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Australian Partnership – Formzoo helped Datascan Produce DART

data scanner

Three companies, three continents, three time zones, three months, countless coffees and one product designed to perfectly fit in your hand.

Today we’re looking back at one of our favourite projects of 2013 – for US-based inventory consulting company Datascan. Late last year we worked with Datascan to create a next generation handheld scanner tailored for the retail industry. The little guy is now known as ‘Dart’, which is appropriate because we think it’s one of our sleekest product designs yet.
data scanner

The challenge

Datascan provides hardware and software inventory solutions to leading retailers in 35 countries. An industry leader and innovator, they wanted to create a powerful new handheld scanner that would stand up to the demands of fast-paced, high-volume inventory counts. It had to offer the most user-friendly experience: touch-screen technology, a fast operating system, a sleek and modern aesthetic and be backed by a clever design that maximised comfort and productivity.

With their innovation in mind, a Chinese OEM lined up for production, and a tight timeframe of three months to design a product ready for manufacture, they approached us for help to realise their idea. Which is what we do best.

Our solution

We started our process by thinking about where the product would end up – in the hands of thousands of busy retail and warehouse workers across the world. The challenge was to fit the electronics of the scanner into a sleek, ergonomical design. So, we created foam models to test how it felt in the average user’s hands. Could thumbs easily touch the keypad and the touchscreen? How comfortable was the main scanning button? What about how the trigger finger fit? What angle and direction was best for the laser scanner?
new product development model
We took care to create for longevity, for example, designing a scanner button that could take the pressure of being used at high-volumes without failing or putting stress on the electronics.

Once we had an idea of what design would fit the electronics, while also being ergonomically safe and comfortable, we added style and shape with sketches on paper before progressing to CAD on-screen models.
product design handheld scanner
We didn’t let being on opposite sides of the earth stop us from having constant contact with our client. With a coffee in hand we’d Skype conference with the US team in our morning as they were heading out for the afternoon. In our afternoon we’d send them the latest design and while we were snug in our beds during their working day they’d print 3D models and give us feedback to implement immediately. This cycle of communication kept the design iteration process moving smoothly.

As a result of this collaborative approach we delivered an approved design within two weeks – hitting every deadline. When Dart was ready for manufacture we worked closely with the Chinese company, adding some of our expertise to the process and facilitating communication between the manufacturers and Datascan.
industrial design handheld computer

The outcome

A collaborative approach, seamless communication, sleek modern design, a product we’re proud of and a happy client. Datascan told us: “Your team’s creativity, flexibility, responsiveness and overall engagement with us has been fantastic and we want to thank you for that.” We love that feedback!

If you’d like to know more about the Formzoo product design process, or if you have a burning idea you want to see become reality contact us at Let’s talk about it

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Take Control of Your PI Counts

2014-09-17_14-42-552014-09-17_14-43-15Take Control of Your PI Counts


Introducing DART: Power at Hand!

Dart 1

Dart 2



LL Bean, Nordstrom Flex Pop-Up Strategy

Two of Datascan’s clients are making waves with their innovative take on traditional pop-ups!

Just in time for the holidays, both Nordstrom and LL Bean are adding pop-up shops in a bid to build sales and broaden their appeal. And retail experts say they expect to see even more pop-ups as retailers try to win back online shoppers.
“While pop-up stores have been around for a long time, they will begin to play an even more critical role in the future,” retail consultant Doug Fleener tells Marketing Daily. “As more sales are done online, physical pop-ups offer new ways to connect with consumers and build buzz.”
Nordstrom is reportedly initiating a program called Pop-In @ Nordstrom, which Women’s Wear Daily describes as “an ongoing series of themed pop-up shops in eight Nordstrom stores and on” Ranging in size from 450 to 1,000 square feet, WWD says the first Pop-In will celebrate all things French, stocking a section of vintage Chanel and other designers, as well as items from Merci in Paris, a store that donates 100% percent of its sales to Madagascar. (A spokesperson for Nordstrom declined to comment.)
And L.L. Bean opened a Boston pop-up shop just briefly, driving its Bootmobile down from Freeport, Maine headquarters. Its shop, at a two-day event designed to showcase American craftsmanship, showed off its stitching prowess, and offered shoppers the chance to buy some 60 varieties of its namesake boot.
A spokesperson for L.L. Bean says the next pop-up is planned for NYC Flea in December, and that the retailer will also have a pop-up holiday kiosk in the Natick, Mass., mall, selling Bean Boot colors that will only be available in the pop-up.
Fleener, president of Dynamic Experiences Group, these efforts are more than a marketing tactic. “It can be a retail strategy, as well.” With holiday sales accounting for some 30% of most retailers’ revenue, seasonal pop-ups can add significantly to sales. “If you look at how much e-commerce has taken out of the market, it’s huge. People used to go to stores to seek out something different, and now they do that online. So pop-ups a chance to bring new ideas to customers.” He says that he also expects to see more co-branding pop-ups, such as Nordstrom’s partnership with Nike’s Converse All Stars earlier this year.
Fleener says that as consumers have become increasingly comfortable with limited-edition offerings, including the popularity of flash-sale websites, the bar is much higher.
The bar is much higher, though—consumers expect pop-ups to offer something truly special. “If the pop-up experience is unique, people will seek it out.”

