2013.17 | cookies | kiosks | 51 co’s | eBay | purchext

Picture of Product as Tender – Weetabix in the UK recently had an offer where consumers can obtain a free Weetabix On The Go in a retail store by merely showing the cashier an image of the product.  And I thought retailers had fun with regular old coupons.  While it’s kinda fun, it seems somewhat pointless.  Effectively it’s the same as telling clients just to ask for a free sample – and that’s what will happen in stores as we all know.

Google ‘Kiosks’ – Google has announced a managed public sessions feature for chromebooks.  Google envisions this as a simple way to enable chromebooks as public internet kiosks for stores to offer customers a way to purchase things online that may not be in stock at the store or other ‘kiosk-type’ solutions.   As a retail technology professional I find these sorts of announcements interesting because it seems a bit like looking for a reason to have a feature.  It’s been possible to lock down kiosk terminals, notebooks, tablets, and even regular old pcs with kiosk mode on browsers or with special software packages for some time.  While a chromebook is a bit cheaper than a full fledged notebook, this kiosk feature seems a marginal benefit.


51 Companies – Business Insider has an incredibly exhaustive list of 51 Retail Innovators that is a must read list for retailers. I’ve covered a number of the companies using technology for retail, but this a great list to provide some inspiration.  Some of my favourites: fab (curation), hointer (using your mobile for catalog like shopping in a store), and stylitics (track your wardrobe – think fashion only pinterest with what you have, not just what you want).

eBay Pop-up Store – eBay is apparently moving into real world retail as a part of a partnership with Kate Spade.  Unofficially, a pop-up Kate Spade store in NYC will be outfitted with a large touch screen window, presumably to allow purchases of items in the store.  eBay wish to provide a platform to assist real world retail sites to meld with the online.


Purchext – A new Canadian app shown at Disrupt NYC 2013 provides parents the chance to remotely validate purchases of their children for release of funds to their bank account.   Interesting idea that I could see grocers considering within their own systems to ensure that family’s keep their purchases in the chain!  So much for the party run to the grocery store on dad’s card.


2013.05 | Facebook Card | Sport Chek Lab | Traffic

facebook-card-balance-mobileFacebook Gift Card – Facebook recently announced a Facebook branded giftcard that can be used in the real world.  If you wish to gift someone at a Jamba Juice, Sephora, Target, or Olive Garden, one only has to select that recipient from your list of Facebook friends, identify them as a gift recipient and pay -much as you would do for any other gift card.  The gift recipient is mailed an actual physical Facebook branded card to use in stores like Target.  What makes this card unique and worthy of interest is the fact that the card can be reloaded with balances from multiple retailers.   Thinking about it this way, Facebook are providing another centralized payment mechanism.  That is, while in a card form now, Facebook is beginning  to act as a centralized clearing house for payments.  The Facebook card could be used as a future payment platform for online purchases, or via a mobile app like Starbucks does, or as a card as it is now.  Based on the card images it appears to be provided by some sort of partnership with Discover.  Looks like there is another potential partnership vying for space in the world’s already crowded wallet – mobile or otherwise. via psfk

skitchSport Chek Retail Lab – Looks like I’ll have to get on down to North Toronto to check out the latest in technology to get us to buy athletic equipment.  It seems that Sport Chek have put together lots of tech in a store deemed the Sport Chek Retail Lab to try it out.  I love the passion for the technology, and will definitely head over to visit.  While it sounds like it’s more of a lab scenario and therefore subject to different rules than a more traditional store, my only caution on projects like this is whether or not there is a need for all of the technology.

Things I would watch for in visiting this store:

  • is the technology really selling more merchandise than if we just put the items on a shelf in an attractive, engaging manner that is a part of the brand experience?
  • is the technology providing a truly unique customer experience?
  • is the technology assisting customers in a way that is not possible without it?
  • is the technology part of an overarching targeted customer experience, or are these just toys?
  • does the technology usage fit the retailers brand and customer demographic?

I love technology for its own sake, but not everyone does.  My experience dictates that if these technologies are to find their way into more than just a flagship or a demo store, they have to bring benefits to the retailer and the consumer.  It certainly appears that no option has been overlooked at this site!  Check out all of the tech!  I look forward to visiting and seeing the place myself!  via Artisan Complete

books_set2-1Book Recommendation: I just finished reading: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt.

