2013.18 | slender vender | cc glasses | snipsnap

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Slim Vending Machine – The new Diet Coke Slender Vender finally avoids making vending machines look like a big wide refrigerator. Too often we stick with a standard configuration for a technology just because that’s how things have always been. The streamlined look and the ability to make a vending machine fit in places where traditional units would not fit is a refreshing notion. Perhaps Ogilvie should talk to Proctor and Gamble and my favourite retailers so I don’t have to pick up my razor blades at the front of the store. Why not take the challenge of a high shrink item and turn it into an opportunity to install a sleek display that fulfills a need for security? I believe putting high value high shrink items in vending machines at the front of the store would give the product top billing and keep consumers like myself out of the checkout line; in a good way. Even if I had to use a vending machine at the end, it’s still faster than asking a teenager to get my razor blades out of a cabinet.

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Closed Captioning Glasses – Regal Cinemas and Sony are releasing new glasses for use in theatres. These glasses have technology that project closed captions onto the glasses so that patrons that are not able to hear the audio can better follow the movie with no impact to anyone else in the theatre. While not the sleekest looking glasses you’ve ever seen, they certainly represent a wonderful addition for guests that are hard of hearing. It would be incredible to connect these glasses into Google Translate so that subtitles would appear on the glass as you are talking to a person for real-time real-life subtitles! They could also represent a great tool for retailers to provide real-time details on customers to staff in a Google Glass like wearable interface without users having to look up and to the right.

CaptureSnipSnap – Coupons are a challenge for many retailers. Paper coupons may be of dubious origin. Home printing quality can make it hard to tell if someone is faking a coupon. Chasing down manufacturers for reimbursement is extra work. Putting store staff in the drivers seat on deciding if coupons are valid isn’t ideal.

SnipSnap isn’t going to make it any easier for retailers to deal with coupons. This app allows users to take pictures of their coupons and keep them in the app on their mobile until they get to the store. This assumes of course that the retailer will accept scans of coupons from the mobile devices of users (maybe). It may also assume every lane has a scanner that can read from a mobile device (also maybe).

The point of consideration this sort of app is that coupons represent a wild west for retailers – they can come from everywhere. They are certainly an important part of the business, and retailers are best to stay ahead of the curve of what consumers want. Find a way to provide a legitimate coupon vehicle so that retailers and customers alike can experience the benefits and avoid the potential pitfalls of apps like SnipSnap.

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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.


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 –  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.

2012.01 | Mobile Coupons in 2011

It’s that time of year again.  January is the last month of the fiscal year for many retailers, and time for the NRF Big Show in NYC.  I’m attending this year, so if you happen to be at the show, come and say hello at the NCR booth (#415) !

Mobile Coupons Keep Coming – I read with interest a recent article indicating that Proctor & Gamble has partnered with mobeam on a solution to provide scanner readable mobile coupons to consumer mobile devices without the need to upgrade scanners already installed at stores.  My rudimentary understanding of the solution is that their technology allows mobile devices to communicate with store scanners by fooling them into thinking they are reading a regular barcode.

While Starbucks went the route of upgrading all of their scanners to models with imagers to accept mobile payments, that can be much more costly and challenging for a grocer with thousands and thousands of lanes, including many lanes in each store.  Having a solution that can read coupons without hardware upgrades makes the acceptance of mobile coupons a far simpler exercise.

I will be very interested to observe consumer acceptance of this idea.  One hurdle I’ve noticed on mobile tickets and payments is the awkward dance we all have when we get to a POS and want to use our mobile.  Neither the customer nor the cashier seems 100% certain of how the process should flow.  Do you hand the cashier the phone, do they point the scanner at the mobile?  Starbucks is still a bit awkward depending on the cashier.  Savvy cashiers place the scanner by the POS perpendicular to the cashier and customer so that customers can hold our own mobile device in front of it.

If a retailer has a handheld or single window vertical scanner, the process can be worked out as outlined above.  If they have a bioptic scanner or scanner-scale, things get very awkward as a customer either has to hand over their mobile or reach across various checkstand elements at the lane to expose the screen of their mobile.  In both cases, there is currently no indication to the customer when they should present their mobile device.   There should be a green light that indicates and is activated when it’s time to scan.  Not a blue light that’s on all the time.  I’ve placed my mobile in front of the scanner too soon from time to time.  These situations are certainly sub optimal.  Expect changes in checkstand and physical scanner design to accommodate mobile device to POS interface requirements.  The current checkstands are not designed for these transactions, and the process needs to be simplified so that my mom can do it if it is going to get to the mainstream.

The other issue with mobile coupons is dealing with multiple items.  If a customer is presenting one coupon, reading a barcode is no problem.  If a customer wants to present multiple coupons at one time, things becomes more complex.   Nobody wants to scan or hold up their mobile devices for multiple scans – especially if the customer has to search through to bring up different codes on their screen.  This will complicate the process and slow throughput at the front end of any business.  To simplify this process, it would be better to have a list of discounts on the screen and only one scan to the POS applies the coupons.  In my opinion, the best option is to allow for selection of offers and coupons online via mobile or web, and then scan a mobile device at the POS to identify the customer via a membership id number.  When that virtual loyalty card is scanned, discounts are applied automatically depending on purchases.

I see solutions like mobeam and the Starbucks mobile payment solutions as evolutionary and necessary solutions to move the POS forward.   These solutions allow early adopters to prove out the business case for using mobile devices at the POS and to establish the comfort level of the greater population with using mobile interfaced POS solutions.  Both of these solutions represent key stepping stones towards the ever elusive mobile wallet.

2010.46 | 2D Barcodes are for Everybody Now

Seems like 2D Barcodes are picking up steam – at least from the perspective of the media.  Though these codes have been around for some time – originally used for labelling electronic components, they are finally making their way a little deeper into the mainstream.   2D has been discussed on this blog many times over the past 2 years.

Smartphones have made this possible with better faster hardware and software that allows users to scan codes very quickly – making the use of these codes far more practical than in the past. The value of 2D codes are their ability to provide a very simple bridge between mobile and touchpoints (point of sale, atm, payment terminals). While it’s possible to interface via NFC, bluetooth or wifi, all of the other options require setup, passwords or some other hardware. With 2D barcodes – there’s an app for that, and it’s basically point and shoot.

Some interesting uses of 2D barcodes in retail:

Ticketing – Expect to see more of this as consumers become more comfortable.  It already works for airlines, and given the demographic visiting movie theatres, who are more comfortable with mobile technology will move to this ticketing option in the future with movie theatres (Full Disclosure – NCR is my employer and owns Mobiqa) and concert venues leading the way.

Coupons – Coupons are common in today’s value consious consumer.  There are a number of initiatives taking place that use 2d barcodes.

Payment – Starbucks has been connecting a client’s stored value card to a 2D barcode that can be read at the POS for some time.  That’s old hat, though still uncommon.  A newer twist on this is a company called Cimbal, who are attempting to enable the mobile wallet via 2D barcodes.  This system shows a 2D barcode on the screen of the pinpad to be scanned by a mobile phone and then payments are directed.  This is a very interesting angle to avoiding a new device at the point of sale.

Informational – Scanning 2d barcodes from store shelves or posters is increasingly simple with all of these applications and can take the load off store staff for information.  Customers can scan a code from a poster or from a shelf edge to watch a video or a sales pitch of any media that vendors may want to provide to retailers.



Again, 2D barcodes are not new, nor is scanning a barcode to pull information.  It is the new comfort level with mobile technology that is pulling this technology to the fore.

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