What the Large Retailers

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2006-02-02 Print this article Print

Are Waiting for"> All players are waiting for other retailers to take the plunge and take the heat. In the meantime, the evil rumors around finger-scanning continue. Maybe the Unix gurus named finger daemon appropriately?
This group approach is the polar opposite of the typical CIO approach to cutting-edge technology, where it is seen as an ultra-proprietary differentiator that should be kept secret at all costs.
Talking with CIOs all day about what their companies are deploying, I am much more familiar with that cloak-and-dagger mentality than I want to be. Whats different about contactless payment and biometric authentication at checkout? It goes into the same category as self-checkout, ATMs and the ever-popular voicemail sheepdog tactic ("If you want to be put on extended hold and then disconnected while trying to discuss a bill, press 1. If you want to be put on extended hold and then disconnected while trying to get technical support, press 2...."). What do those technologies all have in common? They help the companies (retailers, banks, etc.) a lot, they help customers a tiny little bit and customers know it, at one level or another. Consumers didnt seek it, dont particularly want it and are very inclined to resist. Those consumers only succumb when they have no choice, which means when all of the bankers or retailers all offer it and insist on it. Wouldnt consumers like plumbers and electricians that always called back and showed up on time? Of course, but the only way that plumbers and electricians get away from not doing that is that virtually no plumber or electrician does. Theres safety in numbers, and an electrician that routinely returns calls promptly is violating the contractor code of conduct. Getting back to authentication, retailers will undoubtedly make the move, but most are waiting for a clear majority to move in. What retailer wants to be the first and only electrician in the neighborhood that doesnt return calls? Evan Schuman is retail editor for Ziff Davis Internets Enterprise Edit group. He has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesnt plan to stop anytime soon. He can be reached at Evan_Schuman@ziffdavis.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.

Evan Schuman is the editor of CIOInsight.com's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

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