2013.32 | iOS 7 for retailers

iOS 7 was released on September 19 to a great deal of fanfare.  With so much change in one release it can be easy to miss some of the details.  Hidden among the flat icons, control center and iRadio are some intriguing OS elements that could be leveraged by retailers to enable enhanced shopping experiences.    Check out some of the changes:

ibeaconsiBeacon – All of us in the retail technology world can expect to hear much more about iBeacon in the coming weeks.  Scores of articles are popping up on this little noticed item nestled into the long list of changes in iOS 7.  If you search the Apple corporate site, there is no information published on it, but it may finally unlock the mobile interaction nirvana that other attempts (nfc, shopkick and many more) have struggled to attain.   iBeacon is a technology that allows sensors to identify when consumers are in a very localized site – much more exact than GPS can ever be – and workable indoors.  This makes it possible to provide information to a mobile device in proximity to a beacon.

MLBVisit-360x640MLB has been working on a demo with Apple since early in the year.  In this use case, using a venue specific app on the mobile device will cause different actions to occur on the mobile based on the users location in the stadium driven by proximity to sensors that the app can identify.  When users near a ticket gate, their tickets pop up on the screen.  When they pass the ticket gate, detailed directions to their seat are on the screen.  When they visit a hot dog stand, purchases can drive an on screen loyalty card that with a buy 10 get one free type scheme reminiscent of the old Subway Sub club.   All in all, it’s possible to provide a custom experience for park visitors.

It’s not a real stretch to see where this sort of technology can be a game changer for retailers.  Not only is it possible to provide pinpoint location in a store, the user is known via the app.  The experience can change for every user depending on how the retailer wants to drive the conversation.  If you have a VIP client, perhaps you invite them to ask for their free bottle of San Pellegrino directly on an app to give it that sense of magic.  Perhaps one client gets a 10% off coupon for shoes, but another gets 20% off on leather goods in the same area.  Add to the personal touch the ability to tell who is taking you up on the offers and you’ve got a winning formula for selling in store.

While this technology is an enabler, I see serious complexity and tracking challenges for retailers on these beacons.   This is an incredible opportunity to improve and customize a customer experience, but it’s going to take time to get it right and figure out the rules to win over customers.

frequent locations

Frequent Locations – In iOS 7, Apple has built a tracker to indicate a user’s frequent locations.  The idea being that contextual location data can be provided to anticipate the user’s needs.

With this information it would be easy to identify a user’s regular visitation of a particular branch of a major retailer and leverage that data in apps.  Notifications of upcoming events at those locations could be highlighted to the user if they opt in to messaging.  Perhaps users could be prompted for their favourite stores for Passbook instead of having to identify them on things like their Starbucks card, or even better, it could just add favourite stores automatically based on the invidividual user’s data.

keychainKeychain – Mac Users are accustomed to keeping a mini database of their logins, passwords, and credit card information on their OSX systems.  Google chrome has similar functionality in it’s autofill functionality.

Keychain has been ported to iOS 7 and can store local passwords.  Earlier test versions seemed to indicate that Keychain was going to leverage iCloud to centrally store all of this information, but it was cut in the late stages of release.

While this isn’t fully implemented through iCloud, this move towards central and secure storage of credit cards provides a potential workaround for all of the in store payment scenarios that wreak such havok and drive up time and cost on deployments.

Consider a shopper with an app that allow them to scan items in the store.  Instead of having to go to a self-checkout, a pay station, or a regular POS, what if the app could ask for permission to use a stored card on the mobile for payment based on a PIN?

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Passbook  – Using passbook has always been a bit of a disappointment to myself and others.  It’s not intuitive to use, but the update made it a bit less annoying by removing the shredder that kills old tickets.

