HP unveils personal shopping assistant

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HP unveils personal shopping assistant

Instore kiosks to offer personalised retail specials.

HP Labs has unveiled a Retail Store Assistant kiosk that provides customers with a personalised shopping experience while allowing retailers to better target marketing campaigns.

The kiosk is placed inside retail stores, and customers log in with their loyalty card to access personalised offers, a shopping list and information such as instruction videos or recipes.

The system also prints out shopping lists and personalised discounts and indicates their location inside the store.

Retail Store Assistant allows retailers to push excess inventory by offering personalised rebate deals, and to prevent an item running out by discontinuing a promotion or even by discounting alternative products.

The system offers retail marketers granular control over the number of items that they can sell, and allows them to provide discounts to their most loyal and profitable customers.

A supermarket, for instance, could offer a discount on a steak to a customer who tends to buy expensive wine, rather than a low income family that uses the lower prices to stock up.

The kiosk is a research project for now, but HP is talking to retailers about live testing. The first kiosks could show up in retail stores in about two years.

Retail marketing currently relies on printed brochures and mass media marketing campaigns.

Mohamed Dekhil, manager of retail applications at HP Labs, described the Retail Shopping Assistant's granularity as a bricks-and-mortar version of Google's AdSense online advertising programme.

The in-store kiosks also offer HP a way to differentiate its products in an age in which PC and server makers compete solely on price, according to Dekhil.

"If you go to a retailer and tell them that you have the biggest and fastest server in the world it is not really exciting for them," he said at a meeting with reporters at HP Labs in Palo Alto, California.

"The question is what can it do for the retailer? How is it going to enhance the loyalty of its customers?"

HP also envisions itself as a trusted third party between store operators and the makers of brand name products. As a retailer's brands often compete with brand name products, the two are often reluctant to share sales information.

The kiosks are just part of what HP sees as a future shopping experience spanning websites and mobile devices.

A store could also opt for a model equipped with a camera, allowing shoppers to scan an article and talk to a specialised salesperson who can answer questions and offer tips on how to use the item.

This is important because the average staff turnover rate for retail stores can reach six months for entry level employees and 18 months for managers. This makes specialised knowledge about products a rare and expensive commodity.

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