Opentable – If you haven’t stumbled on Opentable yet, you should definitely check it out and get it on your mobile. Anyone can book a table at a restaurant with a PC or mobile device. It does one thing very simply and it works. And it does it for a fee and makes money. I was reminded of this recently by a Gizmodo article that highlights the benefits very well. Get it on your device. The more of us use it, the more restaurants will subscribe to it.
In fact, if the OpenTable team are taking recommendations, how incredible would it be if this appointment making service was extended to hair stylists, mechanics, and even doctors and dentists? Why am I still phoning for an appointment for anything? All consumers should be able to pick an appointment and have it added to their mobile calendar just like OpenTable. OpenTable has the platform; all that would be needed is some branding to suit the other scheduling scenarios. Reskin the app, get an iPad out to the sites – or even better, an API into their appointment systems – and we would never have to call again.
Even if that doesn’t happen, retailers and consumer facing organizations of all sorts should take note and make appointments easier. Whoever can reduce the friction of making an appointment first will get an uptick in business.
Illumiroom-Kinect – Microsoft has made some announcements over the past month that indicate that their Illumiroom concept might actually see the light of day. While Illumiroom is touted as a gaming platform, we all now that the big players in pizza automatically put an ordering solution on every console or device to be used by late night snacking gamers. Expect the pizza team to have us all in an old school pizzeria within days of release. That in turn should certainly drive some forward looking retailers to try some new ideas with Illumiroom in a concept store or even with an online store that will work with Xbox One. It’s just another channel after all.
Even better, there were lots of Kinect hacks for real life shopping solutions, and with the release of Xbox One, the Kinect team indicated that the new Kinect will be released for Windows platforms. This announcement means that solutions in stores now have access to a very cost effective visual tracking platform. I would expect this module to be taken advantage of in a number of ways. While novel attention getters like virtual dressing rooms are part of it, the more practical side of traffic counting and loss prevention could certainly leverage Kinect solutions.
Concierge @ Waitrose – UK based grocer Waitrose has indicated that they are going to add concierge style desks at the front of 100 their stores. These desks will provide access to tablets to assist with online ordering, as well as some special services like giftwrapping and dry cleaning. One would suppose that the services will expand over time.
At first glance, this does not sound like a significant change nor an earth shattering alteration in the lives of stores as we know them. After all, it seems there have always been catalog counters at stores. What I believe is different here is the recognition that these sort of desks are more likely to become a crucial hub of a retail store than a dusty catalog desk in the corner. Here’s just a few reasons why:
- With hubs like this retailers have a better chance of capturing sales that might be lost due to out of stock, by making it obvious where to go for help and providing a mechanism where you can order online to buy what you want right now via various options (buy now, ship to home | have item reserved at other store | pick another viable alternative item with input from customer service).
- Store associates at the desk ensure that guests that are not technologically inclined can obtain assistance and ‘talk to a person’ as a significant percent of the buying population choose to do instead of using a traditional ordering screen on their own.
- If customers wish to place an order online as they would from a traditional kiosk, the tablet is there for them to use.
- Store associates at the desk can take the opportunity to show the less technically inclined how simple and useful it is to shop from a tablet exactly as they could at home, making them comfortable enough to do so on their own they don’t even have to visit the desk or even the store in future.
- Stores provide an advantage over etailers in that you could go pick up an item NOW. If it isn’t easy to pick up that item, or the system doesn’t work, then the advantage over etailers is gone. Making pickups simple and obvious ensures the advantage stays. Having those desks covered by knowledgeable people will help hold together any bumps or errors with transactions as well.
Fundamentally what excites me about the implementation of these desks is that they involve a combination of operations, technology and forward thinking. Too often technology is stuck into a store as an afterthought. It’s important to be certain that there are benefits to the store, to the customers and to the retailer for any solution. If all of the pieces are working together, the opportunities for success are much greater.
These desks are a recognition that shopping patterns are emerging and instead of giving everyone tablets, or changing a policy at head office, Waitrose have made this into a strategic plan that takes into account the situation, the customers and how best to serve their changing needs and expectations. Expect to see more of this sort of structure change in stores. These same thoughts can already be seen at Best Buy Canada. Smart retailers will emulate them.