2014.19 | shelfie | repack | #retailing

Photo 2014-10-06, 8 55 58 PMShelfie – Looking to reduce the disappointing out of stock experience we’ve all encountered at one time or another, the good people at DataCrowd offer the cleverly named Shelfie app for both iOS and Android to remedy the issue.

Shoppers who see an out of stock at a store take a picture of the items tag and empty shelf, upload it to the app and the GPS details and products in the image are used to notify the retailer.  Apparently DataCrowd will take steps to advise the retailer of their out of stock issue, who will ideally take steps to tweak their replenishment model to avoid the problem in the future. The shopper, for their trouble, gets points for reporting the shortages to use towards gift cards.

This is a great use of crowdsourcing.  Why not put a simple tool in the hands of the masses to collect data to drive useful insights.  It will be interesting to circle back and see how this project works out.

A very brief look at the app indicates that the number of points that are awarded for reporting drive relatively small rewards.  The app store images show 100 points for one scan, and 10,000 points required for a $5 gift card. That’s 100 scans of out of stocks for $5. While a meager reward, it’s reasonable and a fair offer for what  a shopper would get for telling the store staff; which would be nothing.  While it’s not for everyone, there is definitely a coupon cutting crowd at the supermarket that would enjoy this game.

I fully expect that same coupon crowd to hit the supermarket at full tilt on late Saturday afternoon and fight the stockboys to take a photo before they replace the merchandise!  It’s a great idea.  Anything that has a chance to reduce out of stocks is a positive. via Springwise

CaptureRepack - One of the challenges with online shopping is that eco-conscious shoppers miss the opportunity to bring their own bag or eschew packaging all together.  While recycling all of that cardboard and plastic is a good answer, avoiding the waste is even better.

Repack has developed re-usable packaging and a system to use it for eCommerce retailers.  Shoppers pay a small deposit when they purchase an item from an online store.  On receipt of their products, they flatten the package and throw it back in the post for return to the retailer.  On receipt of the packaging, the retailer refunds the deposit.

While this seems a bit overdone, who among us has not received a huge box in the mail for replacement headphone earbuds or some other tiny item?  Given that many retailers also provide free returns, and services like Trunk Club have many boxes going back and forth, the idea seems like one with some merit – one that could protect shipped items and save the retailers some packaging costs if the items are done right. via Trendhunter

Capture#retailing – Always on the lookout for monetization avenues, Twitter has announced a couple initiatives that may be of interest to retailers looking to add twitter to their list of channels where their shoppers can purchase their merchandise.

Buy Button – In September, Twitter announced public access to a Buy button that certain retail and other partner would use in the Twitter mobile app. Twitter wants to make shopping on mobile devices simpler and say they will store your card details to make it easier to shop in Twitter after that first purchase, presumably by not having to enter the details again.  Frankly, there are so many parties trying to do this already – what with Apple Pay and Google and various others trying to do the same thing.  Not sure that they will get a lot of uptake just by saving a credit card  number.  Also – a buy button is just one click away from a mobile website link. Why does twitter need to put a special button?  Why would retailers with perfectly serviceable eCommerce platforms need a button when a link will do?  Especially when the retailer wants to provide their own unique experience and pull client details into the process.  This may work for musical artists to sell t-shirts – which seem to be a lot of the initial partners – but major players seem unlikely to do more than test the waters with this one.

Amazon Wishlist – Amazon never turns their back on an opportunity to sell through another channel.  Amazon has enabled shoppers to save an amazon item in a tweet to their item wishlist by replying to the item with the hashtag #AmazonWishList. While this one is handy, it seems like something only the most die hard twitter fan would want to use twitter as a way of adding items to their amazon wishlists.

While these are really great attempts at thinking differently and putting together interesting pieces, it would be very surprising if these were to take off in any really large volumes.  That said, who can say what will take off next?   Perhaps Snapchat will add buy buttons to Our Live Stories next.  Retailers can never tell where the next channel for business will arise.

