Wal-market and Target talk to TCS

By SiliconIndia   |   Monday, 18 December 2006, 06:00 Hrs
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Mumbai: Retail majors Wal-Mart and Target are eying the Personal Shopping Assistant (PSA) being developed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

PSA is a software product of the TCS labs, currently in the prototype stage ready to see mass rollout in a year's time. K. Ananth Krishnan, CTO, TCS, said, "We have worked with major retailers, including 30 of the 50 largest in the world, and retail contributes more than $200 million in revenues for the company."

For a layman, PSA is a scanning device with a LCD screen mounted on a regular shopping trolley. IBM has developed the device while TCS has created the embedded software to make it operational.

Once a customer scans the retail chain's loyalty card, the screen guides him towards all the offers and discounts available in the store that day. The scanner also recognizes bar codes and RFID tags on products in the stores. On completion of the shopping the screen asks for the mode of payment - cash, credit card or loyalty points.

For Wal-Mart and Target, this smart device would mean a reduction in check-out time, and cut in the investment for additional checkout counters. The only involvement store employees have in the entire process is to tally the number of items registered in the swipe to carry out.

The PSA will be completely integrated with the back-end software of the store and inventory management will take place in real-time. The PSA will also collect data on every customer, not only in terms of what they buy but also where they go in the store. Retailers can then customize specific offers for every customer using this data for micro-segmentation. TCS has also developed solutions for those that don't want to use or do not have loyalty cards.

But along with the immense opportunities it poses there are challenges to execute and roll PSA on a mass scale. What will finally drive this retail revolution is if the price of RFID tags comes down to below the current level of 5-7 cents.

Sivakumar Balasubramaniam, from the retail practice of TCS, says: "RFID is still not a viable technology for many big retailers internationally and they adapted it too early in the learning curve."

This will be helpful, as cases of theft in US have been discovered. A few stores found out that some ingenious shoppers ripped off bar codes on cheaper items that they bought, and put it later on the more expensive items.

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