2011.44 | Holiday Shopping Tech Tips

Everyone is looking for ways to simplify the Christmas shopping experience.  Here are a few of my personal recommendations.

Sears Wish Book for iPad – The catalog updated for today.  Make wish lists and order from directly within the calendar app.  All the fun of the catalog with the connectivity of the 21st century.  Shop from your couch as you were meant to do.  Available on iTunes.

Gifting Books on kobo – Shop online for an eBook, choose to gift it, and an email is sent to your gift recipient.  The recipient clicks a link on the email and the book is delivered to their kobo account so that the can read it on their ereader, mobile phone, tablet or computer.  You can also send an eGift Card so that they can pick their own.

Toys R Us Gift Cards Value Check – Got a gift card to use at Toys R Us but aren’t sure how much is left on it?  Go to a price verifier in store and scan it and the price verifier will tell you how much is on it.   No need to wait in line or have do that awkward dance of cutting in line to just do one little thing.   Also ensures unscrupulous cashiers are telling you the truth about card values without a receipt.  This works in various retailers.  Give it a shot.

Target Gaming Kiosk – Not sure which game to buy for your young gamer?  Want to be sure a title is appropriate?  For cross border shoppers, you can use the Target Video Game Advisor.

BMO Mobile Paypass – Skim a few seconds off your payment process by using the BMO Mastercard mobile paypass to buy lunch on your shopping trip.  Using the card on the back of your phone can save getting your wallet out.

Mastermind Reviews – Not sure what gift to pick up for your little ones?  Before you go to the Mastermind store to take advantage of their free gift wrapping, be sure to visit their website for gift advice and to minimize your time in store.  Mastermind makes great use of video reviews by their store specialists to show you the latest toys including what you get, what it does, and more.

Find things faster at Chapters Indigo.  Can’t find the books you want at Chapters Indigo?  Use the kiosks to find what you need.  If the store you are in doesn’t have the book, you can see which stores have the item in stock so you can visit them immediately.  Alternatively you can order a book directly from the kiosk for shipment home or to the store.

Use Evernote for your Shopping List – When browsing online I constantly see items that would be perfect for that special someone.  If I don’t make a note, that idea will be gone forever.   Make use of tools like Evernote to keep Christmas lists.  Evernote is a free web based service that lets you make notebooks of clippings, links, audio files, and more.   Using an applet in your web browser you can grab a link or even the entire web page including pictures, product details, pricing..everything.  All of your notebooks are accessible on the web, on a tablet or a mobile device, so you can even take the list with you as you shop with all of the details, pictures and prices.   Make a Christmas Shopping notebook, tag any items you add with the recipients name, add some notes, save it, and you have the most detailed Christmas list ever with almost no effort.

Buy a Movie Ticket on your mobile device – If you decide to go to a movie on a whim this holiday season, you can save time in line by purchasing them on the way to the theatre.  Just purchase tickets directly on your mobile device.  Empire Theatres has offered mobile phone ticket purchases for some time.  Cineplex also offers mobile ticket purchases from their app, and even lets you print those tickets at the theatre from a specially designated kiosk in some sites.

2009.50 | Gift Card Ubiquity

Gift cards become very visible at Christmas during the time of giving.  What’s driving the deluge of cards in Canada?  As always, there have be benefits to all parties to give a phenomenon momentum.  For consumers:

  • the elimination of gift card expiry dates in Ontario by law (and other provinces moving forward) has increased interest
  • they can be purchased outside of the issuing stores via programs like Blackhawk Gift Card Mall, providing a very convenient mall in a kiosk
  • their small size makes them portable for shipment anywhere around the world – no taxes, no duties, no problems
  • the prevelance of chain and big box stores often makes them usable close to most recipients, wherever they may be
  • they can be purchased online and sent to a recipient, avoiding a store visit and providing a personalized gift
  • while they are effectively cash, they indicate a level of thought based on where the card comes from (music lover = iTunes gift card)
  • they provide a simple way to gift without knowing sizes of the recipient for clothing purchases (avoids embarassing size gaffes)
  • there is no charge for MOST of the programs