2014.14 | yo | modiface | buy it now

Photo 2014-07-04, 8 39 44 AMyo – In the age of texting and electronic communication, many of the phone calls we still make and take are not optimizing our time.  Why do we still wait for a phone call from a mechanic to tell us our car is ready?  When the call come, nobody answers, and now there is a voicemail that says: “Your car is ready”.  This process has way too many steps for both parties.  Wouldn’t it easier to just get a text?  At the same time, we don’t want to share our mobile number with absolutely everyone.

Yo is a ludicrously simple service.  Install it on your phone and you can send one message that says Yo to a selected user(s).  That is all.  Famously, the World Cup has an account that will send a Yo every time a goal is scored.

The service reminds me of days when long distance actually cost money and one of my room-mates in university used to call his parents when he got to the dorm from home after a long drive and let the phone ring at his parents twice.  They knew he was home and no long distance charges incurred.  Yo is similar – a message service where both players already know what the message is and a very simple vehicle is in place to support the message.

On the surface this seems silly and far too basic, but effectively it puts into place an arm’s length notification engine.  You tell your dry cleaner your yo handle, and when your stuff is ready, you get a Yo notification that pops up on your phone.  No spam, no additional mailbox, no app for every retailer, nobody knows your mobile number, and it’s a one on one message as opposed to a broadcast.  Retailers don’t need anything other than a pc or mobile device and a handle.  Simple is good.

While the system only says yo right now, nothing stops Yo from building additional standard statements beyond yo -service complete, pickup ready, it could be anything.   Social media service Path has already implemented a service called Pathtalk to enable texting with businesses, but it requires retailers to maintain yet another social media service.

Texting is so prevalent, that notifications by text for retail services must happen. It’s just a matter of when and how.  Yo is but one candidate that shows promise.  It is simple and avoids the trap of  yet another social media channel.  Watch for it.  It might be yet another button on a retail station or mobile device in the future.

[Update: If you want to get uber geeky with Yo, it has an IFTTT channel so that users can turn on AC, text someone automatically or turn on the lights and more.]

modiface2modiface - It follows that if a retailer has a great product, then letting shoppers try it out is a great strategy.  Selecting makeup colours is a challenge, and while I’m not a consumer of cosmetics, demo makeup appears time consuming, and relies on the opinions of strangers.  Anyone who has walked through a cosmetic section of a drugstore has also wondered who really puts those lipstick demos on their actual lips. Using those seems like a real life game of roulette.

These challenges can now be eliminated.   Sephora has teamed with augmented reality provider modiface to develop a solution that lets shoppers try out numerous new colours of makeup without the time and effort of actually applying it in store.  Shoppers stand in front of a screen with a built in video camera and a palette of colours.  Shoppers can select various facial options, such as eyes and then select various colours to see how the cosmetic colour would look on your eyes.  The screen shows full motion video and the shoppers can tilt their head from side to side to see how they look in real life.

The video on this solution appears much smoother and more realistic than all of the clothing apps that allow shoppers to “try on” a virtual outfit in a magic mirror.   This app is a great use of augmented reality and even if it doesn’t sell more cosmetics, it has to improve shopper satisfaction with purchases.  Put it on a tablet as well, and it could also speed up the selling process for cosmetic selling associates.

firefly buttonbuy it now - Actual purchasing on the phone may pick up given the full court press in place from many key players in the mobile selling spectrum.

  • Amazon Firefly – Amazon’s new mobile device called the Fire has a function called Firefly that uses image recognition technology to look for items on the Amazon store.  Take a picture with your mobile device, or capture an image on the screen and press the Firefly button to link to the Amazon store.
  • Twitter Buy Now – Some twitter users  have reported seeing a Buy Now button on selected post.  While it is uncertain at present whether this is a feature or an experiment, this is a great monetization option for twitter, and a time save for users who may wish to purchase or add items to basket for futures depending on the retailer.
  • Snapup - Similar to the Firefly option above, upcoming app Snapup allows users to take screenshots from their iPhone and use the image to search through 1000 sites to allow an online mobile purchase.

As the channels continue to split, it’s going to become increasingly challenging for retailers to establish interfaces to all of these points of purchase, and it will also become important to track them and understand where the business comes from.  There is lots of opportunity, but it will be challenging to keep track of it all.