Uptake from retailers is picking up (there are 17 passbook apps on the Canadian app store as of this writing  Longos, Starbucks, and Sephora are the only non-travel and entertainment type apps).  I’ve used Starbucks, Cineplex, and Air Canada quite often and they’ve all worked well.    I just don’t see people using it much in the wild as you can also use the regular apps to pay for starbucks or to present your ticket barcodes for scanning.

Where the iOS 7 improvement comes in is a small change that incorporates the camera as a scanner.   One of the shortcomings of using coupons with Passbook in iOS 6 is that you had to find an offer that had the add to Passbook button and now add it.

Apple has now made it possible for consumers to cross from the world of paper to the mobile world.  Much more work needs to be done on Passbook.  Retailers and Apple need to find a symbiotic way to get customers comfortable with it, but this is a decent addition.

iOS 7 is an interesting study.  For myself, the interesting part of iOS 7 is watching users grapple with changed features, unforeseen glitches, and losing functionality to which they may be accustomed.  I’ve listened to my share of complaints on iOS 7 from my family and friends and acted as remote support on a few challenges so far.

As mobile devices become fundamentally ingrained into society and into everyone’s lives, these changes become personal and incredibly widespread.  Working in retail technology for many years, I’ve grappled with these challenges with retail clients over the years, and there are many parallels to updates applied across stores.  The important lesson is to embrace the change and look for the opportunities to leverage the potential for improvements that drove the change in the first place.  Retailers and consumers have much to gain from the ideas here, and everyone will have to learn together how to benefit.

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2013.30 | wearable technology & retail

fashionable google glass

After years of experimenting with barely wearable technology, society is beginning to accept wearable technology as part of our every day life.  From bluetooth coats to change tracks on your mobile, to heads up displays in ski googles, wearable tech is slowly and innocuously making its way to the mainstream.  As with so many technologies, there are opportunities for retail to provide a customer experience to suit the needs of their constituents.  Consider the following wearables and their impact on retail.

glasses – Yes, google glass look ridiculous, but work is underway to remedy that shortcoming.  if glasses with augmented reality can be made to look less ridiculous, rest assured there is a significant segment of the population that will wear and use them.  Recognizing the potential concerns of arming people with subtle recording devices, some places are doing are banning them.  While this is an understandable reaction, can bans be maintained if google glass and other augmented reality systems become indiscernible from regular eyewear?

There was a time when whipping out a camera in a store would be so noticeable that store staff would react immediately and may ask you to stop or to leave.  Now it’s more common than not to see someone using their mobile in a store.  It now requires effort to tell if someone is taking photos on store, and it’s challenging to address reasonably even if you could tell what they were doing.

crystal shopper

Mobile usage in stores is everywhere, fuelling the concerns of showrooming so common over the past few years.

If glass becomes common enough, controlling client interactions in store becomes a bit more challenging.  With a heads up display and hands free operation, comparison shopping gets a little easier.  In fact, the Crystal Shopper app lets users comparison shop hands free so that when glass ramps up for distribution next year, you can expect other similar apps to find their way into the hands of consumers.

smart watchesPebble made a big splash with support to the tune of over $10 million on Kickstarter last year.  Pebble is a watch that connects to iOS or Android devices via bluetooth.  Out of the box, the unit shows the time, sms notifications and messages, gmail notifications and messages, controls music tracks and are essential geek status symbols.  This sidekick to the mobile allows users to keep their mobile in their pocket instead of constantly pulling out their mobile to communicate, a benefit to which consumers indicated their support with their wallets on kickstarter.  The Pebble vision is to allow developers to make apps to build on this functionality via an SDK, though this has been slow to pick up to date.  Samsung wisely took this show of support to heart by developing their own smartwatch scheduled for release in fall 2013. Samsung has added the ability for developers to build apps for their watch via an SDK.

eBay-app

While they are fun gadgets, retailers may wonder what value they may hold for shopping.  There are a number of usages already possible.

