Blog: The next generation of retail technology

Sam Webb | 28 September 2011

As I've said before, there's been a lot of talk around retail technology at this year's World Retail Congress but arguably the most impressive example was at this morning's (28 September) breakfast briefing.

Mark Edwards, the president and founder of UK-based Red Dot Square Solutions, demonstrated his company's consumer insight technology, developed over three years.

It may initially sound a bit dry, but to see it in operation is a revelation. The technology allows you to wander the 3D store, much like a first-person computer game, and with a few button clicks change store décor, rearrange aisles and pick up and move around products on a shelf.

But here's where it gets really impressive - the 3D environment also allows the retailer to physically project consumer data onto the shelves. Edwards says that by using tracking technology such as a head band that track shoppers' eye movements, you can build a portrait of their behaviour at the shelf. Much like sports coverage technology, such as the Hawkeye system used for cricket and tennis, the result is a 'heat signature' of what product is attracting the most attention. It can even track where consumer's attention is drawn on the product packaging itself.

There are other applications, such as visually tracking stock levels on shelf, and those who weren't too hungover to attend the breakfast briefing (a surprising amount, considering the tales I heard of an epic session at the hotel bar the night before) were visibly impressed.

I spoke to Edwards afterwards and asked him what grocery retailers he was working with. "I can't say," he said, "but they're as big as they get".

Another noteworthy display was from Nick Bennett, the head of sales and marketing at Mediastation, a digital production company based in the UK.

Using a Panasonic D-Imager (a motion tracking technology similar to the Xbox 360 Kinect), Mediastation have developed an advertising tool that allows the user to interact with the brand and play product-related games. Currently it's being used by Jameson whiskey at Malaga airport in Spain and features a game where users mix their own cocktails, but Bennett says it can translate easily to food brands.

He said: "We can see something like a Subway sandwich maker, and you can then post your creation on social media. Food is an area we'd do very well to explore and we see food retail markets as one of two areas we'll focus on."


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