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

2012.42 | Tech Trends to Shape 2013

Fast Company recently released an article about the technology trends that will Shape 2013.  These 20 items cover a broad range, but almost all of them are worthy of consideration by retailers.  Check out just a few of these items.

CaptureSmartphone accessories become smarter – As the article indicates, smartphone accessories are already getting smarter. Going beyond the usual accessories like Nike Fuel, Jawbone Up, Fitbit, and Wemo, we can expect to see a whole range of accessories such as the AliveCor ECG referenced by Fast Company article.

From a retail perspective, this trend will drive a market for new devices, but for retailers and shoppers it also provides more shopping channels. Consider prescription pill bottles that can ensure you take your meds and automatically add refills to the mobile app on your smart phone when they are near the end of supply. Consider electric toothbrushes that remind your smart phone that you are due to replace your toothbrush head. These are just two examples of how devices and products in our home can talk to our smart phones.

Retailers need to be certain that they are prepared to take advantage of these sorts of small changes as they occur so that their brands are positioned to take advantage of these technologies to simplify shopping for their targeted consumers and lock them in like the Amazon Kindle Store does for eBooks or iTunes does for music.

Think how easy it would be go connect this to Amazon Subscribe & Save.  Consumers don’t even need to wait.  They could build their own with enabled devices using IFTTT to get different services to talk to each other to do this.

800px-Jurvetson_Google_driverless_car_trimmedWe lose control of our cars – Google and all of the auto manufacturers certainly seem to be pushing towards making self driving cars a reality. Autonomous vehicles are now legal in Nevada, Florida and California and have driven thousands of miles already.  Volvo is looking to have self driving cars in 2014.

This completely changes the shopping perspective when going from one destination to another doesn’t involve being part of the driving process. Imagine a new sort of shopping regimen created by the free time given to people by not having to drive. Imagine how important it will be for retailers to have inventory online by store so that our cars using our smartphones can direct us through the best possible route to get home and get all the things on our shopping lists to get on with our lives.

Once again it’s important for retailers to keep an eye on these sorts of developments and make their systems as open as possible for services to be leveraged so that consumers can interact with them from whatever channel they choose.

We embrace a new kind of patina – This idea says that what makes things ours will not be the scratches and dents on the watch we use our whole life, but the personality we bring to our profile.   That personality will be something that drives our interactions with consumer facing organizations.

Leveraging the information that consumers are willing to share with retailers along with low cost technology means that more and richer experiences can be provided using alternative interfaces within stores.    This means using their data to identify them and to provide them a customized experience based on their preferences, past purchase history and more.  These interactions could be with any sort of screen – large format, projected, or anything.

From a retailer perspective this means that touchpoints and content are more important than ever.  Thinking through the message, the brand, and what the touchpoints are meant to be are a key element of any roadmap.  Operations, marketing and technology need to be inextricably linked for any of this to work at all, let alone achive a differentiated successful solution.

CaptureHuman computer interaction gets more humanistic – Computer interaction from a retail perspective is already becoming more humanistic with tools like Siri (Book a table for 2 at 6) Google Voice Search (Where can I buy a copy of Shawshank redemption) that allow voice interactions to transact. Projected virtual assistance at stores like Duane Reade automate greetings or the sharing of information required at consumer facing place of business with a human like interaction. As the technology gets more sophisticated, we can expect a personal shopper that can discuss our shopping options in a more Siri like interactive conversation.

This provides the opportunity for retailers to provide a more curated customer specific experience in a consistent targeted manner that can be updated centrally.

Data ecology becomes more diverse – The amount of data generated is exploding.  That’s not news.  From a retailer perspective, there  are new sources to consider.  eBook readers can tell us how long it takes people to read a book.  It can tell us if they finished it or not.   It goes way deeper, allowing for a new level of understanding of clients.   New channels mean more data and more complexity.

From a retailer perspective, it will be important that all of these new channels take into account how data will be gathered and analyzed.  If you build a mobile app and only 400 people use it, that may sound like a loser if you have thousands of stores.  However, those may be your most important customers that lead the rest of  your customer base.  Without the data to understand who they are, retailers could mistakenly discontinue their most important customers’ favourite channel.

Interaction choreography goes shopping / Faces become interfaces – These are just new flavours of interactive experiences in malls.  Gesture based catalogs on large format screens is to yesterday’s gift registry kiosk as the 60″ flatscreen is to yesterday’s 23″ tube television.  The facial recognition is interesting, but will certainly bring up some issues around privacy.  Both of these fall under the comments on the patina item above.

The article has many other great items.  Read them all.  Stay open to new ideas, and consider how they will influence your business and your customers.  Most importantly ensure that anything considered brings value to the organization and the customer – however you define value.

2011.09 | Futures: Screens, Mobile Payment, and Kiosks

The inflow of data on the changes in the retail environment brought about by technology can certainly be overwhelming.  Here are some of the most interesting retail technology stories I discovered recently:

A Day Made of Glass – A promotional video from Corning shows the potential pervasiveness of screens and technology in the future.  Also see a very similar video from TAT last year.  These future concepts certainly highlight the necessity of keeping a very open mind to new interfaces for all consumer facing businesses – most particularly retailers.  With all of these future interfaces, how can retailers find ways to add value to the consumer?

Mobile Payments – Discover alternative electronic currencies, the increasing use of SMS based currency in Kenya (M-Pesa), and the potential future of the Smartphone Wallet with David Schropfer on CBC Spark Podcast #139.  The move of the developing world towards electronic payment is a relevant case study for those of us considering mobile payments and solutions in North America.  There will be great challenges to overcome in moving past current infrastructures, and keeping the interface of mobile payments as simple and universally accepted as cash.  Let’s not even mention the challenges of PCI – with applications being being de-validated after initial validation.

Common Kiosk Applications – Kiosks have been a mainstay in retail for many years, and even with all of the mobile and web solutions at hand, will continue to play a large role.  Consider some of the most prevalent solutions for which kiosks are being used. (via DigSignageToday)  JC Penney’s new kiosk solution certainly takes endless aisle to a new level.

Mobile Apps For Retailers – There are a lot of apps for consumers to interface with retailers.  How about tools for the retailers to use?  Here is an overview of options. (via RogersBuzz)  Also an interesting mobile check-in module rolling out at Whole Foods.  Please don’t let these things become the spam and junkmail of the future.

Changing Markets – Retail is being constantly re-shaped by technology as well as the times.   Heather Reisman recently discussed selling books and ebooks on Canada AM.  In the US, Dollar Stores are becoming a destination for groceries.

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