  • Use your smartwatch to pay at Starbucks by scanning it at the register in place of the mobile device  I did it recently with a giftcard barcode substituted for a watchface. Now a customer can pay for coffee even if they forget their wallet AND mobile.  There is no reason a retailer couldn’t build an official app to enable gift card payments with a smartwatch.  One more small step towards not having to pull out anything, as the watch is already on your wrist.
  • As part of their initial release presentation Samsung indicated that they will have a number of apps available at smartwatch release.  One of them was the eBay app.  This app provides realtime updates of auctions so that bidders don’t miss out on their favourite auction items. Interactive notifications for other retail services could be implemented by others.

jewellery – There are a number of technology based jewellery solutions that have an opportunity to find usage in the wider world.

Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 10.24.19 PMThe Nymi bracelet identifies the user by their unique ECG signature.  This bracelet is designed to assist with password replacement.  Being able to unlock our devices is a unique way to identify ourselves to our devices that could as easily be used for retail situations.  If a standard API is available to work with mobile devices like iPads or Android powered tablets, this bracelet could also replace signatures on deliveries, provide simple customer (loyalty) identification or to open lockers for shipment pickup.

Retailers are best to consider these wearable technology solutions as an opportunity.  Every new situation is an opportunity to differentiate.  LIke building mobile apps for clients to fulfill unrecognized needs or provide unique services that weren’t possible before, all of these devices represent opportunities.  The greater challenge is that the next big thing isn’t the ONLY next big thing.  Entertainment began with live theatre and added endless channels such as recorded music, radio, movies, television and more.  It hasn’t shed any of these channels.  It’s just adding more.

UPDATE 2013-09-17:  belt – Now wearable technology can assist with wayfinding in retail as well.  Mobile Travel Guide provider Triposo are experimenting with a belt that can help users to find their way without staring at a screen.  The gps app communicates with a special belt to direct users.  Four vibrating motors (front, left, right, back) are embedded in the belt.  As users walk, the belt vibrates the correct direction of movement and users move in that direction.  Get in store location working and now kiosks are not needed, and customers can keep their heads up as they walk.

2013.28 | thirdlove | ubi | ikea ar

thirdlove-screenshots

thirdlove – Fit is more important than ever with online clothing purchases.  A trusted fit can drive more return sales and loyal clients.  Driven by technology under development by Nasa scientists, a soon to be released app now in beta from lingerie company thirdlove will allow women to size themselves for a bra with just two selfies in a tank top.  It would seem logical that if images can be used to build sizes for undergarments that the next progression could be the capability of capturing sizes of for other apparel with images.  Such a solution would be a valuable addition to any retailer’s app or website.

ubi – Make any surface a touchscreen with a little help from ubi interactive.  All that is needed is a windows 8 pc, a kinect, a projector, and the ubi app.

For $149 and some off the shelf components, retailers are free to enable some unique customer experiences in store.  For those willing to invest in the enterprise version of the app, it’s even possible to do multi-touch apps on 100 inch display.

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With the release of the kinect, interactive experiences become cost effective and relatively easy to implement.  Software could now be used to redesign huge areas of stores very quickly.  Instead of repainting, or sending out signage, messaging, planograms and store display instructions to stores for staff to implement, entire areas of the store could be redesigned with a software update distributed to the store and the repositioning of projectors on tracks on the ceiling to great effect.  With the increasing integration of technology into our lives, these unique experiences, if built to address a target clientele, can drive more traffic and more business.

ikea 2014 catalog app

ikea augmented reality – The 2014 catalog app from Ikea lets consumers see how furniture will look in their home environment by overlaying images of the products over their camera.  The app cleverly uses the size of the paper ikea catalog to get the scale of the image on which the product is placed.  While the Lowe’s Canada app from 2012 pioneered this sort of application by letting clients look at the details of a refrigerator and washer, this is an even better use of the technology.  Taking uncertainty out of the purchase by letting clients see the room with the product are more likely to make the purchase, and may even do so online.

