Fast Forward

Take a peek at the high-tech future of retailing.
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Writer and Author, Specializing in Business and Finance
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This story appears in the April 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Retailers have long used traffic counters to tally the number of people who enter their stores. But now, some Pittsburgh-area fast-food joints are estimating orders before the customers even step inside, thanks to HyperActive Bob, the brainchild of HyperActive Technologies in Pittsburgh. The system cues staff as to how much food to cook based on the number and sizes of vehicles entering the parking lot.

Dave Hogan, chief information officer of the National Retail Federation in Washington, DC, says retailers should look for developments in other management technology, including:

  • Staffing programs: Vendors like 360Commerce and Workbrain Corp. offer systems that assess customer shopping patterns, traffic flow and the number of transactions per hour to tell retailers how to best staff their locations.
  • Biometrics: "Soon, all it will take is a fingerprint scan to complete your transaction," predicts Hogan. The technology is becoming more affordable, and he says it will eventually become standard procedure to prevent fraud and simplify checkout procedures.
  • Pricing programs: ProfitLogic helps retailers determine when and how much to cut prices based on shopping patterns, geography and other factors. Hogan predicts this technology will be affordable for independents within a few years.

Gwen Moranis a writer and consultant specializing in marketing.

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