2010.26 | Fast Scanning at the POS

While traveling in the US over the past couple of weeks I was fortunate to visit a number of retail stores and have a first hand look at some banners that aren’t established in Canada. It was an enjoyable opportunity to see how technology is being leveraged a little differently.

One retailer I found particularly interesting was Aldi. I had heard from some industry colleagues that they had very quick throughput through their front end in Europe and I took some time to take a first hand look at one of their US stores.

As their website indicates, they print multiple barcodes in various orientations around the items to allow checkout clerks to scan items quickly, with minimal presentation of any item to the scanner.

This very simple idea allows product to be hurled over scanners one after the other with a positive read. Aldi is able to drive this packaging requirement as most of their product are private brands. That said, I’m a little surprised that some of the bigger players haven’t tried to force the CPG folk to attempt the same strategy.  Full credit to Aldi for recognizing that while having the right technology at the front end, the other side of the equation – the barcode itself – can be influenced.  Rather than considering this an IT issue, it’s been taken on as a business solution.



2010.25 | Contactless Transit in NYC | Walmart Loyalty | Mobile Movie Marketing

Contactless Transit – While contactless has lots of benefits, it sure seems to have problems with customer usage.  NYC has the contactless credit card option on the turnstiles as part of a 6 month trial, and while the benefits seem obvious, there are few takers according to this NYT video. Why would consumners opt to go to a vending machine, charge a declining balance card, and then use that card to pay for their ride? Consider the benefits to users:

  • One card will do where two were once needed – no need for separate Metro Card
  • No need to recharge a card at a Metrocard Vending Machine = no waiting and reduced time spent on purchase
  • The turnstile opens and closes just as quickly
  • No need for an advance outlay of funds
  • No more lost coins or cash jingling in your pockets – though the cash option may be what drives the recharging of cards depending on your population.

Yet still little usage based on their informal survey in the subway.  Most likely problem: they’ve not been advertising it strongly enough in person as part of this trial.  For self service to succeed someone at the site needs to be there telling New Yorkers why this is a benefit.  Technology isn’t enough on its own.  The general population needs to be shown, shown again, and then shown another time – highlighting the benefits in a brief, clear manner. 

Walmart Loyalty – While a perennial holdout in the many loyalty schemes available here in Canada, Walmart Canada will be offering loyalty points on their new credit card to be released as part of their newly chartered bank.  This should shake things up a bit.

Mobile Movie Marketing – As part of the upcoming release of the Steve Carell motion picture Despicable Me,  the Best Buy Movie Mode mobile app will translate the nonsense jabber of little characters called minions during the end credits of the movie while users are in the theatre.  This idea certainly provides an interesting cross pollination for retailers like Best Buy to the movies, and we can certainly expect them to extend it to other films.  Now we will have public service announcements at the end of the movie to remind us to turn ON our mobile.  Like that was necessary.

2010.24 | PSFK Future of Retail

It takes some time to work through all of it, but if you can make the time and have the bandwidth (it’s 55 MB), I highly recommend downloading the PSFK Future of Retail Report.  The document has some wonderful discussion of the technologies coming to the fore in retail, including some examples that were new to me.

Take the time to read through it and get the full context of everything.  They did a great job of bringing all of the trends together.    Thanks to PSFK for doing the work, and putting it out there under creative commons. 

A few of my favourite items from the deck:

  • Subports – Purchase via Text Message.  Such a simple concept that ties into impulse buying!
  • Layar – Augmented reality app that now has ability to purchase content inside the app itself (requires iPhone 3Gs or android)
  • Point Inside – Indoor maps of malls that allow you to see where you are
  • FastMall – Turn by turn directions inside the mall
  • GroceryIQ – iPhone app to track and organize grocery shopping.

2010.23 | Store 2010 and Retail Technology

I attended Store 2010 this past week here in Toronto, and was fortunate to hear some engaging speakers.   While I can’t possibly do justice to all of the points covered in the discussions which were just loaded with statistics and information, here are a few highlights and links to sites of interest from a retail technology perspective:

Daniel W. O’Connor of RetailNet – 2015: Next Generation Retailing

Chris O’Neill of Google – Google’s Big Bets in a New Retail Landscape

  • 20% of queries are local – opportunity for retailers to capitalize – Google’s Nearmenow makes it even easier for consumers to find what they are looking for.
  • Search is getting even easier on a mobile platform, as the need to type is removed, as Google Goggles allows for search based on an image from a mobile phone.
  • 87% of consumers research retail purchases online, while only 4% complete the purchase online

Mitch Joel of Twist Image – Social Commerce and Emerging Trends

  • 81% of shoppers read reviews – 1 negative review converts more people than every review being positive – people know what idiots are like
  • Comfort with channel drives commerce – Best Buy allows purchases within Facebook via Best Buy Shop and Share
  • Haul Videos are an example of how consumers are changing the dynamic
  • One day, one deal – Woot uses extreme simplicity, selling one product for one day only.
  • People discuss what they bought on Blippy, connect credit card, and tweets purchases.

There were far too many great examples of retail technology innovation to cover them all, but this gives a flavour. 

To get a first hand idea of what’s going on here in Canada with respect to social media, consider: Canadian Retailers on Twitter and Canadian Restaurants on Twitter.

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