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Increase the Power of Your Pop-Up Locations and Stay in Control of Your Inventory!

Pop-up retail stores present new and exciting revenue streams.   But they also come with challenges directly related to the nature of the Pop-up concept.  The name itself implies hast and the importance of timing and execution.

  • Are you able to accurately track inventory going into the temporary store?
  • And most importantly can you account for items not sold and where they are returned?
  • At the end of the Pop-up event can you close the temporary store and compare expected remaining onhands to what is remaining?
  • Can you track the remaining merchandise by box upon return?

Datascan is an expert at assisting retailers with all their inventory solutions.  Our solution allows your pop-up stores to scan in the merchandise as they setup the location.   Whether the merchandise is coming from a single warehouse or multiple store locations our system will validate the total receipt from each location and compare receipts to shipping manifests.  When the event is complete the Datascan system will allow your team to box the merchandise while tracking all remaining items and where they are returning those items.  The final report will provide immediate variance results between original receipts, sold merchandise and what was boxed for return.  Accountability in a pop-up from open to close.

The solution is simple and designed for your store teams to use.  The only requirement onsite is electricity – it’s just that simple!

Take the risk out of managing your pop-up retail locations and have the same confidence and controls you use in your brick & mortar stores on the road.


Category Counts – Simple to implement! Big Impact!



We have more clients each year using our system to perform modified cycle counts to help them get quick counts by merchandise category. Using our expertise with year-end counts and cycle programs, we are able to provide a very simple system to capture category (Dept/Class, etc.) counts.

With most retailers now only performing the year-end count, these category-style counts give them insight into promotional, replenishment or high-shrink goods during the summer/fall.

The great thing about this type of count is that they require little planning, and we’ve seen it rolled out to 200+ stores with as little as four days notice.  These stores had never used or seen the Datascan system before.  The category count was a true success!


  • Scanners are loaded with only the UPC/SKUs listed for the Category Counts.
  • The stores receive one small box with 1-3 scanners and a cradle.
  • Instructions are simple and short.
  • Packages are shipped via Ground service and cost less than $10 a shipment.
  • Corporate reporting and variances on our website are included.
  • The Help Desk will provide the same support before, during and after the count.

… Just give ME the scanner!

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Summer-Campaign4 Summer-Campaign3

How bebe Fast-Tracked The Omni-Channel Odyssey

By Matt Pillar, editor-in-chief, Integrated Solutions For Retailers


July 2013 Integrated Solutions For Retailers

bebe was building cross-channel inventory prioritization algorithms and CRM data visibility before “cross-channel” was cool. In a recent sit-down with CIO Hamid Mashouf, we got some insight into where bebe is headed next.

Hamid Mashouf has served as head of technology at bebe for more than 10 years. During his tenure there, Hamid and his IT teams have replaced and revamped the entire spectrum of the company’s technology assets, from telecom to infrastructure to security. They’ve also upgraded the enterprise applications at bebe from the supply chain to the stores, enabling the business to grow internationally and expand the borders of digital and mobile. Prior to joining bebe, Hamid spent 16 years with Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies in various engineering, management, and strategic scientist roles. Hamid’s experience blends one part entrepreneurial, smallcompany agility with one part large-company process and practicality, a mix that has helped him develop the cross-functional teams necessary to guide bebe through retail’s omni-channel revolution.

As technology and the retail systems decision making that drives it have become the cornerstones of cross-channel retail success, it’s become incumbent on Mashouf and his team to serve the business needs of a brand that’s been a pioneer of modern fashion forward apparel retailing since the early days of crosschannel commerce. For his part, Mashouf, as CIO of bebe, has proven his mettle. His vision for customer-centric retailing at bebe provides us with a compelling look inside the mind of a man who understands how to navigate the crossroads of business and technology. That know-how is best illustrated by Mashouf ’s leadership of bebe’s mission to provide a truly omni-channel customer experience.

Fast-Track To Omni-Channel: Step One, The Customer
According to Mashouf, “the omni-channel journey” takes retailers down two parallel roads: One leads to the external optimization of the customer experience at all touchpoints along the path to purchase, while the other leads to the internal optimization of systems and core platforms to accurately manage orders, promotions, inventory, style/product, and customer data in a channel-agnostic manner. Both, he says, are dependent on the centralization of data.

