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What Will Retail Technology Look Like in 2015?

Greg Buzek, left, and Jeff Roster participated in a lightning-round...
Greg Buzek, president, IHL Consulting ...

In one of the most entertaining and enlightening sessions at this year’s TOPSS event, two of the industry’s true research luminaries squared off in one-minute rounds to each give an opinion of what retail technology in 2015 will look like and provide to retailing. TOPSS is the Technology & Operations Store Summit produced by Chain Store Age and Retail Technology Quarterly. It was held in October in Las Vegas.

The two industry analysts were Greg Buzek, president, IHL Consulting, and Jeff Roster, research VP, Global Industries, Retail, Gartner. The moderator, or in this case hostess, of the tag-team debate, was Cathy Hotka, IT/relationship diva, Cathy Hotka & Associates. Herewith a sampling:

Hotka: POS was a cash drawer in the 1970s. What will it be in 2015?

Buzek: POS is undergoing major changes because of broadband access, the need and ability for inventory visibility, customers ordering online, returns and pick-up in the store and also the movement toward an ASP (application service provider) model.

Roster: Technology in the store is all moving toward integration and more and more savvy customers. You will need to have totally integrated POS technology and the ability for associates to access information to be successful in 2015 if not sooner.

Hotka: Personalized marketing?

Roster: REI, Cabelas, Best Buy will work even more on this. They are looking for new opportunities for personalized interaction. But it better be carefully done, gentle and not too frequent, or you risk alienating the customer. But it is not going away, that’s for sure.

Buzek: I think retailers have to be very careful about this. You send the wrong message to the wrong person once and you can cause some serious problems. It has happened already.

Hotka: Wi-Fi and Wi-Max?

Buzek: I am a big fan. Better broadband access is incredibly important and is one of the true disruptive technologies.

Roster: Broadband is the heart and soul of applications, and anything that speeds it up or helps in that way is going to be useful.

Hotka: Markdown optimization?

Roster: One of the fun technologies that is now actually fairly well-adopted in retail. Wall Street loves it. Wall Street is now frequently asking CEOs about it. It is only going to increase in adoption rate year after year.

Buzek: Markdown optimization is the quickest technology I have ever seen adopted in retail. It has happened in just three years vs. kiosks that have been around for 20 years and still do not have their right place.

Hotka: Workforce optimization?

Roster: Another optimization, another good technology that optimizes work schedules and just does everything right. But retailers have to be doing it right. They need to have solid work rules in place.

Buzek: Workforce management and inventory are two of the biggest areas that can deliver a huge difference in cutting costs. Sobey’s system for running work-force-management optimization is almost as big as an ERP system. It is extremely complex.