Next step: How about including the Ikea collection in virtual staging (via Spark 213). What better way to capture potential furniture sales than to show potential home buyers what their new homes would look like fully furnished in the latest home fashions from Sweden?

2013.27 | uniqul | aireal | 3dfit

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Uniqul – A Finnish company recently released an identification scheme based on facial recognition.  The Uniqul concept video imagines the use of a camera to compare the faces of individuals against a database of images in order to identify them.  Such a system could be used for airport identification, payments, or any other application where cards or photo identification are currently used, including retail payments.  The system checks the image of the customer against a database, and returns the identified customer photo with a name to be verified by the customer.  The only customer action is to select an ok button to approve payment.

While the pluck of a company willing to chase such a challenging technological initiative is admirable, this is a challenging solution to implement.  Consider:

  • What if the returned name and image isn’t the customer’s picture and they say ok to the payment?  Free lunch.
  • What are the parameters of the image?  What if hair colour is changed? What if glasses are different? What if weight is gained or lost?   How often will photos have to be re-taken to be effective?  Any of these could result in customer and/or retailer inconvenience.
  • What about backgrounds and lighting for image capture?  Given the wide variety of retail locations with signage, people, windows and lighting, will faces be easily picked out by the solution?  Imagine having to look into a camera and sit still for a few moments to make your payment go through.  Awkward.
  • If such a solution was used at gas pumps, self service or even online, and users hold up a photo in front of the camera instead of using their own face?  It’s happened before with android lock screens.
  • It’s one thing to be a number.  Most acknowledge we have little privacy already, but payments connected to our actual faces might be a bit much for people to accept.  Pay by touch tried something similar with thumbprints from 2005-2007 but that didn’t work out.

I’m sure the designers have considered all of these concerns and a great deal more, they will have to be extremely convincing about security when discussing such a solution with payments processors and retailers.

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 10.49.37 PMAireal – Many retailers look to achieve an incredible consumer experience in their stores.  It takes a great deal to impress the jaded consumer with access to so much technology.  As a leader in entertainment, Disney continuously looks for new experiences.  One such experience is Disney Research’s Aireal – a combination of projection, motion sensors and fans.

One demonstration shows an animated butterfly that recognizes that a person’s hand is in the area, and ‘lands’ on it.  Puffs of air from fans controlled by the system blow on your hand to complete the illusion of a real butterfly landing on your hand.  Another concept would be interacting with a virtual soccer ball.  While not part of a transactional solution, it’s easy to see how a solution like this could find its way into a high end concept store.

3Dfit – One of the universal challenges for online retailers of apparel is fit.  In order to encourage sales, online retailers have to offer free returns.   In order to ensure a good fit, customers often resort to ordering multiple sizes and returning what they don’t want.  All of that means higher costs for retailers, and inconvenience for customers who have to return items.

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 11.21.39 PMGetting the right pair of glasses for one’s face is just as difficult as finding clothing that fits – perhaps even more so.  Glasses.com are attempting to remedy that challenge with a recently released virtual try-on app for iPad to get potential customers a great view of how they will look in a new pair of glasses.  Users download the app, open it, and place it against a mirror.  The users capture a picture with the iPad camera looking straight at the iPad, and then turn their head to the left and then the right.  The app captures a 3D model of the users’s face from the photo.  With that 3D model, the full inventory of glasses.com can be shown on the user’s face.  The user can scan through images of their face with the glasses on, and even move the glasses up and down the bridge of their nose with a swipe of a finger on the screen.

While this isn’t the same as being at a store and trying them on, it can certainly help narrow the choices – a challenge with glasses, and adds a unique consumer experience to a brand.