Architectural efforts in data centralization are not a new topic at bebe. As far back as 2003, the company recognized the power of data centralization for improving the client experience, building internal efficiencies, and developing business intelligence. That foresight led the company to build centralized data management and data control measures, initially focused on customer data and loyalty initiatives, soon followed by centralized style and product data in the supply chain, which later enabled seamless cross-channel order/inventory management between stores and the Web.

“In anticipation of growth in consumers’ engagement with new brand touchpoints and sales channels, we started to create a 360-degree view of customers and loyalty more than ten years ago,” says Mashouf. “It’s our goal to give customers a great personalized experience as best we can in any channel, and to do that we have to be able to recognize who they are, regardless of the channel in which they engage with the brand.”

Today, many retailers struggle with the proliferation of mobile devices and social media and the resulting ease with which customers can change their behavior as they switch seamlessly among them. Because Mashouf and bebe laid the foundation for customer data centricity early, the company found itself ahead of the curve. “Centralization of data makes it more efficient for retailers when they’re ready to deploy cross-channel or omni-channel enterprise systems that will accommodate that ever-changing behavior,” says Mashouf. For bebe, a big portion of those omni-channel systems come in the form of POS, e-commerce, CRM, and order management solutions from MICROS. The two companies have been working together since bebe went live on MICROS for POS in 2008.

“To provide a customer with the best, most consistent experience you can, regardless of the channel they are engaging with you, you have to know who they are,” says Mashouf. “That’s very difficult without centralized customer data.” To that end, he says seamless recognition of the customer from one channel to the next leads to another aspect of CRM that must be centralized, and one that bebe doesn’t take lightly. “Building customer loyalty is becoming harder all the time. With so much choice at their fingertips, consumers can easily look elsewhere. So, we’ve taken great care to create seamless access to customer loyalty accounts across channels as well,” he says.

Fast Track To Omni-Channel: Step Two, Inventory
The cross-channel customer and loyalty initiatives at bebe have seen rapid success, which has only been bolstered by its active social media presence. The brand boasts nearly 3.5 million Facebook fans and has made great strides in the art of promotion integration with social media via its traditional and mobile commerce sites. With all that seamless customerfacing connectivity as well as back office systems that enable the company to leverage it, it’s imperative that bebe focus not just on the glamour of the experience, but also on the mechanics of fulfillment.

The cool factor established by brands that have rolled out great digital channels — and the CRM and loyalty applications that create incredible customer experiences — set high expectations among consumers. Those expectations must be carried through to the fulfillment experience, which today is predicated on cross-channel inventory optimization. “Our efforts to centralize inventory data to create visibility across channels has not only served our customers well, but it’s also had a positive impact on our gross margin and, thus, our bottom line,” says Mashouf.

Again, the centralization of enterprise-wide inventory data was the first step to enabling the visibility to meet crosschannel consumer demand, visibility that also enabled the company to reduce supply chain inefficiency and minimize excess inventory carrying costs.

In 2009, the groundwork of a centralized inventory repository at bebe was put to good use when the company turned on store-from-other-store order brokerage for sales fulfillment, which it calls “remote-sends.” Store-order-from-Web was implemented the following year, allowing store-level sales associates to even further consummate transactions that would have previously been lost to out-of-stocks. “We’ll soon go live with a pilot of order-online-ship-from-store,” says Mashouf. “If an order can’t be fulfilled from a DC that serves the e-commerce or mobile sites, we’ll be able to ship the merchandise to the consumer from on-hand inventory in one of our 244 stores.” Again, bebe finds itself among the pioneers of a sales fulfillment model that few have dared to contemplate, especially in fashion, where store inventories are lean. None of it would be possible without irrefutably accurate, all-channel inventory visibility.

Of course, these new store-level fulfillment endeavors will require some cultural and business processes to change, in addition to the technology that makes them work. With that in mind, we asked Mashouf how omni-channel retailers effectively handle the traditional “credit for the sale” challenge.

“There really is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution, and the retailer must select what will work best within their environment. Some will credit the sale/commission to where the demand arises and manage the fulfillment side for operational excellence with cross-channel visibility and reporting. Some will credit the sale/commission to where the demand is but also provide an incentive to the fulfillment side to ensure operational excellence. Others will credit the sale/ commission to the fulfilling side with or without an incentive to the demand side,” Mashouf explains. “Progressive retailers will do what is best for the company as opposed to the traditional approach of optimization for a single channel. They will strive to develop new cross-channel metrics and institutionalize their importance across all channels. They will bring down the traditionally established culture of isolated silos and channels and will optimize what is best for the company overall to deliver the best possible customer experience. It is important to keep innovating as a company and collective executive team and not be paralyzed by the unknown or a potentially obsolete company culture.”

