This article is the first in the IN FOCUS series providing a look at hardware advancements across a wide range of Windows-based devices and form factors. The series will highlight Microsoft partners creating personalized experiences with cutting-edge designs.
REDMOND, Wash. — May 2, 2011 — When today’s tech-savvy consumers connect to brands, they bring rising expectations for personalized, immersive experiences that rely heavily on the Web, social networking, mobile computing and real-time engagement.
Consumers are always on, always connected to a wide range of sources and information through a variety of devices, and are influenced by other consumers. Buying habits have evolved, incorporating a variety of digital channels and methods of interaction that span in-home experiences online, mobile applications on the go and in-person service. Retailers are expected to keep up.
But for some retailers, innovation has been an afterthought. Adopting the latest technology advancements has historically been a piecemeal proposition to address immediate pain points related to inventory management or streamlining sales transactions.
To address these needs, HP today announced a new generation of point-of-sale (POS) and kiosk systems to help retailers manage, secure and enhance the sales process at every consumer touch point.
According to Emily Dart, retail solutions marketing manager for HP’s Personal Systems Group, HP is prioritizing helping its retail customers to standardize on one system throughout their stores. In fact, the new HP rp5800 Retail System announced today was developed to do just that. Running Windows 7 Professional, Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 and Windows XP, the rp5800 boasts advanced point-of-sale performance, manageability and security features that fit into existing IT infrastructures and provide rich experiences for both sales associates and their customers. It features a variety of connectivity options, allowing the system to interface with digital signage, as well as a wide variety of peripherals, including receipt printers, monitors, cash drawers and scanners. The rp5800 is expected to be available worldwide early this summer.
HP also announced a new line of HP Self-Service Kiosks, expected to be available beginning May 23 in the United States, Canada and Latin America, which run Windows 7 Professional operating systems and integrated Virtual Sales Assistant software. Retailers can personalize the user interface, upload custom assets, manage content remotely, and assign locations and playlists. To provide customers with an interactive, touch-based platform for product information and personal assistance, retailers can place the kiosks in any customer-facing environment to run in-store promotions, provide directions, or share news and product information. The kiosk creates more flexibility for retailers to offer products beyond their current in-store inventory.
“Stores are playing catch-up with shoppers accustomed to a variety of customer touch points and the ability to tap into other consumers’ feedback,” Dart says. “To level the playing field, savvy retailers are upgrading their in-store technology platforms to streamline the management process and provide a dynamic shopping experience for their customers.”
Choosing the Right Platform Partner
Microsoft and HP have worked closely together for 25 years to bring valuable solutions to market. The two companies collaborate across hardware, software and services to advance the way joint customers engage consumers, build loyalty and drive growth. Using the Windows platform, HP retail solutions address evolving consumer demands and shopping experiences. Windows 7, Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 and Windows Server, among other products, all enable HP to improve productivity in retail operations while helping to reduce costs and increasing productivity and efficiencies.
According to Dart, HP’s entire technology stack for retailers integrates seamlessly with Microsoft’s operating systems and software. The integration between hardware from HP and the Windows platform provides almost plug-and-play functionality that enable business intelligence for retailers to improve customer service and business processes. This is big in an industry where companies are often overwhelmed by an array of devices and applications assets, and need something that can unify their systems to create a cohesive infrastructure.
“There are many new technologies that retailers are working into their stores, and using Windows across the spectrum makes it easier to adopt and integrate them — and in turn makes it much easier to move information between devices,” says Dart.
Jeff Erbstein, director of Microsoft’s commercial segment working with HP, says the collaboration between HP and Microsoft advances not only retail solutions, but also the deep, long-standing relationship between the two companies. Working together to bring specialized devices to market with an open, flexible platform takes innovation to the next level.
“HP has a unique and compelling retail offering that both modernizes the customer experience and extends the infrastructure from the point of sale all the way to the back office,” says Erbstein. “It’s truly an end-to-end solution that brings enormous value to our joint retail customers.”
