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.

2010.06 | From Self Service to Make it Yourself

After reading the fascinating and highly recommended Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller by Jeff Rubins, it got me thinking about really big picture environmental and social changes and their impact on retail.   One small outcome of the changes to come according to this very broad and intelligent book is that the increasing cost of oil will drive the cost of transportation so high that a whole lot more manufacturing will take place in North America.  As oil costs rise, the  lower wages for manufacturing in far flung places will be offset by increased transportation costs.  It’s already happened to a certain degree as part of the recent recession.  As chief economist at CIBC for 20 years, Jeff’s ideas have credence.

Another big picture idea that blew me away was in the latest issue of Wired that includes an article about a new generation of affordable technology allowing for incredibly cost effective product development and for crowdsourced projects.  One example is the makerbot open source 3d printer, a kit that anyone can buy for $700 and assemble to “print” 3 dimensional items using ABS plastic from plans that can be made with free tools like Google Sketchup.

The impact of these two items to retail?

  • There will be an increased demand for labour for manufacturing jobs in coming years if Jeff Rubin is correct.  The result are fewer people to keep the service economy going.  The people that work in the hospitality industry, the grocery stores, the boutiques, movie theatres, and more.  This means more demand for technology solutions to deal with labour scarcity and reduce flexibility.  This was a problem during the oil boom in Western Canada in the 2007-2008 timeframe.  Expect it to happen again, and with deeper impact.  With fewer options available, retailers will need to consider every option available to stretch labour dollars to build flexibility into their systems while minimizing costs.  Self service will grow.
  • With capacity for design resources made available affordably to those who did not have it before, expect to see ever more products available in much shorter runs.  With more differentiated products available to serve the Long Tail, this could mean reduced sales for big box stores, as niche players find a place in the market.  It will probably also drive a number of niche players to work via mail order via the web and skip the retailer altogether.   At the very least, the big players will have to be more selective in their product mix for sale, and either way it makes life more complicated, with smaller segments served by individual products, or with many more SKU’s available and having to be tracked and turned in stores.
  • In the even bigger picture, for very simple products, retailers can expect to see the problems that the music industry and the movie industry have experienced for a few years.  Not only can these printers make a prototype, they can make a product.  The makerbot makes the potential of downloading plans for a model car and building it myself quite real.  With this technology in its infancy, it is not a stretch to build your own mobile phone with the right plans, some plastic, and some kits from my favourite electronics store in the near future.  Retailers and manufacturers will have to consider the potential of tomorrow’s Napster not sharing music, but plans for the latest Nike shoes, or a Google Phone Knockoff.

Social Media today, Social Manufacturing tomorrow.  From More reading:  Makers, Makezine.

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