2014.07 | TRNK | touchscreen table


TRNK – Many of today’s successful retailers are really creative curators.  TRNK represents a terrific example of the focus on curation in retail. In fact, visitors to the site may be unclear on whether they are visiting an online magazine, an online retailer, or a blog.  The site portrays a particular style. If readers enjoy that style, they can bring that style into their own lives through buying products showcased.  There are links to all sorts of home decoration elements and furniture – with all of the links pointing to a variety of retailers and even eBay for vintage items.

Sites like TRNK provide an interesting opportunity for retailers.  Specialty retailers work incredibly hard to build their brands with their own sense of style to suit a certain segment, and may consider these sites a potential dilution of their brand.  That said, the emergence of the online world has enabled an incredible number of different communities driven by different interests, and it is becoming increasingly challenging to market to all of them one by one.  Embracing these lifestyle sites / marketplaces and their respective followers can provide retailers a resource to outsource the challenge of marketing to these increasingly diverse communities.

Specialty retailers would find it beneficial to enable these sites to showcase their products paired with those of other complimentary products.  Shoe retailers find themselves challenged with pairing their shoes with entire outfits – a disadvantage from fashion retailers that are increasingly offering shoes for sale as well.  As well as using their own resources to suggest the right ensemble for shoes, these retailers could point to these lifestyle sites so that their clients can see for themselves how the shoes will look paired with the outfits.  Cultivating a network of these sorts of lifestyle sites as partners is basically a retailer version of the Amazon Associates program where participants can advertise products with a link to Amazon and get a cut of the sale.  Why shouldn’t specialty retailers enable the same sort of programs – with more style – and expand their reach?

CapturePizza Hut Touchscreen Table – A concept video for a touchscreen table a la Microsoft Surface (Now PixelSense) was released by a Pizza Hut a couple of weeks ago.  It has the requisite upbeat tunes, beautiful graphics and uncluttered and simple interfaces complete with paying with your phone just by having it on the table. It’s a great idea and really the extension of tablet ordering solutions like those employed at places like Buffalo Wild Wings.  Of course, in real life the challenges are a little more complicated.  From a logistical perspective:

  • Tables are never completely clear of items in a restaurant as shown in the video (napkins, condiments, cutlery),
  • This thing will get quite greasy at a Pizza place (looked at your tablet in the bright light of day recently? Add pizza and kids),
  • Can you imagine fighting with your kids over who has control of this thing at any particular time and do we want to watch them play more games?, 
  • iPhones don’t have NFC, which would be the requirement for the payment element element to work as shown,
  • How much more costly is this table than a regular table?  what is the added value to the customer and to the company?,
  • Is the system connected to the in-store inventory?  How happy are clients when they finally configure their pizza and they are out of onions or whole wheat dough?
  • How much work is it to change this when the menu changes?
  • Isn’t it faster just to tell them what you want?
  • How will people who can’t figure out how Netflix works make this work?

I love the concept.  I would use it, but then, I’m a Netflix guru. It’s much easier to poke holes than it is to make these thing work, and I applaud the vision.  My main concern is around flash over substance.  Over half of the people in North America walk around with a computer in their pocket. Should we put another huge one into every table? I’m for it, but I’m not paying!

2014.02 | displair | louis vuitton pass| rough trade nyc

displairDisplair – All sorts of new user interfaces are being developed and that novelty often finds its way into retail – even if just as a way of garnering people’s attention for the short term.  Displair is a good example.  Some enterprising souls have built a solution that makes a touchscreen out of thin air.  Video is projected on mist shot into the air.  Sensors catch where the mist is broken to enable touchscreen capability.   While a novelty for now these sort of projected touch interfaces are a prime solution for changerooms or other areas where technology could help but there is limited or constantly changing space.

pounce-louis-vuittonLouis Vuitton Pass – 2D barcodes have always seemed like a jury-rigged solution.  Originally invented to track inventory, they can hold a lot more data than the traditional barcode, but retain an ugliness that fashion (and really everyone) disdains.  Expect to see more solutions like the one leveraged by the likes of the Louis Vuitton Pass App.  Instead of scanning unseemly 2D barcodes, pointing your mobile’s camera at an ad can open a link with product information.  This technology is not that new, but consider the potential of it being built into mobile apps the same way that shazam is used to recognize music, tv and movies.  If it becomes more common, image searches for the right products become that much easier.


Rough Trade NYC – Much has been made of the death of retail and of the record store (music for the youngsters) in particular.  Showing that retail is about the experience, and that music stores can survive in the world of iTunes, Rough Trade recently opened an outlet in NYC .   Rough Trade has been around in the UK for decades, so they are doing something right.  The new store in Brooklyn is broken into boutiques: a traditional CD and Vinyl Record sales floor, a curated instrument showroom, an audio equipment area, and a bookstore.  They offer a unique curation of music that seems a bit different from the iTunes crowd and have digital downloads subscriptions as well.  The piece that really pulls it together is a a 250 seat venue with a full bar that appears to be fully booked for shows.  It will be interesting to see if providing unique offerings, concerts, and providing a venue for a community will be enough to make a go of it.  Considering that digital downloads declined for the first time since iTunes opened, this subset of retail is really up in the air yet again, and this is as good an idea as any to pull in the music crowd.

2013.17 | cookies | kiosks | 51 co’s | eBay | purchext

Picture of Product as Tender – Weetabix in the UK recently had an offer where consumers can obtain a free Weetabix On The Go in a retail store by merely showing the cashier an image of the product.  And I thought retailers had fun with regular old coupons.  While it’s kinda fun, it seems somewhat pointless.  Effectively it’s the same as telling clients just to ask for a free sample – and that’s what will happen in stores as we all know.

Google ‘Kiosks’ – Google has announced a managed public sessions feature for chromebooks.  Google envisions this as a simple way to enable chromebooks as public internet kiosks for stores to offer customers a way to purchase things online that may not be in stock at the store or other ‘kiosk-type’ solutions.   As a retail technology professional I find these sorts of announcements interesting because it seems a bit like looking for a reason to have a feature.  It’s been possible to lock down kiosk terminals, notebooks, tablets, and even regular old pcs with kiosk mode on browsers or with special software packages for some time.  While a chromebook is a bit cheaper than a full fledged notebook, this kiosk feature seems a marginal benefit.


51 Companies – Business Insider has an incredibly exhaustive list of 51 Retail Innovators that is a must read list for retailers. I’ve covered a number of the companies using technology for retail, but this a great list to provide some inspiration.  Some of my favourites: fab (curation), hointer (using your mobile for catalog like shopping in a store), and stylitics (track your wardrobe – think fashion only pinterest with what you have, not just what you want).

eBay Pop-up Store – eBay is apparently moving into real world retail as a part of a partnership with Kate Spade.  Unofficially, a pop-up Kate Spade store in NYC will be outfitted with a large touch screen window, presumably to allow purchases of items in the store.  eBay wish to provide a platform to assist real world retail sites to meld with the online.


Purchext – A new Canadian app shown at Disrupt NYC 2013 provides parents the chance to remotely validate purchases of their children for release of funds to their bank account.   Interesting idea that I could see grocers considering within their own systems to ensure that family’s keep their purchases in the chain!  So much for the party run to the grocery store on dad’s card.


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