Cambridge Consultants (CCL) and new media company The Wirestation have developed an in-store online shopping system for BT Retail.
The combination of CCL?s Easychoice Java based software and The Wirestation?s touchscreen hardware results in a browser based point of sale advisory system, designed to help shoppers and staff choose the most suitable mobile phone or other equipment for their needs.
Customers move onscreen slider controls to indicate how important particular product features are to them. As each slider is moved the system automatically displays the best matched items on the screen, ranked in order of suitability.
The systems have so far been installed in BT Retail?s two flagship stores in Bromley, Kent and Harrow, Greater London, and are managed centrally from a server installed at The Wirestation?s office, which can be accessed by the stores' staff and holds and updates the product data. Authorised staff in the stores can update and amend product specifications, including price, on The Wirestation?s server over an ISDN link. The modified content is then replicated overnight so that stores with local data servers have consistent information.
Technology retailers have specific requirements as their product ranges are so complex and change frequently. The BT shops were seen as an ideal environment to pilot the system as they sell a wide range of products, such as mobile phones, which have detailed specifications and pricing.
Dr Sean Martin, group leader of software technology at Cambridge Consultants, feels there is a real need for online shopping to be more customer oriented. "I advocate a complete rethink of the way we do electronic commerce," he said, speaking at the Business Online conference in Amsterdam this week.
He believes that, as software has replaced sales staff, it needs to be as customer facing as humans. The software has to work in the same way as an experienced and well informed salesperson in understanding customer needs and offering options based on these.
Martin recommends that companies must exploit their existing sales skills. "They must build on what they already know even though it is a whole new area," he said.
Cambridge Consultants is currently working on versions of the technology for the financial services and travel industries.
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