 

2014.10 | mink | #amazoncart | google shopping express

mink makeup printerMink - 3D printing isn’t just for plastic toys.  Mink is a makeup printer that allows any colour to be printed on to makeup substrate so that home users can prepare their own favourite colours.  Instead of being limited to colours that are pre-made and ready in store, shoppers can build whatever they want on demand.

It’s obviously early days for this technology, but retailers generally have better results when they to recognize disruptive technologies like this early and either get on board or find something that accomplishes something similar.    This is the same story as mp3 and eBooks all over again as immediate gratification will make the status quo of purchasing pre coloured makeup less convenient.

It will be interesting to see the real solution itself and how easy it is to use.  A pretty white box looks nice and simple, but for a solution like this to fly it has to be dead simple.  As is the case with regular printers, they will obviously run out of substrate or colour just when it is needed most.  Having automatic fulfillment would avoid such issues. Retailers should be moving towards open and connected systems to enable automatic replenishment for clients.  Connecting a system like Mink to an ecommerce subscription service or standing order for automatic fulfillment online with the printer ordering its own supplies will be key to its success.    Expect an Amazon plug-in sometime in the near future.

amazoncart#amazoncart – As the retailer of every channel but a store (so far), Amazon recently expanded its ever growing list of channels it makes available for consumers to interface with them.  The newest is #amazoncart, whereby if twitter readers see a product that they like, they can reply to a tweet with a product link with the hashtag #amazoncart, and the item will be automatically added to their Amazon shopping cart online.

While not the right strategy for every retailer it is an interesting attempt by Amazon to strengthen their already extensive hold on default online shopping cart online.  If a shopper has an item in a retailer’s online cart, odds are good they will complete a purchase for that item, or at least have to remove it from the cart.  Allowing this functionality also allows Amazon to quietly capture the twitter account of their clients – which can be mined for more information on how often this strategy results in a sale, or to leverage big data solutions to improve other product recommendations.

This is potentially a great tool for Amazon devotees, but for products that aren’t carried by Amazon (yes, those exist, especially outside of America) and if shopper preferences skew to other retailers, there are many other ways of tracking items that don’t require sticking them into a cart.  Not all great items are found on twitter, but for shoppers using twitter, the web, or even an aggregator like Zite or Flipboard, shoppers can easily add items to services like Evernote, Pinterest and even Pocket to track shopping lists.  No need to remove from a cart.

google-expressGoogle Shopping Express – Google recently opened the gates on an Amazon Prime type offering called Google Shopping Express where shoppers can order items online for immediate same day delivery from retailers including Costco, Target, Walgreens, Whole Foods and more in Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose.    The service is available online or via iPhone and Android apps.

Initial reviews and reviews for the apps indicate that the service works very well and is either free or very very inexpensive.  The service is reminiscent of Kozmo.com, a well known dot.com bubble company established to provide this very same service that expired in 2001.  That service suffered under the high cost of providing this service on low value items, but they obviously did not have the Google machine behind them.

The question that arises is whether Google will provide this service at a loss, charge clients a commensurate amount for the service, or find another way to finance it within other elements of their business.  There are a wide array of options they could investigate moving forward.  What current retailers need to carefully consider and be ready to move on is if Google mines all the data for items shoppers may want delivered in this paradigm and then decides to stock them on their own and fulfill them to shoppers directly.

2014.05 | bring eComm cool into the store

CaptureAmazon recently released Amazon Flow with some fanfare.  Instead of having to scan barcodes, users of the Amazon app can now use the camera on their mobile to recognize products visually.  While this image recognition capability has been around for some time in apps like SnapTell or Pic2Shop to scan books and CDs (which we all just download now anyway, right?), Amazon appears to have established a larger database of images for products that go beyond books and audio recordings.    Now it’s possible to add items to an Amazon eCommerce cart without even scanning a barcode.

How can a traditional retailer compete with the ongoing headline grabbing and constant additions to the Amazon technology arsenal?  There are certainly many excellent technological and operational answers that retailers are implementing, but why not bring some of the unique new tools being built to improve retailer eCommerce business into the store to enhance the customer experience?

