Here's what may be next in mobile apps for furniture retailers
Clint Engel -- Furniture Today, February 25, 2013
A computer-enhanced composite photo from Prism Skylabs shows consumer “dwell time” in an Out There Outfitters store in Wayne, Pa. Red coloration indicates an area of the store where consumers are lingering the longest.
Infinite Peripheral’s Infinea Tab turns an iPad into a barcode reading and credit card swiping device, enabling retailers to take customer payments on the showroom floor rather than at a cash register. Receipts are emailed or printed via wireless printer.
HIGH POINT — Several industry outsiders with pioneering takes on mobility are looking to break into the furniture industry soon. Here are some glimpses at their innovative products.
Prism Skylabs of San Francisco is a cloud service that can take a retailer's existing store video cameras and turn them into a merchandising and customer traffic tool, accessible from any device, including smartphones and tablets, according to the company.
Through Prism, a retailer can look in on their stores from anywhere with access to the Internet - or a 3g or 4g cellular network - and monitor things like how long customers are waiting in line, whether the store opened on time and where in the showroom consumers are spending the most time.
Among the images in reports to retailers are "customer dwell time," computer-enhanced photos of spaces in a store that are marked with colors indicating the amount of time consumers are spending in a specific area (the more red, the more time spent).
The service gives bricks-and-mortar retailers the same type of analytic tools that until recently, "have only been available to online businesses," said David Klein, Prism Skylabs director of communications.
"For our customers, this is a big deal," Klein said, adding that Prism gives them "an everyday tool to optimize marketing, merchandising and operations, and build a better customer experience across all stores." It does this by enabling retailers to see quickly what types of displays are working and capturing customer attention and what items consumers are brushing by.
Klein said the serve is "disruptively priced" at $10 per month per camera.
"We are currently in talks with a handful of furniture customers, but we are not yet in a furniture store," he said. Current Prism customers include Famous Footwear and T-Mobile stores.
Arlington Heights, Ill.-based Infinite Peripherals makes devices that enable mobile point-of-sale checkouts, among other things. Its Infinea Tab adds barcode and QR code scanners and a magnetic strip reader to Apple iPads, so retail salespeople can check out customers on the sales floor instead of sending them to a register.
Sales receipts can be emailed, or printed in-store from a wireless printer.
The Infinea Tab and other products designed for iPhones and iPods are used in Apple stores and retailers such as Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Barney's New York and REI. A couple of major retailers that sell furniture are in the process of deploying the mobile products in their shoe department and eventually will move to furniture, said Infinite Peripherals CEO and co-founder Jeff Scott.
In addition, the company is talking to various furniture companies - retailers as well as suppliers - looking to equip their sales staffs with the Infinea Tab.
"We've seen the engagement model moving from, ‘Here's your product, go stand in line and wait to check out,' to a more engaging, staying with the customer from start to finish," Scott said.
He said that change is leading to reductions in transaction and wait times as well as increases in the average ticket.
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