Food Retailers Eye Wireless

Inventory control seen benefiting most from mobile technologies, survey shows

Portland, OR — May 29, 2003 — Food retailers are likely to expand their use of mobile and wireless technology as they seek to improve their inventory control and customer service, according to a recent survey.

PSC, a provider of integrated data-collection solutions and services for the retail supply chain, conducted the survey among the 4,000 attendees during the three days of the Marketechnics tradeshow in February. Survey participants included senior executives, merchandisers, in-store information technology managers, operations personnel and logisticians of leading food retailers from across the country, the majority (48 percent) of whom were from the grocery sector.

More than one-third (38 percent) of the survey participants ranked "inventory control" as the application area where mobile and wireless technology can make the most significant impact on their business over the next two years, while 16 percent cited "customer service" and 14 percent named wireless point-of-sale (POS).

Asked to rank the benefits of mobile and wireless technology, over one-third (37 percent) of respondents identified "real-time data/information" as most essential, while "increased productivity" (22 percent) and "improved customer service" (21 percent) were ranked second and third respectively.

The survey also revealed key features of mobile and wireless systems food retailers plan to deploy over the next two years. "WinCE/Pocket PC" was ranked first for operating systems, but survey respondents also indicated that demand will continue to be strong for mobile systems with alternative proprietary and open standards operating systems.

For communications, 67 percent of food retailers plan to utilize wireless local area network (WLAN) capabilities, while over 25 percent revealed they will utilize wireless wide area network (WWAN), Personal Area Network (PAN, or Bluetooth) or voice-over-IP (VOIP). Additionally, nearly half of respondents (49 percent) plan to deploy systems with radio frequency identification (RFID) to handle data collection applications, but also pinpointed Mag Stripe, Smart Card or Debit PIN PAD as anticipated capabilities.

"Clearly, mobile and wireless technology will continue to be a key enabler for improving operational efficiency in the food retail sector," said Brad West, vice president of mobile and wireless for PSC Inc. "While traditional applications such as inventory control, shipping and receiving and price management will still drive operational improvements, it is also evident that food retailers are strongly interested in taking advantage of the latest technology to deploy new applications, such as mobile POS, that will elevate customer service to another level."

Added West, "It is also particularly noteworthy that in the area of emerging applications and technology, nearly half of the respondents plan to deploy mobile systems that integrate RFID capability over the next two years."