One key strength of retail stores that is coming to the fore in 2014 is the unique experiences provided in stores. One of the challenges in providing a tremendous customer experience is the incredible amount of information available to everyone.  With online resources, an unprecedented amount of product information is available to consumers, and they use it.  It’s increasingly difficult for store associates to provide value and a great experience to clients who enter the store with access to the Internet in their pocket.  It only makes sense to provide tools to store associates to level the playing field.

There are some unique services available to eCommerce retailers that could be used to advantage by store staff when a customer comes to visit a store.  Consider just two examples:

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Furniture - Everyone has gone furniture shopping at some time or another, and has made the trek to the store with measuring tape in hand, trying to pick the perfect bookshelf, chair, or table for their home.  Most of us now take a photo of the room we are looking to decorate for a point of reference as part of the shopping excursion.  What if the consumer could pick a product and then drop a realistic looking three dimensionally rendered version of that product into their own picture of their home?  Move it around the room?  Change the colour?   Cimagine provides just such a solution to retailers.  Why not put that same functionality on tablets in store? Clients could share their home photos with talented decorators for a consultative discussion on which products would suit their home.  The decorators could then share the photos with their best furniture options in them for the client to review at their leisure or for them to share with friends for input.  The same tool could well be used for home consultations.

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Fashion - One of the biggest challenges around shopping for shoes and clothing online is sizing.  Everyone knows that standard sizing is tough enough in a single store let alone across all banners and manufacturers, there are a number of online add-ons competing to make it an easier task for retailers to give consumers the right fit and the best style.

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True Fit is a sizing plugin that allows users to enter in their sizes of their favourite shirts, pants, and shoes.  Using that information against a cross reference of many brands and products allows True Fit to highlight products that are a good fit given your size and body type.  The plugin will even suggest the right size for the consumer given their profile information.

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Dressipi provides a slightly different service.  Dressipi allows women to develop their own Fashion Fingerprint that highlights the right sizes and styles for them to wear across a range of brands.  The site then provides a range of products on the Dressipi site pulled from retailer sites that suit them to help narrow the purchasing effort.

Both of these services provide capabilities that could be easily leveraged within a store environment by savvy store associates.  What if store associates could pull up a shopper’s profile and have a better idea of their sizes from True Fit?  Less time in the dressing room, less looking for sizes for the customer. What if store associates could see the styles that Dressipi recommends?  Less time trying to figure out what styles may flatter the customer; and the potential to get them more items they like more quickly.

Both the furniture and fashion examples highlight the new sorts of tools to which consumers are just beginning to get exposed.  Why not take advantage of those tools to give associates the opportunity to provide real value?   It’s an achievable goal, and with a few other enablers, these associates can make these transactions seem magical by pushing items from these tools right into a POS transaction on the tablet without scanning a single item, take payment and send the clients on their way.   Sounds like more fun than shopping online!

2014.04 | january linkdump

CaptureGet me there – eCommerce could really meet stores if Google follows through on their latest concept.   The idea is that advertisers may find a transaction valuable enough to foot the bill to pay for a potential client to come to their store.  If an advertiser signs up for this service, a “take me there” button appears on the ad that can be clicked and a taxi can pick up the user to take them to the store.  Their patent even considers a self-driving car being used to pick up potential clients.   Great idea in theory, but there’s lots of room here for people to try for free rides. 

Anticipatory Shipping – Amazon apparently filed a patent for shipping product before clients order it. The idea is that items that are likely to drive demand in an area are shipped to that area and redirected to a person who orders it to minimize shipping time.  I haven’t decided if this is genius or lunacy.

Miserable Men – If you happen to visit instagram, check out Miserable Men – an account full of images of unfortunate gentlemen who appear to be experiencing a sub optimal shopping experience as a shopping partner. While it’s comedy, and we’ve all been there, there has to be some opportunity here for cross-selling, or at least retailers could attempt to entertain or otherwise reduce the pain inflicted on these poor souls.  The account would be better named Missed Opportunities.  IF we are so hyped about the customer experience, here is an area ripe for improvement.

