Pinning Down Point-Of-Sale Data

Systems to improve purchase tracking.

Major IT developers are rolling out hardware and software to help retailers better track customer purchasing patterns.

On the hardware front, Hewlett-Packard Co. at the Retail Systems Conference in Chicago last week introduced the rp5000 POS (point-of-sale) device. The appliance is designed to withstand the rigorous front-end retail environment with such enhancements as hardened cooling and power capabilities and with serial and Universal Serial Bus ports for such peripherals as scanners and receipt printers, said officials with the Palo Alto, Calif., company.

The rp5000, due this summer, is based on industry-standard PC components, including Intel Corp.s Pentium 4 chips and Microsoft Corp.s operating systems.

The small form factor—less than 4 inches high and about 15 inches deep—is designed for space-constrained areas, and the device offers a single latch for entry and for toolless drive and motherboard removal, all for easy maintenance, officials said.

HP is the latest top-tier vendor to push a POS device. In January, Dell Computer Corp., of Round Rock, Texas, announced it was combining its various server, PC, storage and networking products with peripherals and software from third parties to automate such processes as sales transactions and inventory management.

On the software front, SAP AG launched its namesake POS Data Management software for processing and analyzing POS data. The stand-alone offering eliminates the need for POS data to be processed in a merchandise management system and instead integrates directly with third-party business intelligence software. Data is analyzed and reports are generated and presented to users based on roles, such as store manager or replenishment planner.

The software, available now, also integrates with inventory management, billing and other after-sale management software, according to officials at SAP, of Walldorf, Germany.

SAP POS Data Management provides predefined settings to speed implementation.

Other data management software announcements at the show came from Velosel Corp. and 360 Commerce Inc.

Velosel, of Mountain View, Calif., released Velosel5 Retail Edition, which is used to create data repositories and synchronize data between retailers and trading partners.

Separately, 360 Commerce demonstrated Version 6 of its Back Office and Point-of-Sale applications, both of which are part of the 360Store suite and due to be generally available this summer.

The Back Office upgrade includes a reporting package that enables retailers to tailor reports on customer activity so they can be pushed to managers in a variety of formats. New pricing algorithms in Point-of-Sale 6 give marketing staffs more flexibility in promotions, said company officials, in Austin, Texas.

Solutions such as these are likely to be attractive to retailers, many of which are looking to increase their spending on IT, according to a new study. Sixty-three percent of retailers plan to improve analysis of customer loyalty program data, and one-third will have behavior analysis projects under way by years end, according to the report, released last week by Gartner Inc. and RIS News, an Edgell Communications publication.

Some 41 percent of more than 220 senior retail executives surveyed said they plan to increase technology spending this year, while 44 percent of retailers reported maintaining spending at current levels.

Jeff Roster, an analyst at Gartner, of Stamford, Conn., said in a statement that retailers are beginning to see IT as a competitive differentiator. "Retailers have abandoned the notion that information technology is a cost center to be minimized," Roster said.