for its ruggedized, American-made products, with frequent deployments in military and industrial settings.
"The retail side is a new segment," said Solutions Architect Scott Plesh.
Comark's foray into retail and its booth at NRF will feature some of its signature stainless steel kiosks. One of those is the 47-inch Monument kiosk that was deemed outstanding project of the year by Intelligent Transportation Systems.
A new pedestal kiosk, with dual screen capability also will be on display, along with a 24-inch wall-mounted touchscreen display that Plesh said boasts a low profile at only two inches deep. Both are "great for retail applications," Plesh said.
NRF is "an ideal show for kiosks," Plesh added, as "it's a trend in the retail environment."
The LockSpot by KIOSK Information Systems
Retail rental transactions are the focus of KIOSK Information Systems' display at the Big Show. The LockSpot Self-Service Rental Platform incorporates an RFID tracking and locking mechanism that secures and tracks rental assets while in use.
Both customers and employees can check out equipment through the kiosk user interface or through use of their smartphones, according to an announcement from the company. Assets are secured at the modular LockSpot stations with KIOSK's new Bullet-Lock attachment, scaled to fit the item's size and shape. The mechanism contains an RFID chip that is affixed to the rental item, which communicates to an RFID antenna that resides in the kiosk station.
KIOSK's full NRF portfolio of retail self-service solutions includes endless aisle, loyalty, in-store bill payment, rental and locker solutions, and automated retail delivery systems.
"On-demand locker delivery provides consumers the ability to complete a secure pickup of their online purchase at their convenience, by simply entering an on-screen delivery code sent to their smartphone," said KIOSK CEO Tom Weaver. "The flipside retailer benefits are twofold: self-service delivery options free of ongoing labor costs and increased foot traffic right back into their store. If you combine the pending 2013 residential delivery surcharge announcements of major carriers with increased home-delivery theft concerns, that points directly to growth in self-service locker solutions."
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