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Staples' Canadian operation has been quietly testing 2-way live video kiosks at 34 locations, but these kiosks do more than talk with customers: They remotely control hardware, including scanners and payment authorization devices. The trial, which one Staples Business Depot manager described as "one of the largest pilots that we've ever done," involves one video kiosk—with a high-resolution Web camera, microphone, scanner and a touch-screen—at each store that is networked to 10 kiosks at a Toronto office with customer service reps.
Guest View Columnist David Taylor points out that PCI compliance has consistently generated larger security budgets, with little or no requirement for justifying them, other than "our bank told us we have to do it." But with some acquirers being no better off financially than many retailers, it's time to ask some hard questions: Is the risk of a security breach great enough to risk the financial health of our company?
Despite an almost universal embrace of the idea of merged channel, most retailers aren't getting any closer to making it a reality, with overly restrictive inventory reserve policies, inconsistent data and political resistance getting most of the blame, according to a new Forrester Research report. "How many smart people are out there who are simply not reserving inventory" for all channels, asked Forrester Principal Analyst George Lawrie. "You never know where demand is going to crystallize." He cited morale—not to mention inventory—problems caused by "reserving inventory for stores that could have been sold by the catalog or online channel."
Bill Homa, who just stepped down July 1 as the CIO for the 165-store Hannaford grocery chain, considers Microsoft's OS to be "so full of holes" and describes the fact that current PCI regs do not require end-to-end encryption as "astonishing." But Homa's key point is that most retailers handle security backwards: Don't pour everything into protecting the front door. Assume they'll get through and have a plan to control them once they're inside.
Two recent developments—one involving a New York federal judge and the other involving a group of U.S. senators—are signaling serious difficulties for E-Commerce efforts over the next two years. The assumption of some anonymity on E-Commerce sites can be critical. Let's look at a scenario for Amazon.com. One of its most critical value-adds is customer comments—both good and bad—about its products. What if a consumer—employed in the consumer appliance world—purchased a toaster that was absolutely horrible?
Retail deployment of the 2-D barcode, a technology that allows consumer cellphones to see virtually unlimited amounts of content by taking a picture of a special barcode, has slowed after an initial flurry of activity in January. But several major cellphone carriers are preparing to bundle the 2-D barcode software with phones as they ship. Will that make a difference?
The number of reported data breaches has been soaring, with the figure from the first six months of 2008 some 69 percent higher than the number from the identical period last year. Among those were little-known recent breaches of Facebook, H&R Block and BearingPoint. The report from the non-profit San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center lists 342 data breaches since Jan. 1, 2008. Of those 342 breaches, about 12 percent were cyber thieves, 16 percent were insider theft, 15.2 percent were accidental exposure and 13.5 percent were subcontractor issues. Also, about 20 percent of the data breaches involved data "on the move," referring to laptops, thumb drives or PDAs.
Fujitsu is hoping retailers in the United States will embrace a checkout system used by some European stores, but untested in the U.S., that splits scanning and payment processes into two different stations in the store. If American retailers decide to switch to this system, it will call for a significant overhaul of their current checkout systems. The Hypermarket U-Scan Genesis Payment Station works by allowing products to be scanned at one station--by a cashier--and then paid for at another--via self-checkout. After the cashier scans the items, the customer pays for them at the U-Scan Genesis Payment Station, freeing up the cashier to move on to the next customer.
Guest View Columnist David Taylor argues that outsourcing is considered the thing to do these days, like a summer barbecue. But it's both easier and more complex than most merchants think. The first move has to be to take a serious look at your data. Think of it like a residential move. How much of that accumulated stuff do you really need anymore? How much are you honestly going to be leveraging and using? The less you keep, the less you have to protect and manage. And the less you keep, the easier it will be to outsource.