Can Wal-Mart, P&G and Kellogg's Agree and Still Be Wrong?

The marquee names of the participants in lockstep agreement couldn't have been more impressive: Wal-Mart, P&G, Kellogg's, Coca Cola, Miller Brewing, Disney, Walgreens and more. They were all coming together to support a method for tracking aisle traffic for the purpose of properly pricing promotion fees.

But according to a panel of retail technology experts this week, they couldn't be more wrong. The dramatic infrared sensor announcement will offer no true advantages over the old-fashioned mechanical counters and is a puzzling move, said Paula Rosenblum of the Retail Systems Alert Group.

Rosenblum was joined for this week's StorefrontBacktalk's Week In Review show by Avivah Litan from Gartner, Sucharita Mulpuru from Forrrester Research, Ken Morris of the Lakewest Group and Greg Buzek from the IHL Consulting Group. StorefrontBacktalk Editor Evan Schuman moderated.

The panel doubted that the resultant data would be able to help much with CRM analysis and that it would likely serve little purpose other than to boost fees based on eyeballs, rather than the more meaningful purchase figures.

"By introducing this new variable, you're opening up yourself to buying media on a CPM and an impression basis, which ultimately isn't about conversion," Forrester's Mulpuru said. "I frankly don't understand why any manufacturer would find any benefit in this." To listen to the full discussion on the in-store consortium, please click here.

Was BestBuy's Pay-For-Loyalty Program Worth It?

About two years ago, BestBuy tried an unusual twist to its loyalty program by charging $10 for the card. The rationale was that customers wouldn?t shell out that cash unless they intended on buying an awful lot for BestBuy. It worked to the tune of some 7 million takers, many of whom spent 130 percent more than typical BestBuy customers.

Many heralded the move?which identified their top customers, potentially encouraging them to purchase more and delivered a nice $70 million to the spreadsheet?as brilliant and the way a good loyalty campaign should be waged.

But this week, BestBuy reversed course and said it would now give the card away for free, opting instead to push the CRM experiment to a much wider slice of its customers. Should it have done that from the beginning? The panel didn't think so.

The consensus of the BestBuy discussion is that BestBuy collected once-in-a-lifetime data about their best customers and that the pay-for-loyalty-card program did a lot of good. But it now made sense to transition to a typical free program to expand the program's reach. Why now? Mostly, the timing was believed to be in-advance of this year's holiday shopping, which might be particularly important given recent moves with Microsoft Vista, flat-panel televisions and other consumer entertainment offerings. To listen to the full discussion on BestBuy's loyalty move, please click here.

Are Web Attacks Moving Downstream To Smaller Sites?

As major E-Commerce players have tightened security, cyber thieves have gone for the easier targets of smaller sites. A program to harvest credit cards can be more easily placed on those sites and can quickly deliver the same kind of credit card data volume that a large site would offer, but much easier.

The panel agreed that auditors who assure smaller sites they are safe and the software companies that support their transactions are mostly to blame. An even more frightening conclusion from the group was that small retailers cannot escape risk merely by declining to do E-Commerce. If credit card systems are running through the Internet?and, these days, almost all are?credit card info can be grabbed that way, victimizing merchants who have never even opened a virtual storefront.

To listen to the full discussion on online attacks moving downstream, please click here.