The Buzz at NRF, Part II

With the struggling economy top of mind, vendors at NRF highlighted a range of solutions to help retailers reach more customers in more places, more efficiently -- without breaking the bank.

By Jordan K. Speer
Key focus areas at this year's show included solutions digging deep into customer behavior and preferences to improve the customer experience and optimize sales, as well as streamlining the supply chain for improved visibility and money and time savings.

Torex Launches Loyalty System

Torex Retail Holdings Limited (TorexÃ") launched its Torex™ Loyalty system at NRF's BIG Show last month. Torex Loyalty provides retailers with insight into customers' spending behavior that can then be transformed into revenue growth. The solution supports clienteling by allowing retailers to create personalized offers for customers and send them via text message, Bluetooth and email
The system is a platform-independent, modular multi-channel system that integrates with a retailer's existing in-store technology to provide a comprehensive promotions, communications and analysis package.

Torex Loyalty allows retailers to collect and store key information about customers and their shopping habits regardless of where they shop --in-store or on the web -- which can then be used to build an accurate picture of consumer demand. Based on the insights provided, Torex reports, retailers can design promotions precisely tailored to fit the needs of individual customers.

The solution's advanced data analysis capabilities enable retailers to predict which promotions will appeal most to certain types of shopper, and can also simulate the overall effects of a campaign on a retailer's business, allowing the retailer to assess the potential return on investment.

Additionally, the solution replaces coupon-based systems, communicating using methods that match the lifestyles of today's consumers, such as sending a text message containing details of an offer to a customer's mobile phone, or an email to his or her personal account. Retailers can also make use of SMS and Bluetooth technology to instantly alert customers to offers when they visit a store.

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Quantivo Offers Insights Into Online Customer Behavior

Quantivo, provider of customer behavior analytics, announced that its Affinity Analytics Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) uncovers online customer behavior patterns with just a few key strokes. Immediate answers to questions such as "Which promoted items produced the most profitable follow-on purchases?" or "Which customers are the most profitable over time?" can dramatically improve the return on investment of future online marketing campaigns and promotions, the company says.
Current web analytics solutions focus on visits, page views and click-through metrics, but fail to provide insights about the pattern-based behavior of online customers, how to improve conversion rates, and how to uncover key interactions that lead to valuable actions, Quantivo says.
Questions such the ones listed below are based on •affinities' or data patterns and require a new type of analytics.
*Who are the most profitable customers and which online offers work best to attract them?
*Which interactions, in the same session or over multiple visits, lead to conversions?
*What happened after a promotion? Did customers •get hooked' or did they never return?
*What is the total profit margin for all transactions that included the promoted item(s)?
*What factors are most related to large purchases, returned products and fraud?

Quantivo Affinity Web Analytics quickly provides users with insight into factors that drive repeat visitations, which is critical for optimizing online purchasing and advertising. The service also easily surfaces patterns over time — including multiple touch points such as repeat visits and repeat purchases in correlation with advertising campaigns. Until now, this type of advanced analytics has been available to only those companies who could afford to spend millions in software and wait days/weeks for answers to these questions.

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Retail Equation Provides Micros Retail with Return Optimization

The Retail Equation, provider of retail transaction optimization solutions, has entered into a partnership with MICROS-Retail, the retail solutions division of MICROS Systems Inc., which includes subsidiary companies Datavantage, CommercialWare and eOne Group.

The agreement will extend The Retail Equation's Verify-1® and Return Rewards® solutions to MICROS-Retail's international customer base.

Through this alliance, The Retail Equation's applications are already integrated into MICROS-Retail's Store21® point-of-sale application, and are scheduled for integration into the Xstore™ and Tradewind® POS products. Retailers benefit from a seamless integration into The Retail Equation's return optimization functionality directly through the POS to store associates via simple on-screen prompts.

"The integration between Store21 and The Retail Equation speeds up the returns process in our stores," said Mike Smith, senior vice president of Loss Prevention for Finish Line, which uses the system in its 790+ stores nationwide. "It also ensures that our associates follow the proper procedures to help us maximize the incremental revenue benefits from return optimization."

MICROS-Retail solutions are installed in more than 20,000 stores in 10 countries, processing more than 10 million consumer transactions annually. The company's apparel clients include Patagonia, Abercrombie & Fitch, Chico's and J.Jill.

The Retail Equation's Verify-1 software system is designed to identify return fraud and abuse, which it reports is a $15.5 billion per year problem in the United States. As part of the Verify-1 service, The Retail Equation is contracted by retailers to gather their return information, store it securely, and analyze the data to develop and follow return policies for those retailers. Return Rewards is an intelligent system designed to provide incentive to the customer to continue shopping in the store once a return transaction is complete.

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Family Dollar Accelerates Transformation with SAS Merchandise Planning

Family Dollar, a Fortune 500 retailer with more than 6,600 stores and $6.8 billion in annual revenues, is in the midst of "Project Accelerate," a three-year transformation that it expects will lead to a better shopping experience for customers, improved productivity of its inventory and enhanced efficiency in its supply chain.

