For many long talked-about technologies inclusive of loyalty programs,  data security and even price signs, the interplay of several ongoing trends are catapulting these concepts to implementation. Clearly evident at the NACStech 2010 conference, where about 1,200 retailers and suppliers met to discuss trends, was a sense that many are going from talking to doing.

“There are more decision-makers here and not just people who use or manage technology,” said Jeff Lenard, spokesperson for NACS. “It’s all about moving forward.”

With a fuel-price management system on the market, Aaron McHugh,  division director, Skyline Products, Colorado Springs, Colo., said high-speed wide-area networks, updated point-of-sale (POS) systems and electronic price signs were necessary for his system to provide benefits. Where in the past, these systems were absent; today they’ve become commonplace.

Certainly technologies affiliated with payment card industry or PCI compliance have been a focal point. The July 1 deadline for POS and personal identification number (PIN) pad upgrades is fast approaching,  with many suppliers reporting a rise in the number of new orders and a predicted backlog in delivery and installation.

Several workshops at NACStech focused on PCI compliance and life after the deadlines pass. One session, focusing on executing a data-security plan actually advised retailers not attempt programs that aim for 95%  compliance. “These plans make you start to thing there’s a silver bullet,” said Robert McMillon, director of solutions development for RSA, Duluth, Ga. “And there is no silver bullet.”

McMillon and Craig Tieken, vice president of merchant product management for First Data, Atlanta, told the roughly 100 attendees in the session that a “layered approach” with each layer going for an 80% rating may be more feasible. Each layer—whether it be employee communication or separating data-delivery lines—work to back each other up, allowing for the imperfections of one to be covered by the strengths of others.

Another topic of great interest was loyalty. Keith Coburn, vice president of Dunnhumby USA, Cincinnati, the company that handles loyalty for the likes of grocery giant Kroger, also based in Cincinnati,  suggested that relevant offers were an important success factor for loyalty programs, as was mining data to personalize offers and focusing on the most loyal customers as a way to grow profit versus. wasting money on acquiring new customers.

“Losing one loyal customer is equivalent to attracting 30 to 50 new customers,” he said. “Consider the loss in sales from that one customer who always came into the store for that one item you decided to discontinue.”

Coburn also commented on the use of fuel as an incentive, calling it “huge” when a retailer can create a strong, emotional reaction. “When you can take a cent a gallon, which adds up to 13 cents in value, and get that amount of reaction, that’s [significant],” he said.

[To continue the discussion of technology as the year goes on, log onto and join the C-TechGroup. You can also follow veteran technology reporter Angel Abcede on Twitter with his screen name, CSPAngelABC.]

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