Focal Systems: The Automation of Brick & Mortar Retail

By Kathryn Shaw, Francois Chaubard, James Jedras
2021 | Case No. E764 | Length 15 pgs.

Focal Systems, with fresh new Series B funding and more new orders than it could handle, believed its novel out-of-stock detection system would prove the sweet spot in the automation of traditional brick and mortar retail stores. Small cameras on store shelves could automatically log any products in need of resupply, but also order the items to restock, saving store managers valuable time each day. Stores would see lower labor costs but also would benefit from a more efficient resupply system.

The competition for automation in retail was stiff, and becoming more intense. How could Focal convince retailers to give its innovative technology a try—and could the company fend off the competition?

Learning Objective

Students will discuss the process of evaluating potential applications for digital technologies in the retail sector, and the challenges of testing, and then proving, the new applications. Students will also learn how the company faced competition head-on, as other challengers began pursuing new ways to automate traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
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