2013.25 | keyme | hyperlocal | nordstrom pinterest

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Keyme – While physical keys are increasingly disappearing, much like cash they are still a part of life that will not go away for some time. All of us have misplaced a key at some time, and startup Keyme looks to help customers out of that jam. The company has kiosks located at select Manhattan 7-Eleven sites that allow users to print their stored key pattern on demand. Customers register their keys at the kiosk at no charge. The machine captures the pattern of the key against a credit card and fingerprint for security. If you lose your key, head over to 7-Eleven, enter in your information, scan your fingerprint, and you can have a copy of your key printed for $20.

It’s a novel idea that solves a real problem. While I’m certain all precautions are taken for security, Keyme puts the pattern for your house key with your home address and your credit card number online. That means security better be solid. The risks are the same as all of the other cloud services that increasingly connect everything – doorlocks, security systems, online thermostats, and more. As cloud services and gadgets make our lives more convenient, they inevitably expose us to new risks that we will all have to weigh against that convenience.

From a retailer perspective, some of these technologies could drive future opportunities. Imagine being able to provide a lockbox to which you can give programmed access one time only for a package or a grocery delivery. What if the security camera at our front door can page us when someone comes to the door and you can let them in remotely and lock the door again when they leave? Maybe the delivery man can even replace your eggs when you run out – or not.

CaptureHyperlocal – This hyperlocal food market concept by Kayleigh Thompson provides a platform for farmers to sell their produce / food products. Think of this concept as the sort of infrastructure that etsy provides for arts and crafts sellers with an extension to price and label food. While it’s a long shot for something like this to take off, this sort of connection between producer and end clients is an increasingly common theme online eCommerce sites like etsy, fab and more. Large grocery chains could leverage a platform like this to bring together the best of a farmer’s market with the infrastructure benefits of a chain.

CaptureNordstrom – The high end chain have been labeling their most tagged items from pinterest in their stores. It’s fascinating to see social media pulled into the real world. Seeing a top ten list of most popular products in a physical store brings an element of involvement to the store that could not exist otherwise. Expect to see more of these connections between the online and physical stores, and expect more of them to pay off as consumers become increasingly comfortable and attuned to connecting the channels.

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.

 

2013.22 | hointer | spade | sustainability

CaptureHointer – Seattle based Hointer sells jeans in a not so old fashioned way.  Their concept is to remove all of the friction from an apparel shopping experience.

Customers download the Hointer App, and visit the showroom.  The showroom has one pair of each type of jeans on display.  When you see jeans you like, you scan the 2d code on the product, and you are provided with realtime inventory information on  your smartphone.  You indicate your size, and you are directed to a dressing room where the items will be waiting for you.

While I was skeptical of the product waiting in the dressing room, in the demonstration video by Geekwire, the jeans appeared down a chute almost immediately after the reporter selected them from his device.  You can then try on the jeans, and if you don’t like them, you put them down the chute in the dressing room, and the jeans come out of your shopping cart.  If you do like them, you swipe your card and pay.  Only the items you kept are on your cart.  The payment process was not shown, but I would anticipate this could even be added to the mobile if the retailer were willing to pay the card not present processing fees.

While this process may not work for every apparel format, it’s very intriguing, and you can imagine at least some elements being implemented at almost any apparel outlet.  Taking the vaguely annoyed teenager who unlocks the dressing rooms out of the equation (or at least hiding them behind a curtain) could be a plus.  Three stores are online right now.  Would love to see more of this in my local mall.

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Kate Spade – In the spirit of instant gratification, Kate Spade has set up interactive ordering screens in front of four vacant storefronts in NYC.   New Yorkers can walk up to the outdoor facing large format screen, and scroll through the new Kate Spade Saturday collection.  If they find items they wish to purchase, they have them delivered at no charge in 1 hour.  The system texts the customer and they pay with credit on delivery.

This is obviously intended to be more of a gimmick to get attention than a permanent fixture, but with a little rent and some paint, this is certainly an advertisement to which you can tie some actual results.  Why not use these storefronts as billboards and measure their effectiveness at capturing the attention of targeted demographics based on the potential for sales.  Media attention to their brand is also provided at no charge.  The article provides no indication if pranksters are sending out Kate Spade delivery men to unsuspecting fashionistas in the dead of night without their permission.