I enjoyed this book a great deal.  A few thoughts on why you might as well:

  • It will make you re-think your driving habits.  If you are like me, you’ve taken driving for granted and don’t think about it much.  You will think about it after you read the book.
  • There is so much around us that we don’t notice because we see it so much!
  • It helps to reset your perception of open mindedness.  I found the discussion of some renegade traffic planners in Europe removing street signs altogether and completely re-thinking roads and intersections to be an incredible example of how you can think completely outside of your assumptions.
  • Some fascinating ideas that are covered in the book: the rise of eating in the car – discussions of drive thrus – how we change our personality when we drive and why – how seeing eyes (real or artificial) can change your behaviour – a discussion of the psychology of queueing and how it holds true in traffic and in other areas – how we never get feedback on driving – how traffic design may not seem to be in your best interest but it is for the greater good – there is a ‘starbucks effect’ for traffic – that looking for the best parking spot at the mall is a waste of time – cars are parked 95% of the time – free parking has a high cost – comparing traffic to queuing at Disney – how rules affect behaviour like Pizza Hut in China
  • While he doesn’t cover Google’s self driving cars and their impact (the book was published in 2008), he did write about them for Wired this year.

I was surprised to see that it had so much information of relevance for my work.  I found myself in that first year university scenario where I was highlighting more of the book than not.  If you work in retail or retail technology, I guarantee there is something in this book for you! via 99 percent invisible

2011.33 | Self Service Implementations

I’ve been traveling through North America over recent weeks, and saw some self service solutions out in the world that were worth sharing.

Toronto Airport Printing Kiosks provided by ePrintit:   Saw these kiosks on a recent trip from YYZ to YUL.  The picture is blurry as I was walking by it early in the morning.  The idea is that busy travelers can print documents via USB or email.  I’ve not had an opportunity to use it, but it seems a robust enough solution.  The solution appears to be brand-able by the owner of the location, and this one was branded by the airport in Toronto.  My main reservation would be how much  anyone really needs to print anything anymore in the age of mobile boarding passes, hotel reservations that are numbers and even RFPs that are increasingly requested via electronic copy.   I may not be the market they are looking for.

New York Lottery Instant Ticket Dispensing Machine –  installed in a rest stop along the New York Thruway.  The part of the solution that surprised me was the lack of any age verification beyond an attendant in the store.  I guess they could police it, but if the area became busy, it would be possible for minors to buy scratch tickets.  I’ve not seen these solutions anywhere in Canada, where we don’t allow cigarette machines, and I know provincial lotteries are vigilant about under age gambling making the lack of presence unsurprising.

Frankly, given the number of times I’m waiting behind people purchasing lottery tickets, I would welcome them to speed up the lines in stores as long as there was an age verification mechanism involved.

Pilot Travel Center One Stop Kiosk – installed at a Pilot site in Georgia off I-75.  This service is for commercial truck drivers, and catered specifically to their needs including special offers and details on loyalty cards as well as the ability to print receipts.  The most unique thing on it was the ability for truck drivers to order a shower.  The kiosk assigns the user a shower and provides a code that will unlock the facility assigned to them. The user can enter the code at the door and they are allowed entry.  There was also an internally focused kiosk for Pilot Center employees in the store as well.  This is a unique implementation in my experience!

Polynesian Resort – Walt Disney World – Captain Cooke’s Quick Service Restaurant Self Ordering Kiosk – While making a required WDW pilgrimage, I used these kiosks a number of times.  The kiosks are part of a hybrid self service/assisted service model.  Customers enter their main meal orders on the kiosks, and a ticket with barcode and transaction number is printed.  Customers then visit the assisted point of service and present their ticket.  The attendant looks up the suspended order on the kiosks and it is brought up on the assisted service terminal.  While the solution isn’t fully streamlined; providing an end to end ordering and tendering solution, it makes sense in this unique environment.  WDW has a dining plan with myriad rules that would make tendering via self-service a very challenging task for the uninitiated.   I also visited the Grand Floridian, which did not have this system, and this kiosk ordering system seems to work much better than having to interrupt the kitchen staff with orders.  Overall, a useful solution, once you got used to it.  Given that this facility is open 24 hours, it also seemed to have terrific uptime as all units were always running when I was there.

Coca-cola vending machine with large format LCD touch screen – installed at Epcot @ WDW, these units had full motion video on top and bottom and full size images of the product for sale inside them.  These units were much more visually appealing than the usual soda vending machines.   On the upside, the potential for branding and messaging are endless.  With a touchscreen , interactive opportunitiesabound for marketing types.  With connectivity, it should also be always possible to provide electronic payment, leverage remote updates on inventory to minimize truck rolls to restock, and to get real time updates on the sales by beverage.  The units are probably more expensive than current units, given the hardware involved, and probably leverage more electricity.  Unfortunately I didn’t buy anything from it to see how it worked, as I drank my fill of free sugary beverages from seven countries around the world right next to it for free.Plumreward iPad Solution – installed at my local Boston Pizza at the point of sale is an iPad in an enclosure.  This solution is linked with Plumreward – not to be confused with Plumrewards for all of you Canadians. It allows users to leverage offers across various retailers.  Interestingly, the iPad looks so small in this environment that I originally mistook it for a digital picture frame.  My concern is that it is so small it might be overlooked by customers.  This is an interesting implementation – similar to email marketing implementations I’ve seen before, but not as comprehensive as solutions provided by others.
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