Leading UK retailers Use The Retail Systems Forum 2011 to debate latest technology trends

7th June 2011

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The Retail Systems Forum, organised by Box Technologies took place at Microsoft's Conference Centre in Reading, Berkshire on 18th May. Box Technologies are the UK's leading provider of customer interface technology solutions.

Based around a theme of Improving Technology Decision Making for the Multi-Channel Retailer, key note speakers presented to over 100 leading retail and technology professionals on the latest innovations and technologies being utilised within the retail sector. The event provided a platform to debate some of the challenges faced by an industry being led by the demands of today's technology-savvy consumers (The Now Generation).

Providing the keynote opening address, Peter Edwards, Group CIO, GAME Stores Group set the scene by explaining some of the latent problems that all retailers are facing with their legacy systems built for bricks and mortar retailing whilst the trend to multichannel moves on a pace. Developing the right architecture and executing the plan that addresses these issues at a time of financial constraints and tough trading conditions means that any capital investment must show real growth for the business.

A mobile strategy is a crucial element for today's multichannel retailer. It is thought that mobile usage of the web will overtake the desktop by 2015 and Dan Hartveld, Director, Red Ant described the key elements for a retailer to consider as they continue to evolve a multichannel model that is constantly evolving.

Ensuring your IT strategy is aligned with the requirements of your business and those of today's multichannel customer is no easy thing. Andy Tudor, Head of Multichannel Solutions at Retail Assist spoke of the challenges faced by the IT Department at Aurora Fashions as they evaluated the requirements of the channel agnostic customer and ensured that their own IT structure and thought processes embraced the need to change from a multiple channel strategy to one in keeping with the multichannel nature of today's retail industry.

Payments and payment technologies are one of the other key areas of innovation within retail and Mark Kedgley, Chief Technical Officer at NNT gave an overview of the current PCI DSS requirements in an “everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask” presentation. Certainly, the current attitude amongst retailers is very mixed towards this legislation, but with draconian penalties for those don't adhere to the requirements, and a wide range of advantages for those that do, PCI DSS is one piece of legislation that no retailer can ignore.

One of the gurus of the retail IT industry, Roy Ford, IT Controller at SPAR, continued the PCI DSS theme by explaining the SPAR's approach to ensuring compliance by outsourcing credit and debit transactions. He also looked to the future and the implementation of contactless payment technology for both cards and smartphones indicating the obvious benefits for the consumer and the reduction in transaction costs for the retailer.

Brian Hume, CEO of Martec International rounded up the formal presentations by reviewing multichannel, not only from the point of view of the consumer and their expectations but also from the perspective of the retailer. Highlighted were the supply chain issues that need to be addressed as a store migrates form its traditional bricks and mortar roots. Whilst internet retailing still only accounts for less then 10% of total sales, it is clear that those who choose to ignore the multichannel approach do so at their peril. Conversely, those who get it right stand to gain market-share at the expense of theircompetitors

The event closed with a multichannel technology interactive panel discussion, with a Question and Answer session with the speakers who joined by Martin Strotton, Head of IT Strategy for ASOS.com, and Dave Dooley, Marketing Director, Box Technologies. The panel session provided a useful framework in which to highlight the hardware which plays such an important part within the customer facing technology – Technologies which might be the consumer's first point of contact with the retailer in questions, whether that be through a mobile kiosk, tablet PC, or via the traditional point of sale.

Presentations from The Retail Systems Forum can be downloaded from www.retailsystemsforum.com.

A demonstration area of some of the latest innovations in retail IT was on display in a networking area enabling delegates to see the technologies that are enabling some of the solutions discussed at the conference.

Providing thought leadership for the retail industry has become a key differentiator for Box Technologies, as Dave Dooley, Marketing Director, explained: “The Retail Systems Forum is now in its 11th Year. Box has consistently produced conference sessions which address the latest trends within the retail industry through the use of speakers from some of the most influential retail innovators in the country. Our depth of knowledge of the industry combined with a product suite that provide solutions for applications throughout the store and back office, has enabled us to establish a reputation in the retal marketplace which is second to none”

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