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In focus: Association for Retail Technology Standards

What is the role of ARTS in the retail industry?

The Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS), the National Retail Federation's IT standards division, is a membership organisation that makes new technology less expensive and easier to implement for retailers. We produce strategy blueprints to help retailers learn about new technologies and explore how to make use of them, while helping their vendor partners understand retailer needs.  In addition to our white papers, our volunteers help us develop data integration standards, a standard data model and data warehouse model for retail, and a library of standard Invitations to Tender (ITTs or RFPs) that retailers can use to research new applications.

What retail innovations have you seen or heard of recently that have caught your interest?

Lately everyone is talking about data security best practices and tokenisation to further improve payments security. We are also very interested in the evolution of the point of sale (PoS). Consumers seek a more consistent, and consistently good, experience regardless of where they interact with the retailer and PoS platform convergence is a very hot topic.

What's your definition of big data and how to manage it, in a retail context?

Retailers already had more data than they could deal with even before unstructured data from social interactions started pouring in, so it’s almost pointless to talk about “big” data. We are concerned with helping retailers take the data they already have and turn it into useful information they can use to identify their best customers, acquire more of these good customers, and learn how to cultivate relationships with them that will maximise their value. The big challenge has always been to use this information to develop and support a retailer's business strategy.

What do you see as the challenges and benefits in the growth of multichannel?

Right now the big challenge to retailers in multichannel is the fragmented nature of the systems they use in stores, for eCommerce, and for mobile commerce. This adds a layer of complexity to serving the customer that often leads to miscues in recognising and engaging with the customer.  We believe that retailers, particularly in Europe and North America, are on the brink of a refresh cycle in PoS systems that will allow retailers to take a fresh look at their customer-facing technologies. Reducing the complexity of these systems, and possibly moving to a single customer-interaction platform for in-store, eCommerce and mCommerce would allow retailers to offer an improved experience to consumers. 

Many people forget about the store associates in the multichannel equation; the growth of multichannel and moves toward single customer-interaction platforms allows retailers to supply associates with the same sort of information the customer has about selection, inventory and price. This is really exciting and allows store associates and customers to be more collaborative in the retail experience.

What’s the best example of digital engagement that you’ve experienced/heard of?

Starbucks is often cited in the US as the gold standard for digital engagement. They deliver rewards and offers directly to the phones of their loyalty members although they don’t offer a differentiated experience which I think will have to be the next frontier for them. I also think some of the airlines and hotels have great apps although I am remain a bit disappointed with the all-around app experience in  that I am rarely offered anything specific to my shopping patterns. 

In terms of all-around excellence, Tesco is generally held up as a great analyser of customer data in order to offer their loyalty members differentiated and personalised experiences although I haven’t been able to use their Tesco Finder app yet.  I am also impressed by wayfinding that many retailers can offer to help consumers find products in the stores using their phones – Walgreen (similar to Boots) is a leader in wayfinding in the US and Tesco’s app offers it, too. I am really excited while I am in the UK this week to check out local apps to see what’s new!

What can we expect from your workshop on Data Synchronisation and Integration at RBTE?

Our latest work revolves around the idea of Customer Centricity.  Many people think that Customer Centricity is about good customer service but it’s really about understanding who your best customers are, what motivates them, and how to build a relationship with them that is mutually beneficial. ARTS has a new standard data warehouse that supports analysing and reporting on customer behaviour to help retailers align their strategies with customer needs and wants. 

Our chief technical architect Richard Halter will explain to attendees how our work supports a true 360-degree view of the customer, and how they can benefit from the knowledge and best practices embedded in our standards.

You can find out more about ARTS and meet some of the organisation's partners at the ARTS Pavilion at RBTE 2014, which runs from 11-12 March at London's Earls Court.

The chairman of the ARTS UnifiedPOS Committee, H Paul Gay, will also be supporting Epson's presentation 'Enabling Omnichannel Services at the Point of Sale' in the Retail Innovation Theatre.