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5/30/2007
04:16 PM
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HP Unveils In-Store Customer Kiosk

The experimental Retail Store Assistant is billed as a more effective marketing tool than mailings and other types of traditional promotions.

Hewlett-Packard has unveiled a prototype of an in-store kiosk that taps into a retailers' customer and product information systems to offer people a personalized shopping experience that could boost sales.

HP Labs showed off the experimental Retail Store Assistant this week as a more effective marketing tool than mailings and other types of traditional promotions.

"About 99% of all junk mail is thrown out because it doesn't offer anything people want," Mohamed Dekhil, manager of retail applications at HP Labs, said in a statement. "With the Retail Store Assistant, you get information and offers only about the things that you actually want and you get it when you enter the store, instead of having to remember to bring lists and coupons with you."

By swiping a loyalty card, or typing in a telephone number, grocery shoppers, for example, could get a personalized list of products they bought in the past that are currently on sale They could also get coupons, and even a map to where items can be found in the store. The system would draw the information from a retailer's IT systems for managing inventory, sales, and customer data.

People are more likely to buy when they're already in the store, so it makes sense to maximize marketing through an in-store system, Dekhil said. Other information the kiosk could provide includes third-party review of products, and price and availability of products. The system's printing technology could be used to produce bar codes on coupons that a clerk can scan to automatically deduct the correct amount. The latter feature would also eliminate coupon fraud.

The Retail Store Assistant, which was unveiled at HP Labs in Palo Alto, Calif., can provide information in text, audio, or video. The system is also capable of providing a customized, full-color printouts. The prototype is not currently being tested in any commercial location.

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