Innovative Retail Technologies

JUL-AUG 2017

Innovative Retail Technologies (formerly Integrated Solutions For Retailers) is the premier source for innovative yet pragmatic technology solutions in the retail industry.

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Closing Points There Is No Magic Code I receive dozens of purportedly transformational, groundbreak- ing, industry-saving solutions to your most complex and dire challenges every single day. They flow steadily, right into my inbox, keeping pace with the promises that if I click to buy a bottle of pills, I'll stop snoring, reverse my receding hairline, and eliminate my gut with- out lifting a finger. In today's inbox, the miraculous answers to brick-and-mortar retailers' woes look something like this: • Several different flavors of virtual and augmented reality that promise in-store shop- pers they'll feel like they're at home — even though they've actually driven to your store — thereby obliterating the "shop from the comfort of your own home" advantage proposed by the onlines. • A sky 's-the-limit cloud-based pricing optimization platform leverages secret cyber-spy algorithms to anticipate Amazon's price cuts, and then preemptively drop yours to undercut theirs by a penny (that, or free same-day drone shipping, whichever saves you more margin and makes your brand look better than Amazon). • An instantaneously reactive promotions tool that not only responds to weather changes, but also actually changes the weather on your command. Overstocked on galoshes and umbrellas in your Topeka store? Open the app and make it rain! Exaggeration aside, cure-alls such as these come streaming in daily. They prey on the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that have impregnated the retail industry on the heels of a "retail apocalypse" (phrase compliments of uncharacteristically sensational editors at The Atlantic) that foresaw the shut- tering of thousands of stores in the first two quarters of the year. Yeah, it was a rough first half of 2017 for traditional brick-and-mortar merchants. Apocalyptic? Not quite. Take a good look at the victims of this great disaster. With limited exception, they were due for a post-recession round of culling. Have you been to a Kmart lately? The one nearest my house has been blighted for a decade. Whether or not hard goods spending is moving online or losing ground to discretionary travel and entertainment spending by Millennials, as the analy- sis du jour suggests, that Kmart and a couple hundred just like it were long overdue for their eulogies. Augmented reality couldn't have saved them. Price and promotions optimization couldn't have saved them. For God's sake, ev- erything in the store is 30 percent off right now and it's still a ghost town. The cases of the suffering mer- chants of the day have been analyzed ad nauseam. As far as most in the ven- dor community are concerned, more magic technology is the remedy. But they're wrong. Technology can help solve problems, but technology's con- tributions to today's retail challenges are incremental. A few incremental changes won't save a mortal brand. For those with a rosier prognosis (i.e., death is not imminent), real recovery (or continued growth) will come from something far more pow- er ful than point-pieces of technology; it will come from big, transformative, unorthodox thinking in the C-suite. To be sure, technology will play many important tactical roles to support the C-suite strategy, but there is no magic code. BY MATT PILLAR SENIOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR @mattpillar linkedin.com/in/matthewpillar Jul-Aug 2017 34 As far as most in the vendor community are concerned, more magic technology is the remedy. But they're wrong.

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