As part of this project, the company is implementing merchandise planning applications from business analytics provider SAS.

To power Project Accelerate, Family Dollar invested in software from the SAS® Merchandise Intelligence suite including SAS® Merchandise Financial Planning and SAS® Merchandise Assortment Planning. More than 100 Family Dollar employees began using SAS Merchandise Financial Planning in August 2007. The retailer has initiated a roll out of SAS Merchandise Assortment Planning that will continue throughout this year.

"SAS enables the Family Dollar merchandising organization to quickly create integrated merchandise financial plans we can share and adjust collaboratively on an almost real-time basis," said Scott Zucker, vice president of merchandise operations, Family Dollar.

"With the current economy, it is important for us to make inventory adjustments quickly to minimize •discretionary' risk and maximize •basic needs' opportunities," said Zucker. "During 2008, the SAS Merchandise Financial Planning solution enabled us to adjust our merchandise assortments much more quickly than in the past. This allowed us to make immediate investments in the consumable categories that our customers need most during these difficult times. Our strong fourth quarter results from June to August in 2008 reflect this mix shift away from more discretionary merchandise."

Family Dollar offers a core assortment of name brand and quality consumable merchandise supplemented by fashion and seasonal apparel offerings.

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Zebra Launches Off-the-Shelf Kiosk Enclosure

Zebra Technologies Corp., provider of specialty printing and automatic identification solutions, introduced the Kiosk Print Station, a compact enclosure that creates an all-in-one kiosk solution by housing a Zebra TTP 2000™ series kiosk printer, a roll of media and a compact touch-screen kiosk computer such as the IBM® AnyPlace or the Motorola® MK Series.

Because the unit is a complete enclosure, it can be integrated out-of-the-box without the long lead time and high cost associated with a custom solution, the company reports.

The Zebra Kiosk Print Station can be mounted on a wall or pole, freeing up floor and counter space. The TTP 2000 receipt kiosk printer is kept secure in a lockable enclosure along with the associated media. Retailers can choose from a variety of media options depending on their needs, including four different receipt label widths.

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Jesta Launches New Version of Wholesale ERP Solution, Guess? Upgrades

Jesta I.S., supplier of business solutions for the soft goods and specialty markets, launched the latest release of its wholesale ERP solution, Vision Sourcing and Demand Management 10.0.

The solution contains deeper functionality to support the import of drop shipments, including pre-cartonization, ASN and automatic invoicing for pre-distributed sales orders. The latest release also enables users to automatically create vendor purchase orders by combining retail and wholesale bulk sales orders.

Vision Sourcing and Vision Demand Management acts as the system of record linking other key business solutions including the other products in the Vision Suite such as Vision Financials and Vision SCM. Jesta I.S.' Vision SCM (Supply Chain Management) is tightly linked to the Vision Suite to offer wholesalers or private-label retailers increased visibility into their supply chains for both internal and external partners.

As a workflow engine, Vision SCM also allows Vision Sourcing and Vision Demand Management users to setup, monitor and act on selected business processes early through alerting and reporting. Further enhancements more tightly integrate tracking with workflow alerting for global supply chain visibility.

The new release also has a completely new look and feel that more closely resembles the other products in the Vision Suite. Users can now navigate the application from a left-hanging menu that the company says eliminates at least four steps to complete a process or transaction. The new release also allows users to save personalized templates into their favorites, and to access all templates with greater ease.

In related news, the company announced that Guess? Inc., a leading designer and marketer of trendy, upscale apparel and accessories for men, women, and children, will be upgrading to the new version of Vision Sourcing and Vision Demand Management, version 10.0 at its Hong Kong, China, U.S. and Canada locations.

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SAP Serves Needs of Life is Good, Other SMEs

SAP reports that it is working with almost 40,000 small businesses and midsize companies to help them improving operational efficiency to support profitable growth, and says that its business solutions offer deep industry-specific functionalities that are quick to implement, easy to use and flexible to support the unique and changing business needs of small and midsize companies.

These solutions optimize operations by providing one platform for all company processes, thus enabling transparency throughout the entire business.

For example, growth at Life is good, a New Hampshire-based apparel company that sells and markets an assortment of optimistic and humorous Life is good products, including clothing, accessories and footwear, was hindered by "stove-piped" master data management and disparate operating systems.

Working on an aggressive timeline, the company implemented an apparel and footwear industry solution from SAP in only 24 weeks. Based on attune's pre-configured solution attune for Brands (a4B), the implementation has resulted in a highly visible, streamlined flow of information and collaboration across the company and its supply chain, the company reports. Also, the solution's capacity for growth and system-wide accuracy are helping Life is good to tailor and grow its business.

Kevin Scheeler, director of technology, Life is good, said: "We now have improved visibility into the warehouse and can easily locate products on every level, allowing us to better control the quality of both inbound and outbound processes. SAP's solutions not only have an exceptional ability to cater to our specific industry needs as a family-run business, but they helped us realize tangible improvements to our bottom-line through increased order fill rates, reduced schedule changes on the shop floor and improved ability to match supply and demand."

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