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Sustainability – European grocer Auchun now provides clients the opportunity to read their sustainability report the way such a report should be read;  electronically instead of on dead trees.

Customers can use the Auchan app to scan the barcode on their grocery receipt and an interactive report shows directly on their smartphone.  While not a giant business change, it shows Auchan’s dedication to sustainability and makes it simple to distribute the report information while getting them some free publicity at the same time.

2013.21 | june link dump

CapturePoints Electronic Street Sign – Wayfinding is always a tough solution to provide to customers at the best of times.  Retail outlets are not always simple places to navigate when searching for a particular item that could be in various sections.  These Points Electronic Street Signs are notable for their simplicity and novelty.  Type in what you are looking for and the directional signs swing around to point in the right direction with the relevant text displayed on the sign.  Would something this basic work in a big box store?  In my experience, even going in the general direction is a lot more helpful than wandering from one section to another.  Are lightbulbs near lighting or cleaning products?  If placed correctly and with aisle details maybe something like this could work!

Amazon Fresh – I’ve been watching the Amazon grocery business for some time now, and it looks like they might have their formula worked out from their efforts in the US Northwest as they are starting to roll groceries further afield.  Competing traditional grocers would do well to provide an ecommerce experience tied to their stores to avoid Amazon cutting into their business with effectively no delivery charges (via Prime), Amazon Subscribe and Save, and the ability to leverage other trips to regular clients.

CaptureMobile Gear – The mobilegear ecommerce site does an incredible job of finding a niche and a very simple and effective way to sort through product without resorting to the age-old web strategy of showing categories of lists at the side of the page.   They also have some really thoughtful offerings for their chosen segment.  I don’t need a mobile desk, but this makes me want one!

3D Printing – 3D printing is getting more and more mainstream as Amazon starts a 3D printing section on their site.  Not hard to see where this leads – Amazon providing distribution of files to print new items at home.

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SmartThingsSmartThings is a kickstarter funded solution for home automation.  It includes a wireless hub that can interface to sensors (open, closed, motion, presence, temperature and more) and then to mobile devices via an app.  Ideally this solution can make home automation far more cost effective, but from a retailer perspective it could also represent a cost effective dashboard for store managers.  How about a notification to a manager’s mobile device if a freezer case dropped below a certain temperature, or that the back door that never closes quite right when someone leaves isn’t shut?  Even if the manager isn’t at the store, they could call someone to make sure the freezer is checked and repaired and that the door is secure.

2013.18 | slender vender | cc glasses | snipsnap

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Slim Vending Machine – The new Diet Coke Slender Vender finally avoids making vending machines look like a big wide refrigerator. Too often we stick with a standard configuration for a technology just because that’s how things have always been. The streamlined look and the ability to make a vending machine fit in places where traditional units would not fit is a refreshing notion. Perhaps Ogilvie should talk to Proctor and Gamble and my favourite retailers so I don’t have to pick up my razor blades at the front of the store. Why not take the challenge of a high shrink item and turn it into an opportunity to install a sleek display that fulfills a need for security? I believe putting high value high shrink items in vending machines at the front of the store would give the product top billing and keep consumers like myself out of the checkout line; in a good way. Even if I had to use a vending machine at the end, it’s still faster than asking a teenager to get my razor blades out of a cabinet.

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Closed Captioning Glasses – Regal Cinemas and Sony are releasing new glasses for use in theatres. These glasses have technology that project closed captions onto the glasses so that patrons that are not able to hear the audio can better follow the movie with no impact to anyone else in the theatre. While not the sleekest looking glasses you’ve ever seen, they certainly represent a wonderful addition for guests that are hard of hearing. It would be incredible to connect these glasses into Google Translate so that subtitles would appear on the glass as you are talking to a person for real-time real-life subtitles! They could also represent a great tool for retailers to provide real-time details on customers to staff in a Google Glass like wearable interface without users having to look up and to the right.

