2014.10 | mink | #amazoncart | google shopping express

mink makeup printerMink – 3D printing isn’t just for plastic toys.  Mink is a makeup printer that allows any colour to be printed on to makeup substrate so that home users can prepare their own favourite colours.  Instead of being limited to colours that are pre-made and ready in store, shoppers can build whatever they want on demand.

It’s obviously early days for this technology, but retailers generally have better results when they to recognize disruptive technologies like this early and either get on board or find something that accomplishes something similar.    This is the same story as mp3 and eBooks all over again as immediate gratification will make the status quo of purchasing pre coloured makeup less convenient.

It will be interesting to see the real solution itself and how easy it is to use.  A pretty white box looks nice and simple, but for a solution like this to fly it has to be dead simple.  As is the case with regular printers, they will obviously run out of substrate or colour just when it is needed most.  Having automatic fulfillment would avoid such issues. Retailers should be moving towards open and connected systems to enable automatic replenishment for clients.  Connecting a system like Mink to an ecommerce subscription service or standing order for automatic fulfillment online with the printer ordering its own supplies will be key to its success.    Expect an Amazon plug-in sometime in the near future.

amazoncart#amazoncart – As the retailer of every channel but a store (so far), Amazon recently expanded its ever growing list of channels it makes available for consumers to interface with them.  The newest is #amazoncart, whereby if twitter readers see a product that they like, they can reply to a tweet with a product link with the hashtag #amazoncart, and the item will be automatically added to their Amazon shopping cart online.

While not the right strategy for every retailer it is an interesting attempt by Amazon to strengthen their already extensive hold on default online shopping cart online.  If a shopper has an item in a retailer’s online cart, odds are good they will complete a purchase for that item, or at least have to remove it from the cart.  Allowing this functionality also allows Amazon to quietly capture the twitter account of their clients – which can be mined for more information on how often this strategy results in a sale, or to leverage big data solutions to improve other product recommendations.

This is potentially a great tool for Amazon devotees, but for products that aren’t carried by Amazon (yes, those exist, especially outside of America) and if shopper preferences skew to other retailers, there are many other ways of tracking items that don’t require sticking them into a cart.  Not all great items are found on twitter, but for shoppers using twitter, the web, or even an aggregator like Zite or Flipboard, shoppers can easily add items to services like Evernote, Pinterest and even Pocket to track shopping lists.  No need to remove from a cart.

google-expressGoogle Shopping Express – Google recently opened the gates on an Amazon Prime type offering called Google Shopping Express where shoppers can order items online for immediate same day delivery from retailers including Costco, Target, Walgreens, Whole Foods and more in Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose.    The service is available online or via iPhone and Android apps.

Initial reviews and reviews for the apps indicate that the service works very well and is either free or very very inexpensive.  The service is reminiscent of Kozmo.com, a well known dot.com bubble company established to provide this very same service that expired in 2001.  That service suffered under the high cost of providing this service on low value items, but they obviously did not have the Google machine behind them.

The question that arises is whether Google will provide this service at a loss, charge clients a commensurate amount for the service, or find another way to finance it within other elements of their business.  There are a wide array of options they could investigate moving forward.  What current retailers need to carefully consider and be ready to move on is if Google mines all the data for items shoppers may want delivered in this paradigm and then decides to stock them on their own and fulfill them to shoppers directly.

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2011.26 | Retail Channels Keep Changing

Whatever you think of this new reality of omnipresence, there are an increasing number of ways for consumers to interface with retailers.  Fundamentally, all of the building blocks already exist – but with increasing availability of technology and comfort of the general population to use it, there are some retailers putting it out there and trying some new ideas.  Some recent examples of the ongoing experimentation and changes in recent weeks:

South Korean Subway Store – Tesco’s branch in South Korea – Home plus – recently bought up a row of large scale advertising on a subway platform and filled those lit poster frames with giant posters of actual full size shelves from a grocery store.  The images give the subway platform the aura of an actual grocery store department.  The images are complete with 2d barcodes shelf tags and consumers can scan those codes with their mobile phones to add real life products shown on the shelf to their virtual shopping basket.  The consumer specifies a delivery time and the goods go right to their door.  This is merely a repurposing of a mobile app interfaced to a web store.  The scanning aspect is available in many other apps as well.  The brilliance of the idea is the placement of the faux shelves in the subway.  This concept takes a location where consumers are passing time and puts it to good use – capturing a captive audience.  Everyone needs groceries, and all of these people are just standing there otherwise.  This stunt alone appears to have driven Home plus to number one in online sales according to the video.

Shopping by Voice on Mobile – Tesco’s UK team have not been idle with their mobile app.  A recent major revamp of the Tesco UK mobile app shows a lot of thought has gone into how consumers would like to shop with their mobile phone.  One of the more unique items is the use of searching by voice – a functionality that has been around for some time on Google, but I’ve not seen it used to search within an app.  Those building similar apps would do well to have a look at what they have done!

Tablets – The hot topic of retail of late is how to implement mobile devices in a retail environment.  Lots going on in this area.  Check out a number of examples.

Payments – A recently released study indicated that more than half of the Canadians would be willing to ditch physical currency altogether and move to all electronic payments.  Interesting timing given the upcoming release of new Canadian currency.  Not surprisingly, Verifone has recently released a new mobile payment solution for tablets.  I still have not seen much in the way of EMV versions, though I have been promised they are coming.

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