Retail technology perspectives & challenges

Our Retail Technology Executive Roundtable Results

Retailer Perspectives


Retail technology executives from leading retailers recently participated in a Store Systems networking event hosted by Mainstreet, AML and Janam.   Our goal for the evening was to create an open discussion where Retail Technology Executives could share perspectives and challenges among their industry peers over a broad range of topics including EMV, IoT, Innovation Centers, Omnichannel and future in-store technologies.

“I really enjoyed the open conversation with other retailers.  It was good to hear their pain points and perspectives.  It was also good to hear some challenges from the vendors and their experiences” remarked Phil Sleboda, VP – Store Solutions & TCoE for JC Penney Company

The attendees represented 5 retail chains with a combined total of 4000 retail stores, over 60,000 checkout lanes and a diversity of retail formats, geographic coverage and company size.

Retail segments spanned specialty, apparel, department, luxury retail and office supplies/services formats.

Chain-size ranged from over 1500 stores to 100.

Geographic coverage ranged from world-wide to US National to US regional.

“Mainstreet was an outstanding host and the accommodations were superb.  The subject matter was of particular interest to me being that we support the stores.  All the issues and challenges retailers have in the stores with equipment, technology and people were brought to the forefront and again, I appreciated everyone opening up and sharing their successes, issues and plans to make things better in their environments.”

Keiffer Buggs, Vice President – Customer Systems, Stage Stores Inc.

Despite the diversity in the retail organizations they represent, our participants shared many of the same perspectives and in-store retail technology challenges.

EMV has a negative ROI, little effect on transaction security, increased transaction times, user/operator confusion

Big Data is big but how to leverage the data they already have?

Effectively getting the product to the consumer

How to tie it all together across all the channels?

Who owns the customer relationship?

All agreed the IoT is 2 to 3 years from maturity


Everyone’s talking about EMV, but for most retailers it has a negative ROI.   It’s really more about shifting liability to retailers.   There’s little effect on transaction security because the US standard is now only chip & signature whereas chip & PIN would provide greater security.   Our participants agreed it’s really more about shifting liability to retailers.   They also shared the same concerns about lengthened transaction times, customer and associate confusion, and a deadline too close to Christmas.   All thought most retailers would not be willing to modify potentially tens of thousands of registers for little perceived return.

What technology will be big in 2016 and 2017?

Big data.  Retailers need to figure out how to leverage the data they already have, and the new data they’re going to have, for business advantage.

Figuring out how to tie it all together

“Give the customer the best experience they can have, each time they interact with a retailer – regardless of channel” recommended one of our participants.

Managing merchandising, marketing, customer experience, technology, and securing it all.  Retailers want a single view of the customer, and new mechanisms to share that information with store associates, as appropriate, without being creepy to the consumer.   We discussed the need to figure out a customer communication protocol, and let consumers manage their own preferences.  Strategic retailers are looking for ways to monetize all the information they have on customers.

Who owns the customer relationship?

There were different opinions – “everyone,” the store associate, the CMO.  All agreed that in this new age, the sales associate has to be better-trained and more personable, and must have access to the same information the customer does.

Innovation Labs

We asked about innovation, and dedicated innovation labs.   A few of our participants had their own in-house Innovation Labs that have proven successful for their respective organizations because the Practice Leader takes a real-world approach by reaching out to the business.   Others reported having little funds for R&D, and recommended partnering with software and hardware vendors for faster results.


Participants don’t think the IoT is yet mature for retail.   They’re more focused on more immediate concerns.  Words that participants used include “hooey,” “creepy,” and “the sale hasn’t been made.” They also doubt that the customer will be happy with it, and note that California privacy laws make some of this illegal.  Participants wonder if there will be a universal privacy preferences app.  Airlines make it easy for customers to interact with them digitally; why not retailers?

With thanks         On behalf of the teams at Mainstreet, AML and Janam our thanks to all our retailer participants for sharing their perspectives and technology challenges.   Special thanks to Cathy Hotka, Immersive Marketing Specialist for Retail, who brought everyone together and facilitated a lively discussion by all.

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