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Apple Payments –  There have been ripples again recently that Apple is making moves to attempt to enable mobile payments in the real world.  With the base of devices they have, they could certainly make an impact.  However, changing payments to mobile devices is rife with challenges.  Google failed at it.  Square was expected to be a big deal at Starbucks and so far hasn’t made any noise beyond the small business level so far.

There are so many opportunities for failure with mobile POS payments between two parties in a store.  To succeed, there are changes to retailer software, changes to retailer devices, training cashiers, training consumers, data connectivity, user interfaces, security, and much much more.  Those are only the initial technical challenges.  You also need to establish consumer confidence in your payment system and make it as universally available as possible.  You also need to get credit card companies on board in some way, and find a way to make money on transactions that are already laden with fees from various players and find a way to do it without charging consumers.

As an early adopter, I would be excited to see an Apple payments system, but it’s a challenging initiative.  As a retailer, it’s best to keep your payments options as flexible as possible to ensure that if something does come along, that your solutions are in a position to enable new tendering options as easily and quickly as possible.

2013.35 | subscription retail

closet-sciSubscriptions represent both a valuable service to consumers as well as a valuable retail sales opportunity.

Instead of selling a single item with a single sale, subscriptions allow for an ongoing revenue stream from that same sales effort.  Amazon has offered Subscribe and Save for regularly consumed items like toothpaste, cereal, razor blades, and diapers for some time.  Combined with Amazon Prime with its unlimited free shipping, Amazon presents a formidable offering of ease of purchase and the convenience of not having to buy staples on an ongoing basis.

While these subscription offers were primarily a concern for food and drug retailers in the past, subscription services for specialty and apparel items are becoming increasingly common. Here are just a few representative offerings:

Bonobos recently released Closet Science.  Prospective clients receive an email with a link to an entertaining questionnaire about their lifestyles that drive a style profile.  Based on the established profile and opting in to price range options, customers are AUTOMATICALLY sent a new outfit of shirt and pants each month.

Manpacks exists to allow men to avoid the oft ignored ritual of purchasing new socks and underwear on a regular basis.  Users register online with their preferences and receive regularly scheduled shipments of socks, underwear and other personal sundries.

hunt-club

Birchbox is a product discovery service that provides a monthly subscription service of cosmetic and other samples to registered users.    The service costs $10 for women and $20 for men.  Users can opt in to purchase items based on their favourite discoveries from the subscription service. (thanks Greg!)

Frank & Oak offers the Hunt Club.  Join and you get a “crate” every month of three items try.  Clients select their items by a certain date each month and the items that are sent to them in their crate.  Clients can buy them or send them back if they don’t work out.

This business structure is both a threat and an opportunity for retailers with actual stores. With the right infrastructure in place, competitive challenges like this can be addressed swiftly and advantages that online retailers do not have can be leveraged. Some strategies to address subscriptions include:

  • In low velocity and interactive retail sales areas of stores, enable simple subscriptions for items such as cosmetics. These offers can be enabled with currently available Offer Management solutions by enabling either a recurring offer or associate message for specific types of items once they have been purchased once. Ensure that the customer can opt out, and cashiers can note the client preference if they do not want an ongoing reminder or purchase. Retailers with both online and store presence could enable an automatic online shipping order
  • Let store staff provide the human touch to transactions by leveraging a clienteling solution to make recommendations to suit customer taste. Leverage current web based implementations of wish lists, social media, and web based recommendation engines on associate tablets. Web sites have to guess what consumers want, but your people can suggest and verify with them in real time.
  • Sizing is so important and a tremendous challenge for apparel. A great deal of profit in online retailing is lost to free returns as consumers uncertain of the right size for their frame enter online orders with multiple sizes of the same items and return non-fitting items at no charge. Leverage store staff knowledge of product to help clients get the right fit in store and help them translate fit to other lines or seasons of products. Clients could visit the store to try on their monthly outfit to ensure it fits and adjust their order in stores as needed if the fit or drape is not right. Capture information on sizes for clients and on product types and update the clients’ profile for future notice.
  • Enable simple checkouts on tablets – allow untethering from checkstands to talk to clients on the store floor. No scanning is necessary with the right solution, and a credit card on file from the website could be used to process charges. It’s important to emulate the simple transactions enacted on websites with the press of a button as much as possible to remove any friction from transactions.
  • Establish subscription services that provide the best of both online and store environments. Department stores are not limited by brands or products and could offer an array of subscription services by segments with clubs for each. Specialty retailers could offer in-store pickup of a monthly package or in store return for items that don’t suit.
  • Ensure that customer data is gathered centrally and made available for use by all stores, departments and organizations. That data is not just about marketing. It’s not just for eCommerce. The data needs to be accessible by operational store systems at every client and associate touchpoint so that it can be used to sell. With a central repository of information, all parts of the organization can be responsive to clients and corporate marketing initiatives by changing operational touchpoints, sales efforts and more for this challenge, but for all future competitive challenges. Consider a very simple example. With subscription based services in place with thousands of customers opted in, buyers could get a new perspective on how much of certain sizes to purchase based on the subscription base.

