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Oct 06, 2009
How To

Retail Technology Standards Explained: 3 Examples

SUMMARY: Anyone whoís replaced technology knows the headache -- some systems do not work well with others.

Read about a set of standards that are making it easier for retailers to switch in and out different types of technology, and to get more from their marketing data. Includes descriptions of three standards from a leading retail organization.
There are lots of options when designing or buying technology for a retail store. Everything from the cash register to the customer database should be carefully considered.

An important decision is whether to select solutions with a proprietary or standards-based format. Proprietary formats will limit your expansion choices to a specific vendor. A standardized version will give you much more options -- but can require a longer buying process.

Richard Mader, Executive Director, Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS), has been working for more than 20 years to develop retail tech standards. His organization forms committees to build comprehensive standards and test and update them. Some of the standards are result of input from hundreds of volunteer experts.

Those standards are used to create technology for the retail industry. By following ARTSí guidelines, technology vendors, retail marketers and application developers can be sure that theyíre building solutions that will be compatible with a range other solutions.

Below, we describe three types of ARTS standards and the benefits they provide. Take a look if youíre planning a major technology purchase to see if a standard-based system is for you.

Standard #1. Data model

ARTSí data model is not a piece of software. Instead, it is a design guideline for software that retailers use to store and manage data

"Itís a design of all the data needed to support almost any application you would need to support your business in retail," Mader says.

For example, the standard lists all the information you should collect about customers, such as:
o Demographics
o Purchase history
o Household information

It also recommends the information you should retain about an item, such as:
o Bar code
o Country of origin
o Color
o Size

-> Benefits:

- Capturing information using the ARTS standard guidelines ensures youíll have all the information necessary and in the proper format to build or buy applications.

- You can weigh the purchase of new applications by assessing whether they make the most of that data.

- Lastly, the data points have standard definitions, which make it easy to communicate with business partners.

Standard #2. XML schemas

ARTSí standard XML schemas are used to link together different retailing systems.

For example, when a customer purchases a couch at a retail store and gives the cashier a mailing address, the address should automatically be sent to the storeís delivery system. The customerís data also should be sent to the marketing teamís database.

Retailers regularly add, remove and change technology in these systems. Almost no application stands alone, Mader says. ARTS provides XML standards to facilitate a smooth connection between them all.

-> Benefits:

The XML schema simplifies upgrading and changing technology, and cuts down on integration time and cost. When systems are connected correctly, "You only have to capture the data once as opposed to capturing it in multiple places," Mader says.

Standard #3. Unified point-of-sale

The modern cash register is the point-of-sale system: a network of machines that accept customer, product and sale information and share it with the rest of a retailerís technology network.

The information has to be translated to and from many devices, including:
o Magnetic strip reader
o Barcode scanner
o Printer
o Money changer
o Keyboard

And more devices are on the way. Mader expects mobile technology to soon enable customers to make in-store purchases with their phones, which will require stores to tack another piece of equipment onto their check-out machines.

ARTSí UnifiedPOS standard is a framework for programming point-of-sale systems to enable them to communicate with a wide, and growing, range of devices.

-> Benefits:

The standard gives retailers more flexibility with the technology they use in their POS systems. If they donít like one technology, they should be able to easily switch it for another that is compatible with the standard.

If a new type of technology or form of payment emerges, solutions in the standard format should be easy to incorporate.

Useful links related to this article:

Association for Retail Technology Standards
http://www.nrf-arts.org/



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