2014.16 | google indoor maps

CaptureOn a recent trip to Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto, I noticed that Google Maps indicates the stores within the building directly within the online version of maps as well as within the iPhone mobile app. The functionality is enabled by the Google Indoor Maps Program.

I prefer not to install retailer or mall specific apps solely for location finding. They clutter mobile home screens with rarely used apps. It makes more sense for shoppers to get this data where it belongs and where users look – in maps – online or within a map app on their mobile.  Providing maps this way removes the barriers to getting what shoppers want – the location of the store they wish to visit.

Picture2The indoor maps work pretty well, though on the mobile it can be a bit finicky to zoom correctly to get the store name to reveal itself. Users can touch a pin to show current location in the building. For multi-level shopping centres you can also select the level via a handy popup. Check this out at The Eaton Centre in Toronto in Google Maps as an example.

This is a tremendous offering from Google for retailers. As part of the Google Indoor Map Program, the facility owners control the indoor map, which makes the most sense as it puts the ability to update the information in the hands of those who have control of what is in the building and have a vested interest in ensuring the data is accurate.

All shopping centres should upload store details as a service to their tenants. All retailers should demand this service and ensure that their stores are represented correctly.  Shoppers should demand this service from retailers and shopping centre landlords.

The biggest challenge to wayfinding solutions is keeping the data current. Wrong location data represents lost sales and shopper frustration and retailer’s real estate teams should keep a close eye on their store sites in shopping centres to ensure the data is current. Oversight is bound to vary by facility.  Google Streetview can become dated depending on the location as stores change, which they do frequently.  Updating floor plans is more easily completed and where shoppers are likely to look.

Google also ups the ante with Google Business View – the ability to show the inside of the stores, like Google Streetview for the insides of buildings.  This seems more oriented at unique individual shops versus retail chains, but may be a way for retailers to bring some traffic in to unique flagship stores or new banners or concepts.

If Google wants to take these maps to the next level as I expect they will, expect Google Now to give shoppers a list of chain stores in the mall to visit based on their email messages and receipts in Gmail. No need to download store site or mall apps. A deeper step would be to enable a Google Card to show emails from the Gmail account divided into offers and transactions so that users can consider deals or have transaction details available for returns from their most visited retail establishments, and allow users to pull up info quickly and easily and have it ready before they know they need it.

Associate facing devices in stores could also leverage the indoor maps so that store staff can assist shoppers with directions. Department stores may even wish to have various departments mapped within the store to fully direct shoppers.  Google Indoor Maps represents ‘free’ IT infrastructure for retailers that should not be overlooked.

Accurate location data makes life easier for a segment of the population who are often high value clients and this data will soon be expected by the general population.  Get those stores on the maps and share the news with shoppers!

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2013.24 | satellites | car apps | makers

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 10.28.23 PMSatellitesSkybox is a startup documented in a recent Wired magazine article that plans to get relatively cost effective satellites into space around the planet so that they can sell constantly images of the planet online.  This represents an interesting opportunity for retailers. With updated data and solutions from companies like Remote Sensing Metrics, retailers can do more than just scout out sites for new locations. With constantly updated and date-stamped data it is possible to see how many cars are in the parking lot at your stores and those of competitors at certain times of day. Sales data shows people who bought from you. Door counting solutions count how many people came into the store. Why not see if traffic is translating into results?

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 10.38.22 PMCar Apps – Omnichannel will become increasingly real and more complex as car makers like GM and others begin to offer apps for cars. What if an app that runs on your car could remind you of your shopping list as you pass your favourite grocer? What if your GPS can suggest a shopping stop to wait out a traffic jam? What if your spouse’s shopping list with exact items and prices, could be transferred to a store on your way home and per-order your basket for pickup?

All of these concepts represent real opportunities made possible with car apps (or smartphone apps that play nice with cars) as well as an Omnichannel infrastructure.  Retailers that can quickly release apps to take advantage of these technological advances could gain some advantage if the solution suits their demographic. The greatest challenge will be bending infrastructure to accommodate these advances in the coming years.

