EBay has developed a number of technologies for both consumers and retailers. If you're trying to find the your favorite celebrity's latest red carpet look, the company hopes you will use the eBay Swatch app. You take a photo on a smartphone, and then the app search eBay's inventory to find the item or something similar.
Not all retail technology works well. QR, or Quick Response, codes, haven't taken off the way many had hoped the would. The two-dimensional bar codes, available on many products and ads, are meant for consumers to scan with smartphones to gather more information.
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"The simpler it is, the more likely retailers will see the uptick," said Jeff Schumacher, global managing director at Booz Digital and former chief marketing and strategy officer at Sports Authority. "The more hoops you make a customer or user go through, the less likely they are going to use it."
QR codes probably will be replaced by technologies with fewer steps, he said.
The key for retail technology is that it enhance the shopper experience, according to Tinsley. Something designed for the retailer's sake that doesn't do much for the customer likely won't make it past the pilot phase, she added.
Big data from Big Brother
Then again, there is strong support for the power of analytics—information culled from technology that isn't so obvious to consumers.
Many say that Nordstrom is one of the best when it comes to investing in technology. The high-end department store recently spurred controversy over a geo-fencing program that used shoppers' Wi-Fi phone signals to trace their movements around 17 of its stores.
"The Euclid technology was a test that came to its [planned] conclusion, and while we did hear from consumers, there was also misinformation about what the technology was," said Tara Darrow, a spokeswoman for Nordstrom. The company said the data gathered was for analytics and that there was no connection to security cameras—though that technology does exist.
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Tim Callan, chief marketing officer at RetailNext, said a number of companies are using the footage recorded by store surveillance cameras to glean insights about shoppers' behavior. This information can help retailers evaluate what products people like most and where those items should be shelved. It also can help managers gauge the effectiveness of marketing programs and even improve staff scheduling.