2010.14 | Connecting Virtual Stores with Bricks & Mortar

With the three main points of contact for consumers (point of service, web, and mobile) well entrenched, consider some strategies in the news for bringing the three together for a connected and integrated experience.

  • Purchasing with 2d Barcodes through the shop window – A number of companies are making it possible to buy things in the front window even if the store isn’t open – bringing together the virtual with bricks and mortar.  It’s not new, we’ve been reading about it for years, after all, but it’s still not mainstream.    I love it, I’m just not certain how much my non-technical, non-geek peers will embrace it.
  • Paying with Cash Online – The barrier for many consumers who are hold outs for ecommerce is payments.  Some consumers don’t have a credit card, prefer anonymity, or would just rather pay cash.  Kwedit allows customers to use their interface to make a purchase online and pay for it at 7-Elevens across the US.  I don’t know if we have this sort of need in Canada, but if so, it’s a great strategy to tap it!
  • Mobile Payments at Starbucks Expanded – Starbucks released their iphone app a few months back with a pilot 2d barcode payment capability at sites in Seattle and one other city.   It’s now expanded this payment option to Starbucks outlets in Target stores – one of their franchisees in the US.   I look forward to this option in Canada one day.
  • Using Finger Pulse to Dispense Beverages – Moving walletless is a noble pursuit, and this one takes it one step further by removing a mobile device as well.  At Retailtech in Japan, a Coca-Cola machine was rigged up to dispense Cokes based on finger pulse recognition.  While it’s an interesting concept, it doesn’t differ greatly from the now defunct Pay-By-Touch model which was not able to make a go of it.  Registering your finger print (or pulse) is definitely a turnoff for a large segment of the buying public.  Whether it’s concerns over privacy or someone removing others digits for profit, physical validation will be a tough sell when it’s connected to payments.
  • foursquare – I’ve just started experimenting with this social media tool.  The idea is that users can check-in whenever they visit a consumer facing establishment.  Points are given for check-ins as well as badges.  Why would people do this?  It’s a game; a fun competition to get badges and points, and even become the mayor of a given location if you check-in more than anyone else.  It also allows users to provide and read tips on any establishment.  Never underestimate the desire of people to take part in a scavenger hunt like this (listen to this week’s Spark podcast with Jesse Schell if you don’t believe me!).  The exciting part about foursquare should be the ability of retailers to match up with their most loyal clients and make them their best salespeople!
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