NEW YORK, Jan. 15, 2007 – From as far back as the introduction of a bell on the cash register, technology has impacted the retail industry. Sometimes it takes considerable time for retailers to implement new innovations – for example, radio frequency identification (RFID) was invented more than 60 years ago and is just now starting to become mainstream. But the goal of innovation has always been to help retailers survive and thrive, and help create new business opportunities. And in today’s highly competitive marketplace, innovation is more important than ever. Those who embrace innovation flourish; many who don’t become obsolete.
As more than 15,000 people within the retail industry convene in New York for this year’s National Retail Federation’s BIG Show 2007: Setting Retail in Motion -- a showcase of new business equipment and technology products and services for retail -- anticipation is high around that all-important question: What will be the latest in technology innovations this year?
PressPass spoke with David Gruehn, U.S. industry solutions director, Microsoft Retail & Hospitality Group, for Microsoft’s view of the industry and the role that innovation plays in the success of retail. Gruehn leads Microsoft’s sales and services efforts for the specialty retail and mass merchandise segments with the goal of delivering optimal value for customers and strong business results for Microsoft and industry partners.
PressPass: How is the retail industry changing?
Gruehn: To understand the role that innovation can play in retail, it’s important to first look at how the industry is evolving. For today’s retail organizations, increasing competition and market pressures are driving the need for better operational efficiencies and a more customer centric approach throughout the value chain. While competition is nothing new, changes in customer expectations, regulatory pressures for accurate data and the business demands of “more for less” are all compounding the need to deliver increased business performance and customer service.
Customers are more empowered than ever before through access to information. They expect the same seamless experience in a store as they have at home. There isn’t necessarily a desire for loyalty anymore, and many consumers have taken a “What have you done for me lately?” attitude. For employees, demands are more stringent than ever – the need to be more productive, more knowledgeable about a broader set of products, anticipate customer needs and more effectively react to unexpected situations. There are also greater demands on a retailer’s enterprise/headquarters. The enterprise is integrated from the customer through its extended supply chain and is now global. To streamline operations and better utilize valuable data, its systems need to be integrated and there are critical demands for greater interoperability with heterogeneous systems.