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    TECHNOLOGY: Welcome to our virtual world

    PG steps further into the future with the launch of its virtual trade show on retail technology.

    Progressive Grocer unveiled its new online trade show concept April 17, with a daylong series of live Webcasts focusing on technology's role in enhancing the customer experience at retail.

    Sponsored by IBM, the virtual symposium and expo, "Transforming the Store Through Innovation," was produced by PG parent company Nielsen's Digital Events division. It featured live online seminars by industry experts such as Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru and NBC's Today show food editor; Robert Garf, v.p., retail strategies at AMR Research; and a number of IBM business partners.

    Complementing the conference sessions were virtual exhibits featuring more than 30 vendors representing all areas of retail technology, including front end systems, self-service technology, productivity solutions, and automating the in-store experience. Each booth featured amenities such as Webcasts, product demonstration videos, and downloadable literature.

    The virtual symposium's four Webcasts, moderated by Nielsen Digital Events editorial director Elliot Markowitz, covered:

    --"Attention Shoppers: We Feel Your Pain": Phil Lempert's presentation previewed how food shoppers' in-store needs are changing, and provided real-life examples of retailers who are employing innovative retail strategies to improve the shopping and checkout experience. It included video interviews with consumers across different demographic groups, including Hispanic shoppers, baby boomers, and teens, and explored the current and future needs of each group, as well as uncovering how retailers can respond to their likes and dislikes.

    --"The New Customer-Centric Store: Are You Ready?": AMR's Rob Garf and IBM retail solutions executive Ralph Jacobson revealed how innovative retailers are focusing on the consumer experience, boosting customer loyalty, and driving incremental revenue gains with new tactics, new programs, and customized services to promote their products in a total lifestyle package.

    --"The Self-Service Revolution: It's Not Just For Checkout Any More": Norma Wolcott, IBM kiosk and self-service business executive, and Nikki Baird, executive director of research at Retail Systems Alert Group, discussed how to go about evaluating and deploying new self-service solutions.

    --"Help Stop Shrink: Loss Prevention Strategies That Really Work": Evolution Robotics' c.e.o., Alec Hudnut, discussed how innovative retailers have leveraged their existing loss prevention assets and implemented open standards-based solutions to drive dramatic differences in loss prevention.

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