Canadian Retailer - Summer 2012 - (Page 14)

DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE TECHNOLOGY CONTINUES TO CHANGE THE FACE OF MODERN RETAIL BY GEOFF LE QUELENEC, Director, Information Technology, Retail Council of Canada W hen it comes to the impact that technology has had on retail, supply chain management can arguably be considered the first area of operations where its influence was felt. The benefits of improved inventory management and warehouse logistics have been evident for those who have invested in these areas. And most recently, business analytics and trend forecasting based on data collected through sales and loyalty programs represent areas of innovation, allowing retailers an unprecedented look into the habits of their customers. E-Commerce and digital advertising have also evolved, allowing retailers to reach more potential customers and target niche markets with a high degree of efficiency. There is, however, one place that technology has yet to make strong inroads; the point of sale. The POS defines the customer experience. The customer enters the store, interacts with merchandise displays, interacts with sales staff and chooses items for purchase. The main event, the transaction itself, is where the customer makes their key interaction with a retailer. The point where the sale is processed is where customer service is paramount, and the opportunity to cement a favourable impression with the customer is present. Yet the nature of the point-of-sale experience works against the retailer. Lineups are inevitable and increase the impatience of the customer. This is a barrier to up-sell and suggestive selling. Even the physical counter or desk is an extension of this barrier mentality, separating the customer and sales associate into “us” and “them” camps. Placing the power of the POS into the hands of the sales associates on the floor changes this dynamic. By weaving the transactional portion of the retail experience into the larger fabric of the shopping experience, the disconnections are removed. The magic of this paradigm shift is evident in the customer experience at the Apple store. Until recently however, this type of mobile POS experience required backend systems and technology investment beyond the reach of all but the largest retailers. Luckily, technology has a way of making itself available to a mass audience much more quickly these days. Square, a US-based company founded by Jack Dorsey, one of the co-founders of Twitter, brought a plug-in device and app for iPhone and iPad devices to market over a year ago that gave the same mobile checkout capability to any retailer, large or small. The scale of adoption in the US was exceptionally rapid and today, Square boasts $4 billion in payments processed annually. They have expanded their offerings to include inventory management, receipt printing and cash handling capabilities found in larger POS offerings. Unfortunately, the limitations of the payment and banking networks prevented Square from quickly moving beyond the US with their offering. Luckily, two Canadian start-ups have taken the concept North of the border. Kudos Payments and Payfirma both offer a similar product to Square, a combination of a plug-in device for reading credit cards. Payfirma has further extended their offering into e-Commerce gateway, Near Field Communication (NFC) and debit card capabilities. These companies have also taken a further page from the Square playbook and made setup for small merchants extremely accessible, offering online signup and merchant account services. A new retailer today would almost be inclined to make mobile POS their standard, given the ease of use of these systems. Larger retailers with ingrained technology investments and embedded store designs and infrastructure should make sure not to be caught unaware by this emerging trend. This is just one of the many opportunities to enhance and improve retail operations that Retail Council of Canada’s (RCC) Technology Committee is focusing on going forward. Led by Geoff LeQuelenec and Shafiq Jamal, RCC’s Vice-President, Western Canada, the Committee will meet regularly to discuss all of the technology-related issues affecting retail operations, providing a platform for engagement and the sharing of best practices. Contact Shafiq Jamal at 1-888-246-7705, or via email at Geoff Le Quelenec is Retail Council of Canada’s Director of Information Technology, responsible for maintaining and fulfilling the associations IT requirements and aiding retailers in their initiatives to get ahead of the curve with respect to the adoption and implementation of operation-improving technologies. If you require information concerning information technology in the retail industry, contact Geoff at 416922-6678 ext. 322, or via email at 14 | canadian retailer | summer 2012 |

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Canadian Retailer - Summer 2012

Today's Trends in Online Shopping
The Canadian eCommerce Tipping Poing
Cooking Up Change
Mobile Payments: The Top-10 Things to Know About Mobile Payments
CDN/US Price Disparity: Pricing Without Borders
Loss Prevention: Hack Attacks
Privacy Matters: Helping Retailers Navigate The Privacy Landscape
Publisher's Desk
Shop Talk
Director's Message
Retailer's Guide

Canadian Retailer - Summer 2012