While subscriptions are certainly a threat to traditional retailers, with the right tools, and some well thought out strategy, it is possible to enable the same features that make those services so great and augment them with the best of personal interactions.  Take advantage of new trends and consumers and retailers alike reap the benefits.

2013.33 | eWallet update

google walletThere have been a number of announcements recently around eWallet and payment apps.

Google wallet for iOS launched late last month.  No NFC on iPhones, so the real focus of the app is to send payments from party to party with email, get local deals, and store all of your loyalty cards on your phone.  The app is a bit underwhelming without payments.  In Canada, we’ve been sending cash to each other via Interac email transfers for years.  They go directly from your bank account; no need to load money into an account, and why would anyone stash cash anywhere other than a bank account?  Many banks in Canada offer Interac email transfers for free and even via SMS in the banking mobile apps.  via engadget.

paypal

PayPal released PayPal Beacon last month to simplify mobile payments for consumers.  To drive other options on mobile, PayPal also updated their app with a new service called Payment Code.  This service works with the PayPal mobile app.  At point of tender, the app provide the user a 2D barcode retailers can scan for payment to be transferred from customer to retailer.  The code is apparently readable by retailers on the Discover network or with certain banks.  Sites without a scanner-imager can type a 4 digit code provided instead.    Great to have so many options, but will consumers and retailers alike be able to wade through yet another tender option?  Time will tell.  In the right market and demographic it could work.

pay with amazon

Making Amazon kind of an eWallet for the Internet, Amazon recently released Pay with Amazon.  Using this service, eCommerce retailers can leverage the massive user database and payments engine of Amazon to enable payments on their own website through Amazon.  That means that you can login to an eCommerce website with your Amazon login, and pay the same way you do with the Amazon eCommerce site.   Looking at the economics, setting up payments and leveraging the Amazon infrastructure may seem like an appealing idea to smaller eCommerce retailers initially, but do they really want to let Amazon know that their eCommerce site is growing by leaps and bounds.   Would they like Amazon to have a list of all of their customers and what they buy to expand their database of understanding?  That could be a tough sell.

2013.14 | Buses, Scanners and Vinyl

tesla+wireless+electric+bus-300x181Conductive Charging  Bus – Utah State University students have designed and built a conductive charging platform for an electric bus.  The system puts chargers at bus stops so that the buses can be constantly recharged as they follow their routes without plugging in, effectively extending their range while behaving as their petroleum powered counterparts do.  It’s not a stretch to imagine these sorts of charging stations being made solar and installed in parking lots so that electric cars can be charged while visiting a business.  This changes car usage in a way that retailers need to consider.  No fuel required which means a change in business model for fuel stations.  If it gets that far, they need to remember marketing myopia – they are supporting the transportation needs of consumers and are not the petroleum business.

Electric cars may not happen tomorrow, but the wave is certainly moving in that direction.  Tesla plans to turn a profit, ranges are allegedly improving, charging is getting faster, and now cordless charging is becoming increasingly realistic.