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 10.44.08 PMMakersChris Anderson’s latest book provides an in depth look into the world of makers – a new generation of tinkerers with access to ever cheaper and more sophisticated tools and materials.  The book is definitely worth a read to expose yourself to this culture.

A few of my favourite items touched on in the book:

– 123D is a set of apps from autodesk that have a make menu that has the equivalent of a print button to print out physical objects with a 3d printer.  123D catch allows you to print a physical object from a photo.

– Quirky – A social development website that helps inventors get their ideas out there.

– Experiments with IKEA furniture indicate that when people help build their creations they bid 67% more for their own creations.  Some potential differentation for vendors and retailers. (Chapter 5: The Long Tail of Things)

– Digital fabrication makes it possible to make niche products in small batches in nearly the same quality as big fabricators.  Makes 3D printing and the like seem something worthy of attention.  (Chapter 6: The Tools of Transformation)

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the material covered.  It’s a great book to change the way you think of manufacturing and how things get made.

 

2012.31 | Store Maps | Gyft | Cars

Store Maps – Google Maps for Android is now expanding indoors in select sites in France.  From their release it appears that they are providing maps of the inside of stores including Carrefour and Galeries Lafayette Montparnasse.    I love this idea, and hope it catches on in North America.  The greatest challenge with mapping places like the insides of stores is the incredible amount of change.  Like Google Streetview which can get dated with businesses changing on the street, there is a certain amount of upkeep required to ensure that sites will not become stagnant and not useful.   Hopefully the Google army keeps up their good work to keep their incredible mapping network at the forefront.

Gyft for Passbook – The release of Passbook on iOS this week has renewed the hopes of the technophile community that the electronic wallet may finally be making its way into the mainstream.  Online giftcard seller Gyft has announced that their solution is now Passbook enabled, so that giftcards you purchase from Gyft can be used directly from iOS devices.  I love the idea of being able to give and recieve a giftcard electronically to a giftcard wallet on a mobile to ensure it isn’t forgotten or lost.  Since Gyft already does mobile phone redemption, I expect all of their merchants are ready to read codes directly from a smartphone screen.  Great solution and the perfect use of Passbook.  I was pondering how Passbook could move us away from the wallet, but I’ve always wondered how we get remove the requirement for ID cards like Drivers Licenses or Health Cards.  Check out Wired Magazine’s Christina Boddington’s articles on living without a wallet for a month.   Turns out a picture of your drivers license on your mobile won’t get you into a club.

Cars – While these items aren’t directly retail based, consider the potential changes to retailing down the road (pun intended).

First, Tesla allowed Elon Musks’ personal Tesla S electric sedan to be extensively test driven and it sounds like it’s pretty amazing.

Second, as part of their plans to deploy electric cars on a massive scale, Tesla also announced they are deploying free to use Solar Powered rapid car charging stations.  The stations can replenish 3 hours of driving time at 60 mph in 30 minutes.  The stations are as shown in the above image – a tall black and white monolith.  You have to admire their vision!

Third, autonomous vehicles are now legal in California thanks to recently passed legislation announced by Sergey Brin of Google and the Governor of California.  Google has already logged over 300,000 miles in cars that drive themselves, and this the beginning of making that an option for everyone.

Put those three things together and ponder the potential repercussions to various retailers.  Cars may not need gas anymore, fuel may be free or supplied at home.  People may need to fuel by sitting in one location for thirty minutes, and people may be able to pay little or no attention while they are driving (that part doesn’t seem different).   These are some extreme changes to society that could influence the petroleum industry, convenience stores, and all retailers.  Should gas stations become electrical fuel stations? Not likely.  Could parking lots and parking spaces be wired to charge everyone’s cars?  Maybe.  If we aren’t driving in a car, could we be shopping or validating our next destination?  Definitely.

None of these things are certain societal changes, and none of them will happen overnight, but they can certainly influence retail businesses, and owners should be watching for an opportunity to change to meet the needs of a new generation of consumers.

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