Retail technology vendor innovation: Fujitsu

What is Fujitsu?

Japan-based but with a global reach, Fujitsu provides hardware solutions, integrated software applications and multi-vendor lifecycle support services to help retailers operate more efficiently.

Its range of products and solutions include front- and back office facing technology, covering areas of retail such as point of sale, mobile and self-service.

What's new at Fujitsu?

Fujitsu's solutions and services are used in many areas of the retail industry, but over the last six months the company has put a particularly strong focus on its mobile propositions.

Jon Stretton, client managing director for retail, hospitality and transportation, told Essential Retail that the business's heritage has been in creating applications and operating systems within mobile devices – and this is being used as a foundation for much of its current work in the retail industry, which includes developing self scanning, click & collect and geo-based solutions.

A tool that helps retailers understand when a customer is approaching a shop so they can neatly arrange collection facilities and improve in-store fulfilment is at the heart of the geo-specific technology development currently underway at Fujitsu.

"We're in the space at the moment where we are working with a number of retailers on proof of concept to establish the full business case to take things into production," explained Stretton. "We've got working prototypes and concepts that our customers are working with us on."

With fulfilment options sitting very high on the list of priorities for the modern-day retailer, be it for online retail, click & collect or simply making the physical retailing environment as smooth and efficient as possible, the industry is increasingly seeing a need to adapt its storage and warehousing operations.

One major challenge for the larger companies as fulfilment options have evolved is how much space to dedicate in-store to click & collect products. Waitrose and John Lewis can rely on each other to optimise the number of pick-up points for online orders they provide around the UK, but for the market-leading grocers there are perhaps more complicated issues to consider.

Mobile geo-based technology may be able to play a role in helping solve some of these retailing challenges, according to Stretton.

"Being able to pick and pack at the right time and move goods from the back to the front of a store at the right time really can help grocery retailers keep stock levels correct, and minimise what they take off the shelves and how much back office storage space they use," he said, explaining that getting this service right may also help boost customer loyalty.

However, the current stance of the UK retail industry – not to mention the actual technological capability and consumers' attitude to sharing data – means that such systems are still some way off being fully implemented into the shopping experience.

Stretton predicts that it is at least a three- to five-year timeframe until there is widespread social and business acceptance, but from a tactical perspective he believes there will be production pilots of it within 18 months. There are certainly signs that it's a market waiting to emerge.

"We run a mid-term planning cycle, which is a three-year plan, and we see this stuff generating income for Fujitsu in the third year of our cycle," he said.

"Generation Y are far more comfortable in enabling organisations to know where they are when there is a benefit in it for them. It's perfectly normal for them to think 'I've got nothing to hide, so I don't care'."

Watch this space.

What makes Fujitsu stand out?

A day doesn't go by without this publication mentioning multichannel retailing, but the buzz phase of the moment is omnichannel retailing, which effectively means serving customers in a joined-up way across all platforms, when and where they demand.

Fujitsu doesn't necessarily look at retail as a network of channels; according to Stretton, it's more about one channel – the customer.

"People talk about multichannel and omnichannel, but what that really means is that customers want to shop their way," he noted.

The retail boss said that Fujitsu views its role as using technology to enable retailers to offer this to their customers, and it achieves this through providing a software as a service (SaaS) contract model.

Stretton remarked: "The benefit of SaaS is that it allows clients time to enter a market and time to get out. With the rate of change in retail at the moment, it's important retailers can try things really quickly and are able to establish whether the hypothesis or business case they have created is actually correct or not.

"It can take weeks or months to get started on something when using traditional development and implementation approaches. Now, this can take a matter of minutes or hours."

What the boss says...

Stretton believes that the retailers which have invested in enabling their customers to shop in different ways will feel the revenue and bottom line benefits.

"If you are able to allow your customers to buy from you more easily then you will be more successful," he argued.

"Certain companies have made overt decisions on their strategies; they are backing themselves on these plans and they will be the ones that will be most successful, irrespective of what that strategy is.

"The retailers that are waiting to see where technology goes are losing their identity – and you only need to look at what's happened in the electricals market space. Dixons Retail really invested in its identity, which is 'come into our store and we'll help you', but Comet didn't and then collapsed."