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Body Scanners – Bloomingdales are installing body scanners from me-ality to help customers nail down the sizes once and for all! Strange that there are many who avoid the body scanners at the airport, but that others may choose to pile in to get their bottoms sized in a body scanner so their jeans fit more flawlessly.  Similar booths, different perspective.  There have been a number of these digital sizing schemes over the years, and they certainly make sense, but they are up for challenges discussed previously.  Challenges exist for any solution, but if clothing retailers can get their specs nailed down and ensure their vendors meet tolerances consistently this could reduce the returns problem for online shopping.

UPDATE 2013-04-22:  Gizmodo visited a site and tried it out.

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Amazon Records – Early in 2013, Amazon launched a service called Amazon AutoRip whereby customers that have already purchased CDs will automatically have that music added to their Amazon Cloud Player library.  The AutoRip service was recently updated to also include vinyl record purchases.

While it sounds like a small service addition, this is a clever and relatively simple automation for Amazon that provides music lovers one more reason to buy from Amazon.  Music lovers who prefer to purchase actual media copies of music can also leverage soft copies now, and Amazon can offer a service not available from iTunes and other online music stores that only offer digital copies.  At the same time, Amazon makes themselves even more attractive than traditional record stores.

 

2013.04 – Evernote Fridge | Amazon Coupons | Mobile Pay

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Evernote Fridge – As time goes on, client channels that have to be addressed by retailers continue to pile up, splinter and move all over the place.  Consider the prototype Samsung T-9000 refrigerator from Samsung.  This sleek modern refrigerator sports a 10 inch control screen built into the door.  The screen’s interface has an Evernote widget that would allow proud owners of this gleaming device to add items to their grocery list right on the door.

As Evernote is a note taking utility already in extensive use with the kind of consumers that would buy a refrigerator like this, it’s a very thoughtful addition and something that might actually justify another screen in the house.  Additions to a grocery list on the door can be synchronized with your Evernote account via a wifi connection on the unit and would be updated up on whatever device(s) are connected.  Given the add-on applets to evernote like Skitch and Evernote Food, you have to think a smarter grocery list app might not be far off .  This is a clever idea, and another challenge/opportunity for retailers who are working to engage clients at any point in the decision making process.

Amazon Coupons – While we can’t buy groceries at Amazon in Canada yet, they can in Seattle from Amazon Fresh.  I found a recent tweet on their coupon options particularly interesting.  Coupons are not used as much in Canada as the US, but if an Amazon were to come on the scene, the ability to leverage coupons like this starts to look very attractive.  If all clients have to do is go through the list and click to add the coupons to their account and then select the items – well why wouldn’t you do it?

In contrast, manufacturer’s coupons are not used as much in Canada.  Most of us can’t or won’t remember to bring a paper coupon, and we don’t want to hold up the line at a checkout.  Most Canadian retailers do not have an interface to a central clearinghouse to scan coupons as far as I have experienced in my work with retailers.  The acceptance of coupons remains relatively manual.  This exposes retailers to potential coupon fraud, expired coupon or misredeemed coupon losses, additional costs to manage and redeem manufacturer coupons.  For these reasons and more, I’ve noted a distaste for coupons and a preference for price matching policies that are simpler to administer and only really used by the zealots who will do anything to save a few dollars.

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Canadian retailers are missing an opportunity and perhaps exposing themselves to a real competitive disadvantage if online providers get a simple process to leverage coupons.  Effectively these retailers can sell for less, and they are still getting their higher price via CPG redemptions.

I have an answer to this, Canadian retailers; send me a message if you are interested in how it can work.


Capture1Mobile Pay
 –  While I was working in NCR booth at the National Retail Federation Big Show in New York last week, I saw a lot of really interesting ideas but I found one of the new solutions to be particularly  interesting.   While mobile payment is a really hot item everywhere these days, some of my colleagues on the hospitality side have taken things to a new level.

All of us have had the experience where we are in a restaurant and we want a refill but the server is nowhere to be found.   Instead of trying to catch the server’s attention, imagine being able to pull out any mobile device with a browser, connect to the restaurant, pull up your tab and order another beverage.

