NRF: Two different takes on screens at the moment of truth

January 12, 2009 by Dave Haynes

Modiv Media had a nice, steady little crowd around its teeny chunk of real estate at the NRF show, with people peppering them with questions about a cool little application they have for putting advertising right in people’s hands as they shop.

The young Boston-based company was co-located at the Motorola booth, since they use little wireless Motorola handheld scanners to work their bit of magic.

The idea is pretty simple. Equip shoppers with a dewice that lets them scan the products they are buying at the grocery WHILE they are shopping, with the scanner’s hi-rez color LCD screen flashing instant coupon offers for nerby products or things they tend to buy based on user patterns. Shoppers bag as they go, in the cart.

When they check out, there’s no repeat scanning at self-serve because the thing is already mapped to the POS system. They just sync up the scanner and pay.

The stores like it because shoppers with a lot of goods fly through checkout now, the overall “basket profile” is up (in other words, people buy more), and loyalty is up.

Modiv’s Matt Volpi, an actual 16:9 reader (I just knew there was one!), showed me a demo and walked me through the model. While they are happily working with Motorola, the platform is not the scanners (see photo from Cnet) but the enabling technology behind it. Modiv makes its money through media targeting at about as close to the moment of purchase decision as is possible.

The company is rolling out with Stop & Shop and Giant grocers, and according to Volpi, moving very quickly despite the initial capital investment of something approaching $100,000 per store. Each one gets a couple of bays of 24 scanners, that are tied to loyalty cards. It’s not digital signage, I suppose, at least not in the traditional sense. But the goal is very much the same.

Another digital signage cousin was a couple of football fields over showing off its personal shopper screens.

Toronto-based Springboard Retail Networks is one of those companies that has been developing a digital shopping cart application. While I have been less than enthused about these things because of cost and durability, I’m a little more bullish having seen one and prodded the guys with questions.

First, the screen thingdoodle is a retrofit to existing carts. The screen components are rugged polycarbonate and are sealed to deal with the weather (Toronto is a fine testing ground). The batteries last 10-12 hours, they say, on a charge.

And to ensure the first rollout goes well, with much admired US southeast food retailer Bloom, they will have technical guys on site making sure the units are charged each night and rrunning reliaby.

The 8.4 inch screens run on a non x86 processor but can still play Flash Lite files and connect using WiFi.

The attraction to retailers is they can drive promotions and cross-sell, as well as follow buying patterns and overall shopping traffic patterns in stores.

For shoppers, they get recipes, scanning at the basket (like Modiv) for fast check-out, and ties into loyalty programs. What I thought was pretty interesting was being able to go online and build a shopping list of the retailers website, and then when at the store use the loyalty card to suck that list down to the cart screen.

Springboard would not discuss costs, which would be gi-normous right now. But as with anything tech-related, it will come down. The company manages all the back-end. 

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