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.

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2012.06 | Apple iTV

Last week in Canada we had some local news on the mysterious Apple iTV.  An article in the Globe and Mail indicated that Bell and Rogers – Canada’s two largest wireless and telecommunications carriers – are in talks to be partners with Apple on the launch of the hotly anticipated Apple iTV device.

While I understand the rabid interest in all things Apple, I have to question the real potential of this future solution.  I unsubscribed from cable TV over 3 years ago.   I have an AppleTV and I love it to death.

Instead of spending $100 per month for programming I don’t want to see in various packages that don’t appeal, I can pick and choose show by show what I want and just buy it on a pay per use basis.  There are way more shows than I could ever buy.  I can watch all NHL highlights for free the day after the games on demand.  I can rent movies from home – no late fees, no out of stock, no calling home to see if my family wants that film.  I use the costs saved on cable for faster internet access and large download ability.  It’s a great deal at $100 and it exists today and works with my plain old LCD TV.

I have some doubts around iTV seeing the light of day as it is currently described in the media.  There are some serious questions around it:

  • Apple has maintained that AppleTV is still a ‘hobby’.  While they have sold millions of units, it remains a niche product in many ways.  I’ve had to physically show people how it works before they go and buy one.  People don’t seem to get it.  They are confused by where the content comes from and how.  My less technical friends get a pained look on their face when I explain how it works.   We need a paradigm shift to move your average consumer to something new like this.
  • The solution offered here is a 42″ maximum screen.  Not exactly going to win the spec war there as screen sizes are only growing.
  • Making a TV a giant iPad?  Not the same thing.  Remember Nick Bilton’s theory of varying interfaces for mobile, internet and TV being 1′, 2′ and 10′.  Different needs, different interfaces.
  • The rumour is that they will use a Siri like interface to control the iTV.  I really can’t picture that happening.   Siri doesn’t really blow my mind as it exists on iPhone.  It doesn’t work for all functions in Canada, so why should we expect it to be different here?  Ever try dictating on Dragon Dictation?  It works, but it’s different than selecting buttons.  Going through menus by speaking out loud like an automated voice driven IVR?  No thanks. Significant culture shift to make this take off.
  • Youtube like video feature?  Youtube is on AppleTV already to watch videos, and adding my own videos to Youtube is one button click on an iDevice.  What’s the win?
  • Why do they need local Canadian TV providers to support it?  Live programming?  Perhaps, but do they need a TV to do that?  No.  A device similar to the AppleTV could do that given the right web interface.
  • What is in this for the local Canadian TV providers?  Winning back the dissenters of cable like me?  Hardly a winning proposition, and not significant revenue winner.  It may in fact move people from cable and reduce their revenue and perceived value.

In today’s market, a winning device needs content and  I don’t see Apple getting that here beyond what they already have.   AppleTV already does this.  If they are looking to sell a better cable box or TV, they could do that, but I think that would dilute the value of their brand, and their history of late indicates they would try to do more.  I’ve been wrong before, however, so we will have to wait and see what they do.

What has this got to do with retail?  The AppleTV already has won 100% of my video rental dollar, and the dollars of all of those who see it at my house.  I don’t rent older movies anymore for any price because I can watch them on Netflix.   I’ve started subscribing to TV shows on it as well.

Canada has almost no DVD rental left in my area.  Blockbuster is gone.  Rogers is moving away from DVD rentals.  The mom and pops are rare.  I’m sure retailers are selling lots of $5 DVDs these days for those of us without the fancy toys and high speed internet.

The AppleTV is just one example of how consumer needs and desires are changing.  Wise entertainment retailers will watch for situations like this and think hard about how to make take advantage of these channels.  Others will be left by the wayside.

2010.25 | Contactless Transit in NYC | Walmart Loyalty | Mobile Movie Marketing

Contactless Transit – While contactless has lots of benefits, it sure seems to have problems with customer usage.  NYC has the contactless credit card option on the turnstiles as part of a 6 month trial, and while the benefits seem obvious, there are few takers according to this NYT video. Why would consumners opt to go to a vending machine, charge a declining balance card, and then use that card to pay for their ride? Consider the benefits to users:

  • One card will do where two were once needed – no need for separate Metro Card
  • No need to recharge a card at a Metrocard Vending Machine = no waiting and reduced time spent on purchase
  • The turnstile opens and closes just as quickly
  • No need for an advance outlay of funds
  • No more lost coins or cash jingling in your pockets – though the cash option may be what drives the recharging of cards depending on your population.

Yet still little usage based on their informal survey in the subway.  Most likely problem: they’ve not been advertising it strongly enough in person as part of this trial.  For self service to succeed someone at the site needs to be there telling New Yorkers why this is a benefit.  Technology isn’t enough on its own.  The general population needs to be shown, shown again, and then shown another time – highlighting the benefits in a brief, clear manner. 

Walmart Loyalty – While a perennial holdout in the many loyalty schemes available here in Canada, Walmart Canada will be offering loyalty points on their new credit card to be released as part of their newly chartered bank.  This should shake things up a bit.

Mobile Movie Marketing – As part of the upcoming release of the Steve Carell motion picture Despicable Me,  the Best Buy Movie Mode mobile app will translate the nonsense jabber of little characters called minions during the end credits of the movie while users are in the theatre.  This idea certainly provides an interesting cross pollination for retailers like Best Buy to the movies, and we can certainly expect them to extend it to other films.  Now we will have public service announcements at the end of the movie to remind us to turn ON our mobile.  Like that was necessary.

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