Customers Ultimately Win
Chico’s FAS values efficient technology that provides room for growth as its business grows. A specialty retailer devoted to women’s sophisticated, casual-to-dressy clothing, intimates and accessories, Chico’s operates stores throughout the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as Chico’s, White House | Black Market, and Soma Intimates.
“We want POS workstations to be all about the customer experience,” explains Jamie Jamieson, director of technology for Chico’s FAS.
To complement the existing HP Point of Sale systems in its boutiques, the retailer chose the Windows 7-based HP TouchSmart 9100 Business PC for deployment to nearly 1,100 of its boutiques throughout the United States to run a variety of new management tools and systems with a kiosk-like interface.
HP Point of Sale (POS) is a flexible platform designed to provide the performance and longevity retailers need to run their business.
Jamieson says today’s customer has access to more information than ever about the company’s products — as well as their competitors’. His job is to provide the right type and level of technology to deliver the best possible customer experience.
Looking ahead, Jamieson notes the TouchSmart PCs not only give boutique managers a better tool for running their stores, but one that will accommodate more sophisticated tools in the future.
“We’re equipped with ample data storage and the latest operating system from Microsoft. So we’re set with a robust platform for future development,” Jamieson says. “We’ve implemented several management packages for the boutiques in the past few years, and we anticipate more in the future.”
The Next Generation of Retail Technology
Building on its portfolio, HP’s line of retail solutions encompasses everything from touch-based notebooks and slate PCs that empower mobile sales associates to customer-facing digital signs and kiosks, to point-of-sale systems that capture real-time business data from sales transactions.
According to Mario Vollbracht, HP’s worldwide segment executive for retail and consumer goods industries, HP’s approach begins with a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by retailers in a world where customers, armed with smartphones and other connected devices, may browse through a store with more information at their fingertips than many sales associates have.
“Consumers are looking for more from retailers and their overall shopping experience, whether online, a mobile device, a kiosk or other channel,” Volbracht says. “We’ll make sure retailers are ready, offering the tools they need to engage with customers deeply, through the channel they most desire.”
Vollbracht says a prime example is the Windows 7-based HP Slate 500 PC for retail. Besides bringing instant information to sales associates in the field or on the floor, the HP Slate 500 is a device that IT departments know how to support and associates know how to use. Since it ties directly into back-end systems most retailers already have, it returns value to the organization almost immediately.
The TouchSmart 9300 Elite Business PC is another example. Running Windows 7 Professional, this PC, as part of HP’s Self Service Kiosk system, can integrate seamlessly for back-office business processes, as well as customer-facing experiences. The advanced “reclining” feature — integrated into a sleek ergonomic design — adjusts the all-in-one PC for greater comfort when interacting with the multitouch display.
“Having the device in your hands, that’s easy,” he says. “Getting relevant data in a secure way to the right person at the right time in the right place is the important part.”
Dart says enabling that flow of information is a core competency throughout HP retail solutions. Its Digital Signage solutions for retailers can deliver rich business analytics, enabling retailers to better understand their customers’ needs for deeper and more customized experiences. Running Windows Embedded Standard 2009, HP’s signage players enable HP Digital Signage to capture customers’ attention and improve the effectiveness and relevance of in-store communications.
“For savvy retailers, everything is integrated today. Signage isn’t just a standalone device,” she says. “It’s integrated into the POS to provide real time, relevant information. If you feature certain meals or a specialty item on the sign, for example, you can see whether there’s an uptick in sales on that item.”
Vollbracht agrees. “That kind of detailed information can be a huge advantage in an industry that’s constantly working to understand customers. With a little help from Microsoft, HP’s products enable retailers to see what’s selling, what’s not, and understand just how effective their stores can be.
“Consumers are always connected, through a variety of devices. How do you give your associates the power to reach them?” he asks. “How do you deal with business intelligence? How do you execute flawlessly at the store and keep everything secure? With the right devices and the right software, it’s easy.”
More information on HP’s retail solutions is available at http://www.hp.com/go/hpretail.
More information on Microsoft’s retail solution is available at http://www.microsoft.com/enterprise/industry/retail-hospitality/default.aspx.