Mashouf says retailers looking to enable cross-channel sales fulfillment should take care to consider these historically sticky cross-channel issues with the company hat on and do the right thing for the customer. He says the ability to execute depends somewhat on the “inner workings” and history of how the retail enterprise is structured and its ability to collaborate among channels seamlessly. “Setting up the right analytics is also a key to success. You have to analyze your cross-channel opportunity, monitor your metrics, and report on them daily, weekly, and monthly. Then you can make the changes that will optimize sales and service for the customer and for the company’s gain,” he says.

The Omni-Channel Strategic Plan: A Living Document
Mashouf mentions that the optimization of systems and centralization of data that lead to an omni-channel reality has been compared to major home construction. “You hire a contractor and you build it the way you want it as you go. It may sound easy enough on the surface, but it is definitely an arduous journey. There will be changes and seemingly endless options to consider along the way. It will require smart and timely decision making with solid change/project management. Once you’re cognizant of that and you’ve accepted the fact that you need to be extremely careful — as you will be living in the house while it is undergoing construction — only then will you have established the right environment to modify the blueprints based on evolving consumer expectations.”

As bebe pushes toward the billion-dollar revenue mark, Mashouf will continue to focus on the exciting frontier of making the store experience more fun for shoppers, on new developments in the digital, mobile, and payment space, and on the intersection of supply chain/inventory optimization and cross-channel consumer demand. “The world of retail technology is getting more exciting as retail sales models transform,” he says. “Most — if not all — strategic initiatives in retail companies today have a huge technology component. That makes it a very interesting time to be a CIO in retail.”

A Single Platform For Omnichannel Success

As this story illustrates, deeply integrated systems and pulling together cross-channel order, promotion, inventory, and customer data into one environment lays a solid foundation for an omni-channel enterprise. Once that’s done, creating seamless cross-channel customer experiences and equally fluid movement of inventory at the ground level becomes a much easier challenge.

In 2008, bebe implemented MICROS for store-level POS, soon followed by the solutions provider’s CRM, order management and e-commerce systems, all deeply integrated to form the cornerstone of an omni-channel architecture. Collectively, in addition to processing storelevel POS transactions, the solutions set gives customers and associates real-time and cross-channel visibility into all aspects of customer relationships and loyalty, ordering, and fulfillment.

This visibility has enabled bebe CIO Hamid Mashouf to understand the intricate relationship between inventory standing and customer expectations, a relationship that’s been challenging for legacy systems-based retailers in the new cross-channel consumer environment.

Today, bebe customers and associates have near real-time inventory awareness, whether online or in stores, allowing the company to experiment with a variety of consumer fulfillment models to fulfill consumer demand when and where they expect it. The interface allows customer-specific adjustments such as merchandise changes and additions, delivery window changes, or fulfillment choices (i.e. the shipfrom- store pilot that’s underway, and pick-up-in-store in future phases) to be made immediately after an order has been placed, if necessary.

Equally important to Mashouf is the back office functionality and visibility afforded by the single, cross-channel platform. He says integrated business analytics have helped bebe make positive headway in its inventory optimization effort, resulting in cost reduction and improvements in gross margin and profit for the company.


Using Pinterest’s social cred to get in-store shoppers to make purchases


What’s the newest way to prove to your in-store customers that a product is popular online? Nordstrom is tagging products with the Pinterest logo as a kind of social proof for potential buyers.

It’s pretty common now to see a local restaurant post Yelp reviews or Zagat ratings on their storefront windows, showing the number of stars they got or positive reviews gathered as a sort of social proof for consumers making a decision on where to dine. Want Thai food tonight? Yelp reviewers rated us the Best Thai of San Francisco — therefore, we must be good.

So what’s the equivalent if you go to buy something like shoes or a dress? What’s the social proof when it comes to commerce? Nordstrom is trying out a new way to highlight the popularity of certain products with Pinterest, tagging some of its most pinned items online in the store with the Pinterest logo. It’s one way of trying to tell consumers: This is popular, and here’s how we can prove it to you.


The company has posted photos of the in-store experiments on both its Facebookand Instagram accounts. So far, it’s only in select stores, but it’s interesting to ask whether you’d be more likely to purchase something if you knew that it was popular among Pinterest users.

We’ve written about how Pinterest is gearing up for a major monetization effort bypartnering with big brands; the Nordstrom example suggests that there probably some interest from the brands as well.

Here’s a photo of shoes for sale in a particular store, tagged by Pinterest popularity:


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Set Phasers to “Scan”: Barcode Scanners are Back in Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Barcode Scanners



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