CaptureSnipSnap – Coupons are a challenge for many retailers. Paper coupons may be of dubious origin. Home printing quality can make it hard to tell if someone is faking a coupon. Chasing down manufacturers for reimbursement is extra work. Putting store staff in the drivers seat on deciding if coupons are valid isn’t ideal.

SnipSnap isn’t going to make it any easier for retailers to deal with coupons. This app allows users to take pictures of their coupons and keep them in the app on their mobile until they get to the store. This assumes of course that the retailer will accept scans of coupons from the mobile devices of users (maybe). It may also assume every lane has a scanner that can read from a mobile device (also maybe).

The point of consideration this sort of app is that coupons represent a wild west for retailers – they can come from everywhere. They are certainly an important part of the business, and retailers are best to stay ahead of the curve of what consumers want. Find a way to provide a legitimate coupon vehicle so that retailers and customers alike can experience the benefits and avoid the potential pitfalls of apps like SnipSnap.

2013.11 | Retail Tech Miscellany

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 10.17.52 PMWaste Elimination – Check out The Disappearing Package – a Masters Thesis based on eliminating the packaging part of consumer packaged goods altogether.  Not sure how realistic these are, but eliminating packaging is a welcome concept, and there are some interesting options shown.  via Fast Company

Mobile Selling Across Platforms – There has been lots of talk about mobile retailing, but Gucci took it to heart and redesigned their mobile website to provide a unique experience suited to buying on a smartphone or tablet as well as a traditional pc or notebook.  One can’t help but notice that Gucci chose to update their mobile website instead of an app.  Given the increasing pile of mobile os ecosystems and flavours (iOS, Android, Windows) and devices (smartphones and tablets of various shapes and sizes), setting up a great website with mobile optimization seems the way to go.

IBM retail AR appShelf Overlay – Augmented Reality is another concept that has been touted as a game changer for retail.  IBM has a conceptual mobile app that allows users to use their mobile device’s camera to capture items on the shelf with image recognition and then allow shoppers to sort through the assortment based on various parameters as they would on a website.  Customers could find gluten free items, or see what items are on sale.  I love the concept, but I’m not sure if most people today will have the patience to search a store this way.  If they do, everyone will be bumping into each other and trying to stand back from the shelves.  It could get a bit awkward walking down the aisles!

Data elements are likely to be a challenge for this.  If a retailer doesn’t have a fully populated database with all the elements needed to filter, a significant effort will be required to update systems on the back end to support this effort.  Apparently it’s being tested in the UK.  Some fun additions in my mind: highlight items from my shopping list on the shelf in green in case I can’t find them, highlight my usual items as I walk by them, put blinking green on items that may interest me, and finally integrate this into Google Glass to make it less awkward to use.

Loyalty Apps – I’ve always hated those little loyalty cards that you got stamped for a free coffee.  My sushi place has a terrible version of this that you can’t even read.  I also hate carrying paper cards and I’m not alone.  Check out this recent blogto profile of a number of smaller loyalty programs that are trying to take this niche into the smartphone age.

CapturePinterest Analytics – Pinterest is one of the most interesting social media stories to come on the scene for some time, and it got a bit more interesting as their Web Analytics have been released.  Now pinners including retailers, will have a better idea of what people are pinning.  It’s unclear if that changes much for retailers that pin, but at least some gauge of reaction is possible.  Perhaps the ability to tag whether an item was purchased would help.  I’ve always thought Pinterest would be a great social media network for retailers to add to a client profile.  When I visit higher end retailers or am looking for something fashion related, staff always ask about my hobbies and style.  It would be nice to just let them glance through a few Pinterest boards to give them a flavour for what you like. Not only that, but the retailer sees what you like at other retailers.

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