NEW YORK - Last month retailers got a chance to see what a high-tech gourmet food store of the future might look like.
The futuristic market, an exhibit called X06 Marketplace at the National Retail Federation's annual show here, featured all manner of advanced design elements and technologies. The exhibit was sponsored by IBM, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, IconNicholson, Intel and Real Digital Media, among others.
The technologies included a wide array of digital plasma screens; RFID systems that track inventory and shopping patterns; PDAs that allow managers to monitor trends while on the sales floor; product locator and recipe kiosks; kiosks that include virtual connections to live customer service; an intelligent produce scale; and a personal shopping assistant tablet on a shopping cart.
Among the goals of X06 Marketplace, "we wanted to show how customers can be empowered by information," said Richard Russo, president, Hybridia Design, Clifton, Va., who conceived of and developed the exhibit.
The exhibit was divided into several sections. In the Wine Cave, RFID technology, provided by IconNicholson, New York, was prominently featured. For example, "customers" carried RFID-enabled loyalty cards that tracked their movements in the store and helped store personnel respond to their shopping needs. "If it's your wife's birthday, they could suggest flowers" to go along with a wine purchase, Russo said.
RFID readers hidden at various "hot spots" could read cards and tags on wine bottles, bringing up information on a monitor and allowing employees to cross-sell cheese or chocolates or offer an immediate discount. A "smart shelf" tracked wine bottles being removed and added at the shelves and displayed on a screen the inventory status of wine bottles in the back room, as well as information on a particular bottle.
The wine cave also featured numerous digital screens, from Retail Digital Media, Sarasota, Fla., showing video and static images of grapes and wine products. "They were mostly to set a mood," said Ken Goldberg, chief executive officer, Retail Digital Media.
The loyalty cards also allowed hypothetical store managers to assess traffic flow throughout the store on a screen in the Wine Cave. For example, displays or new products could be evaluated based on how much traffic they attracted.
The X06 exhibit also included examples of Microsoft's "Smarter Selling" platform, such as mobile handheld POS units that can be moved outside or around a store, and mobile systems that could create a planogram at the shelf. Another mobile manager handheld device could interpret oral instructions and deliver requested information on screen.
Microsoft-enabled kiosks provided shoppers identified by their loyalty card targeted coupons as well as recipes and nutritional information. Kiosks and automated help desks were also set up with live onscreen support to make selling suggestions and provide information.
Microsoft also allowed shoppers to create online "wish lists" of high-ticket products they intended to buy, using their cell phone, a kiosk or home PC. Upon being identified in the store, a shopper would be presented with a coupon for the item by store associates who "know you're interested already," said Stephen Sparrow, retail industry marketing manager, Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.