The top ten retail technologies

Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have an online community ripe for targeting.

Many retailers have already promoted their brands on social networks, and you can actively encourage an audience to show some loyalty.

There is no definite answer about whether creating an audience like this has a direct impact on sales, but whether or not it does, direct communication with the audience can certainly help.

7. Biometrics

Even though biometric technology has been associated with security for a long time, it hasn't really taken hold in retail, possibly because of the wariness that the public has for anything that could record their personal information.

But the possibilities are there, with some companies keeping track of consumer access through fingerprint scanning.

However, it might have more of an impact internally. For security, the technology could be used for activities such as verifying employees at the POS or making sure that only certain employees could access restricted areas.

8. POS technology

This is where the most important part of retail occurs the transaction where money changes hands. Good point of sale (POS) technology is vital for any retailer.

This can involve software or hardware. EPOS software is vital to enable the efficient recording or a sale or goods, and is provided by many computer vendors.

The hardware is also key. In restaurants, wireless technology is already in wide use with mobile chip and PIN terminals enabling waiters to move around and let customers pay at the table.

9. Virtual shopping

The hype has died down over retail in virtual environments like Second Life, but the potential is still there to make online shopping more interesting, especially with computers getting more powerful by the day.

We recently covered how Lenovo used a 3D gaming engine to combine virtual world principles and retailing to create an interactive shopping experience.

Shoppers were allowed to create their own avatars, walk around a 3D virtual store, browse products and interact with sales staff around the world.

It's exciting and unconventional, but it remains to be seen if it ever takes hold like it does other in areas, such as online gaming.

10. Self-checkout technology

This POS tech is becoming more common as an alternative to the traditional cashier-staff checkout, especially in places that sell groceries such as Tesco.

Customers scan their own barcodes at an un-manned checkout. To prevent theft, the weight seen in the bagging area is compared to what is stored in the system about the products.

This reduces checkout time because stores can now effectively put in place several checkout units in the space where there would usually have one cashier.

It's also great for the retailer. Instead of needing several staff to operate the checkouts, they can instead spend money on other areas where the shop might need help.

Click here to return to the main Focus On... Retail page, or reading on to find out about Tesco's security, New Look's SOA and the basics of CRM.