The Digital Signage Insider

BT Showcases Kiosk and Digital Sign Technology in Store of the Future Concept

Published on: 2005-03-04

British telecommunications and electronics company BT recently sent out a press release about their "Store of the Future" concept which should be of interest to those of us in digital retailing and digital merchandising. Everything from RFID to digital signage has been thrown into the mix (cleverly dubbed Ker'Ching - click that link, it has cool pictures), which BT officials suggest can save money for store owners and customers alike by making the retail experience as efficient as possible.

The future store concept comes as the result of BT's renewed focus on retail services, which it got into in a big way after acquiring retail technology firm NSB back in 2003.  The arm of the company responsible for the Store of the Future concept is now apparently called BT Exact.  I'd like to tell you something more about BT Exact, but the "welcome" paragraph on their homepage is so phenomenally buzzword-laden that I couldn't begin to tell you what they claim to do, and I couldn't bring myself to read the rest of their page.

The store tests several technologies, including digital signs, self-service kiosks, "smart" shelves that can detect when products are added and removed, and update inventory systems accordingly, computerized shopping carts (which they call trolleys, because, you know, they're British), RFID product tracking, automated checkout, biometric payment systems, and a slew of high-tech warehouse systems.

I think the concept of a Future Store is fascinating, and I'd like to see something like this first hand (if I recall correctly, they do something similar at GlobalShop every year, but I don't think it's quite the same).  I wonder, though, if a retailer going into this demo would really be able to see the forest for the trees. With so many new, innovative, and just plain cool technologies crowding the demo space, I think that I would be hard pressed to see where the most valuable parts of the solution are.   I'm very much an experiment-test-verify type of person, and when working with customers I typically recommend they start out with as simple an experiment as possible in order to test their strategy.  So, for example, a kiosk application with the fewest number of required features to be useful, or a digital signage campaign with "control" and "experimental" content. By taking the simple approach, it's much easier to go back and see the actual value of the experiment - whether by measuring ROI, or calculating some other value that the experiment was supposed to produce.  Working on two (or more) experiments simultaneously makes this a lot harder, since it's impossible to know if the experiments are interfering with each other without running even more control cases.  And this is the trouble that I would think Store of the Future would run into.  Sure, it makes a cool looking demo, but all of the new and unproven technologies compete and interfere with each other, making it hard to determine where the value really is.


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