Make us your home page
Instagram

Retail gadgets aim to get inside your wallet — and your brain

NEW YORK — The future of retail has a lot of head-spinning syllables: analytics, omnichannels, integrated shopping experiences. And yet the underlying theme of the National Retail Federation's 104th annual "Big Show" is a simple, altogether human one:

You, the Consumer, are a fascinating, mysterious creature, a riddle yet to be fully solved.

Oh, and you are definitely being watched.

The four-day trade show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center — some 600 vendors, 33,000 attendees and endless miles of blinking high-tech whirligigs on two gargantuan expo floors — is a lively, rah-rah retail party of companies selling to companies, with everyone intent at better getting into your head, your heart and, especially, your wallet.

After a shaky 2014, this year is expected to be robust for retail, the largest private-sector employer in the United States. Lower gas prices alone will be "an unbelievable boost to the consumer," says Ellen Zentner, Morgan Stanley's executive director and senior U.S. economist, adding that cheaper fuel for our collective Buicks could lead to an extra $50 billion in U.S. consumer spending this year.

Those bonus trips to the Gap or Home Depot have the folks at the Big Show, which runs until Wednesday, thinking big profits. Not that it's all that easy, of course.

Online purchases (which are up), the increasing dominance of the mobile phone and social media, and murmured concerns for the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar store (sales are down) have led to a tactical shift: Bring the Internet into the physical stores themselves and aim for a full "experience," the biggest buzz word at this year's convention.

"The elephant in the room is that we're all still trying to figure (social media) out," says Michael Osofsky, co-founder of NetBase, which analyzes your Twitter habits and related web trends. "Good luck. It's hard to stay on top of it."

As a result, much of the new shopping technology that could be in stores soon is invasive yet fun, efficient but altogether Orwellian. Toshiba is displaying a concept called Touchless Commerce, a self-checkout mechanism with facial recognition and, well, Funyuns recognition: One camera scans your face (and links up with your payment information); one scans your groceries. Total checkout time? One and a half seconds. At the same time, Touchless is processing and analyzing your spending habits and Funyuns addiction.

"We're reducing transaction times and moving retail forward," says Jeff Smith, a Toshiba "experience architect master inventor," adding, "It's a simultaneous experience that happens in parallel." (There's a lot of that sort of talk at the Big Show.)

Panasonic's R1 Toughpad is an all-in-one tablet that can ring up a sale and, through facial recognition, allow a clerk to greet you by name and ask you how you're enjoying those Dockers you purchased last week (very similar to a scene in the futuristic 2002 film Minority Report).

"They will know what you bought, when you bought it and what size you bought it in," says Jo Satili, Panasonic's national sales manager.

Because buying diapers was apparently not exciting enough, the mundane sales rack is getting an upgrade, as seen in such new gadgets as Panasonic's Powershelf and an interactive gizmo called Shelfbucks, the brainchild of a Texas company (tagline: "Shelfbucks brings the power of the Internet to the store shelf"). Soon enough, picking up Pampers will be like a video game: digital price tags, mobile-phone interactivity and more.

Contact Sean Daly at daly@tampabay.com. Follow @seandalypoplife.

Retail gadgets aim to get inside your wallet — and your brain 01/12/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 5:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. As Clearwater Marine Aquarium expands, it asks the city for help

    Growth

    CLEARWATER — When Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates saw an architect's initial design for the facility's massive expansion project, he told them to start all over.

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium Veterinarian Shelly Marquardt (left), Brian Eversole, Senior Sea Turtle and Aquatic Biologist (middle) and Devon Francke, Supervisor of Sea Turtle Rehab, are about to give a rescued juvenile green sea turtle, suffering from a lot of the Fibropapillomatosis tumors, fluids at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Wednesday afternoon. Eventually when the turtle is healthy enough the tumors will be removed with a laser and after it is rehabilitated it will be released back into the wild.  -  The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is launching a $66 million renovation to expand its facilities to take in injured animals and space to host visitors. The aquarium is asking the city for a $5 million grant Thursday to help in the project. American attitudes toward captive animals are changing. Sea World is slipping after scrutiny on the ethics of captive marine life. But CEO David Yates says CMA is different, continuing its mission of rehab and release, it's goal is to promote education, not exploitation. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times

  2. One of the best places for investing in a rental house is in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Two Tampa Bay ZIP Codes are drawing national attention.

    . If you're looking to invest in a house to rent out, few places are better than  ZIP Code 34607 in Hernando County's Spring Hill area, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
[LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Times
 file photo]

  3. Tampa Chamber of Commerce announces small business winners

    Business

    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce selected the winners of the 2017 Small Business of the Year Awards at a ceremony Wednesday night at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. More than 600 attendees celebrated the accomplishments of Tampa Bay's small business community.

    Vincent Cassidy, president and CEO of Majesty Title Services, was named Outstanding Small Business Leader of the Year by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

  4. International array of artists chosen as finalists for pier project

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — A diverse group of six artists will compete for a chance to install their work at the city's multimillion-dollar Pier District, expected to open in early 2019.

  5. Gourmet food fight between top chefs raises $200,000

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — The chefs came armed with their secret ingredients — pork rinds, truffle butter, pork bellies.

    (From left to right) Chefs Ryan Mitchell, Michael Buttacavoli, Ted Dorsey and Matthew Brennan compete during Tampa Bay Food Fight at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. The event features chefs from the Tampa Bay area and benefitted Metropolitan Ministries. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times