With Microsoft, Firm Brings Interactivity To Retail

StoreXperience is bringing interactive advertising and marketing to retail stores with assistance from Microsoft through two-dimensional bar code technology. This week at its annual convention and expo in New York, the National Retail Federation (NRF) tested the application, which took the Microsoft software partner two years to develop.

Demonstrating the service, Microsoft and StoreXperience hosted "The Great Product Hunt," a joint promotion in which NRF attendees had an option to capture product information from participating vendors and win prizes.

NRF conference organizers also chose to use the application to provide more information on products being sold through the retail organization's annual silent auction.

"People appear very interested in the technology because they have been asking lots of questions," Debra Fieldhouse, director of outreach at the NRF, tells Marketing Daily. "The application is easy to download onto a mobile device, and it lets us provide updates on specific products throughout the day."



Consumers send a short SMS code from their mobile phones to participate in the treasure hunt. In return, the consumers receive an SMS message with a link that lets them download the application onto the mobile phone.

After downloading the software application, consumers can "scan" two-dimensional bar codes known as 2D Data Matrix tags with their phones' cameras while they shop, receiving product information supplied by participating retailers and brands. The tags are black-and-white squares arranged in a pattern.

ABI Research expects mobile marketing worldwide to grow from $1.8 billion in 2007 to more than $24 billion in 2013, as new platforms for advertising-supported technologies hit the market.

Built on the Microsoft software platform, StoreXperience bills its application as a "personal shopping assistance." While the app provides information on products, it also lets retailers deliver special offers and coupons directly through consumers' cellular phones.

Herve Pluche, president and co-founder of StoreXperience, says the application also works with a type of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, a wireless method for automatically identifying, collecting and transmitting data. Retailers such as Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Metro Group rely on the technology to track products from manufacturing facilities to store floors.

"We are talking with a number of retail companies that have already put in place RFID technology to leverage back-office and inventory management system," Pluche says. "The application can integrate with their existing back-office systems to push contextual information onto consumers' mobile devices."

Pluche believes the application could sway consumer behavior by providing more information on other available products that complement the items being purchased.

Retailers also have easy access to real-time consumer information through a portal and dashboard built into the Web application. It helps retailers design, deploy and monitor their marketing campaigns based on real-time information collected through cell phones from consumers using the application.

StoreXperience's application integrates back-office analytics and CRM functions based on Microsoft's software platform. The application relies on Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 to assist retailers and brands create sales opportunities and provide consumers with additional product details.

Microsoft also has ventured into designing an interactive application for a grocery cart-mounted console made by computerized shopping cart company MediaCart. Later in 2008, the companies plan to trial the carts in Wakefern Food Corp.'s ShopRite supermarkets on the East Coast. The carts run on rechargeable Lithium ion batteries.

When carts hit stores, shoppers will have an option to scan their loyalty cards or enter a PIN to access on-cart services. Short videos and daily promotions display based on the shoppers' buying habits as they navigate the store.

RFID in the cart triggers product promotions at the exact location the items appear in the store. It gives retailers the option to display in-store promotions at the precise time the shopper approach the product. The bar code scanner allows product price checks in the aisle and totals the dollar amount of items in the basket.

MediaCart also integrates with the retailer's point-of-sale (POS) system at checkout. Each cart has its own unique RFID tag and bar code. The technology gives retailers the option to offer basket-level POS checkout. Retailers can also download the information from the cart to determine the advertisements and specials that have been most effective for the day.

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