At the same time, this provides the issuing organization a number of benefits:

  • for regional players, it brings in purchases from outside their normal geographical limits
  • they obtain funds up front – drives year end results
  • many cards are not redeemed or only partially redeemed resulting in income with little cost
  • there can be upsell to holders of cards – those with $100 cards will purchase an item over $100 and pay the balance
  • outside programs like Blackhawk can extend the reach of issuers with very little investment needed
  • assists consumers with fickle recipients and driving a sale
  • organizations can track the usage of cards to understand consumer behaviour of both purchaser and recipient
  • certain organizations can drive the cards to be used as an ongoing tender, locking in customers and revenue streams
  • drives revenue to stores in ways cash gifts cannot

Increased usage means increased competition for dollars spent on gift cards.  More usage can be expected for organizations that can get creative about the processes and features of gift cards, and there are so many ways to deal with this very simple concept.   There are a number of areas of potential, and examples around these:

Marketing – Differentiating one card from another will depend on the needs of the organizations constituents.  Examples of approaches include customized gift cards, buy 2 cards, get one free, and unique sizes and shapes.

Initial Purchase – Options will need to suit the target market for the cards.  In general, the ideal is allowing consumers the potential to purchase via the three key channels: point of service, via the internet, and mobile, and many cover at least two of these, with the third on the way.  As a twist on point of service, retailers and vendors are providing kiosks that print custom cards with unique images and names of givers and recipients.  The technology is proving itself and coming down in cost, so we can expect to see more of these in the future in higher volume initiatives.

Transfer to Recipients – Being able to provide the gift in a novel, simple and creative manner that suits the giver and the recipient.  Apple has provided the capability to provide a gift card via Facebook.  Amazon provides gift cards via email.  It won’t be long until we can purchase gift cards in Twitter.

Validating Balances and Adding Value to Cards – if this is simple and convenient with no costs, it can drive more usage of the card and more business to the card issueing organization. The Starbucks iPhone app (available in US only) allows users to register their cards on their iPhone, shows the actual image of the card they have, and add value to the card at the click of a button.  Toys R Us allows consumers to scan their gift cards at store price verifiers to validate the balance on the cards.

Redemption –  Simplicity and convenience can drive more usage of gift cards.  Starbucks iPhone app is providing gift card redemption via 2d barcodes on a trial basis.   Online stores like iTunes allow gift cards to be connected to an account and used against purchases until the amount is used up.

Given the increasing market of gift cards, expect the level of ingenuity to increase over the next year as everyone scrambles to get a piece of the market.

2009.14 | Barcodes | Changing Shoppers | Cards

Barcodes Revisited – NCR pretty much wrote the book on barcodes, but they are constantly evolving, with GS1 Databar and its myriad flavours. Being able to read barcodes and interact with data from the real world with the mobile is growing easier, as my post on SnapTell and ShopSavvy explained, and 2D barcodes and Microsoft Tag technology are also driving it along. Taking it a step further, instead of pointing to something else, some barcodes can contain the content directly.

Changing Shoppers – A recent Time article talked about some changes in today’s shoppers, including their use of technology to comparison shop, the glut of stores in America, and the impact on retailers today.

Cards Technology – The plethora of plastic card products overwhelming the world cannot be ignored. Gift cards, pre-paid mobile phone cards, chip and pin cards, NFC cards, and RFID cards of all stripes are part of our changing retail landscape. There are some interesting twists on the technology that I’ve been looking at lately. There are gift card printers that allow plastic cards to be printed with different retailer logos, values, pictures and messages on them. There are new RFID cards that are ONLY activated when the user applies pressure to avoid security issues. Concerned about the ecological impact of plastic cards on the environment? New biodegradable Envirocards avoid landfills being filled with cards for millions of years.

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