At the end of the transaction, instead of going through the whole:  “paper bill dropped at table – put card on paper bill – server takes card/ brings back machine or receipt” routine, you could just scan a 2D code on the bill, add your tip, pay and leave.  That’s exactly what Mobile Pay can do.  The system even allows you to rate your service right on the mobile device and even mention your experience on social media.

It’s a simple, but very intriguing solution.  For now this is offered in the US at a number of venues, but I would be very interested in trying it out at home.

2011.33 | Lockers & iPad Shopping Carts

Amazon Lockers @ 7-Eleven - I was interested to see from various sources that Amazon is installing lockers in 7-Elevens – evidently for customers to pick up shipped orders.

Consumers today face challenges around receiving packages from Internet Shopping at home.  The packages often include items of substantial value, one is not home when they are delivered, and there is little in the way of security options for home delivery.  This provides a very intelligent option – ideally at a reasonable rate.

This service is also a practical addition to the PayNearMe service 7-Eleven already offers in the US, where clients without credit cards can pay for online purchases with cash.   It seems that 7-Eleven in the US has chosen an interesting solution to drive traffic to their sites – traffic that I expect is already part of their clientele base – a terrific chance to expand wallet share.

iPad Shopping Carts – I’ve been involved in various discussions around integrating a screen and processor to a shopping cart over the years.  I recently read an article indicating that a newer more sophisticated model is being tested in South Korea that can interface with your mobile phone and provide offers and other useful information directly on the LCD on the cart.  Going in a slightly different direction, Sainsbury’s are testing a design that allows customers to place their own iPad in a dock on the cart in order to watch sports events on live television provided by Sky.

While I am certain that the sophistication makes these sorts of solutions more tenable today than when they were first analyzed, there are definitely some challenges around implementing a solution like this.  Let’s consider those challenges:

1. Cost – Installing shopping carts with LCDs and low end processors on the push handle has a higher purchase cost than a standard shopping cart.  The costs have certainly come down for technology over time, but having technology installed into what is essentially a metal cage with wheels will inevitably be a more costly solution.  Maintaining and supporting these carts would be an additional cost that doesn’t exist at all today.  The Sainsbury situation with Sky provides a potential way around this by having sponsors pay for the carts.

2. Charging – No matter what technology is used, batteries are required, and charging the units by plugging them in is a necessity for operation.  Battery technology has certainly improved to the point where the charging time is probably reduced and charging is required less often.  The greater problem is that carts will need to be charged one way or the other at some point.  Responsibility will inevitably fall to store staff to charge them.  My experience is that minimizing effort for staff is key.  Having staff charge units will either distract staff, or units will eventually not work as the batteries are dead.  While the Sky idea of using solar to charge the iPad is an interesting option, there is a question of how long solar power could drive the iPad or a processor.  While there are great leaps taking place in solar power, my experience has been that solar is not enough to drive a real processor for any significant timeframe.  Adding extra solar panels to drive more power could either change the structure of the cart or could be subject to breakage in the rough and tumble world of shopping carts.  The way around this challenge is to have the carts automatically charge when they are put away in nested lines for storage.

3. Solution Longevity – Shopping carts can last for 20 years.  Technology is changing much more quickly than that.  Placing a processor and screen on a shopping cart is a bit like the factory installed GPS devices sold in new cars.  If the units on the carts are not upgradable, the carts will look dated very quickly, and yet the carts are entirely usable.  The way to get around this is to build a standard mount for the push handles that can have different processor modules installed as time changes.

More importantly than the technical issues, it is important to consider if the cart solution provides benefits to the customer and the retailer, and whether these benefits offset all of the additional costs incurred.    Some clients may consider watching sports while shopping a real benefit, but it’s tough to make the connection between that and driving more traffic to the store or a bigger basket.  In fact, distracted shoppers are more likely to slow down the process for other shoppers not watching the show.

While coupons and recommendations and recipes are nice, these can be supplied via the mobile phone. There may be a killer app for the cart processor, but I’ve yet to see it.

While carts with a screen look good in a show room, it would seem a more cost effective, simple and elegant solution is to leverage the screen already in the customer’s hand – the mobile device.

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