2014.07 | TRNK | touchscreen table

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TRNK – Many of today’s successful retailers are really creative curators.  TRNK represents a terrific example of the focus on curation in retail. In fact, visitors to the site may be unclear on whether they are visiting an online magazine, an online retailer, or a blog.  The site portrays a particular style. If readers enjoy that style, they can bring that style into their own lives through buying products showcased.  There are links to all sorts of home decoration elements and furniture – with all of the links pointing to a variety of retailers and even eBay for vintage items.

Sites like TRNK provide an interesting opportunity for retailers.  Specialty retailers work incredibly hard to build their brands with their own sense of style to suit a certain segment, and may consider these sites a potential dilution of their brand.  That said, the emergence of the online world has enabled an incredible number of different communities driven by different interests, and it is becoming increasingly challenging to market to all of them one by one.  Embracing these lifestyle sites / marketplaces and their respective followers can provide retailers a resource to outsource the challenge of marketing to these increasingly diverse communities.

Specialty retailers would find it beneficial to enable these sites to showcase their products paired with those of other complimentary products.  Shoe retailers find themselves challenged with pairing their shoes with entire outfits – a disadvantage from fashion retailers that are increasingly offering shoes for sale as well.  As well as using their own resources to suggest the right ensemble for shoes, these retailers could point to these lifestyle sites so that their clients can see for themselves how the shoes will look paired with the outfits.  Cultivating a network of these sorts of lifestyle sites as partners is basically a retailer version of the Amazon Associates program where participants can advertise products with a link to Amazon and get a cut of the sale.  Why shouldn’t specialty retailers enable the same sort of programs – with more style – and expand their reach?

CapturePizza Hut Touchscreen Table – A concept video for a touchscreen table a la Microsoft Surface (Now PixelSense) was released by a Pizza Hut a couple of weeks ago.  It has the requisite upbeat tunes, beautiful graphics and uncluttered and simple interfaces complete with paying with your phone just by having it on the table. It’s a great idea and really the extension of tablet ordering solutions like those employed at places like Buffalo Wild Wings.  Of course, in real life the challenges are a little more complicated.  From a logistical perspective:

  • Tables are never completely clear of items in a restaurant as shown in the video (napkins, condiments, cutlery),
  • This thing will get quite greasy at a Pizza place (looked at your tablet in the bright light of day recently? Add pizza and kids),
  • Can you imagine fighting with your kids over who has control of this thing at any particular time and do we want to watch them play more games?, 
  • iPhones don’t have NFC, which would be the requirement for the payment element element to work as shown,
  • How much more costly is this table than a regular table?  what is the added value to the customer and to the company?,
  • Is the system connected to the in-store inventory?  How happy are clients when they finally configure their pizza and they are out of onions or whole wheat dough?
  • How much work is it to change this when the menu changes?
  • Isn’t it faster just to tell them what you want?
  • How will people who can’t figure out how Netflix works make this work?

I love the concept.  I would use it, but then, I’m a Netflix guru. It’s much easier to poke holes than it is to make these thing work, and I applaud the vision.  My main concern is around flash over substance.  Over half of the people in North America walk around with a computer in their pocket. Should we put another huge one into every table? I’m for it, but I’m not paying!

2013.16 | #music | curation | pizza

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Twitter Music – It’s difficult to believe that iTunes turned 10 this past month.  The way that music is purchased and consumed has certainly changed drastically in that time.  Perhaps the way we discover new music is about to change as well.  Twitter recently released their twitter music service which allows users to see and sample top and trending music as well as music that interests the people you follow on Twitter. Accessible online or via mobile, subscribers to rdio and spotify can even link to their accounts to be able to hear the complete tracks.  It’s a clever way to leverage data at their fingertips to provide value for their users and to monetize their system.

Curation – It’s interesting that the focus on so many things retail is moving from price and selection to curated experiences.  It makes a great deal of sense to move the retail experience away from commodity items that can be obtained from the lowest bidder to becoming the sales agent by providing clients a window into what they like.  Leveraging data and taste to sell stuff is a natural move and we can expect to see a great deal more of this.

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Two of the most interesting retailers I’ve been following are Frank & Oak and JackThreads.  Both of these retailers are blurring the lines between online retailer, a social club, and a mens magazine.  Email marketing missives from these organizations are as fun to open as messages from your friends – because they read like they are from friends.  Recent messages from JackThreads parent company Thrillist included gems like roomba like mini bbq cleaners, a walking hexapod and HD video glasses.  Frank & Oak’s first email to me was an invitation for me to join from an actual real life friend of mine.   On registration they asked me to categorize myself by selecting how I dress at work, what kind of clothing elements I like etc.  From that, they show me my store when I get online.

The communications from these organizations don’t feel like they are constantly trying to sell with discount offer emails like more traditional retailers.  They all but force you to get a login so that we can be identified, and yet they feel more like the promise of the ongoing conversation we’ve all been looking forward to with omnichannel retailing – with an actual conversationalist.  Online, mobile, email, and apps in JackThreads case, all seem to provide a single view to the client.  There’s some work to be done, but there is a promising future for these sorts of new retailers.  Perhaps like Amazon and Warby Parker, stores will be in the cards for these retailers as well.

Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 7.04.23 PMPizza Hut on Xbox 360 – You can never have too many ways to order pizza.  Over the years we’ve seen pizza ordering from websites, fridge magnets, augmented reality, tablets, facebook, and now Xbox 360.  The ability to order pizza via a video game console makes perfect sense.  It’s just another touchpoint, and provides another channel through which the target market spends their time.  This is yet another example of a savvy organization noting where their potential customers spend their time and making it easy and fun to do business with them.  Other organizations would do well to take note.  With a proliferation of channels, it’s important to be selective, but picking the right channels to suit your business and your customers could result in a perfect match.

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