2014.19 | shelfie | repack | #retailing

Photo 2014-10-06, 8 55 58 PMShelfie – Looking to reduce the disappointing out of stock experience we’ve all encountered at one time or another, the good people at DataCrowd offer the cleverly named Shelfie app for both iOS and Android to remedy the issue.

Shoppers who see an out of stock at a store take a picture of the items tag and empty shelf, upload it to the app and the GPS details and products in the image are used to notify the retailer.  Apparently DataCrowd will take steps to advise the retailer of their out of stock issue, who will ideally take steps to tweak their replenishment model to avoid the problem in the future. The shopper, for their trouble, gets points for reporting the shortages to use towards gift cards.

This is a great use of crowdsourcing.  Why not put a simple tool in the hands of the masses to collect data to drive useful insights.  It will be interesting to circle back and see how this project works out.

A very brief look at the app indicates that the number of points that are awarded for reporting drive relatively small rewards.  The app store images show 100 points for one scan, and 10,000 points required for a $5 gift card. That’s 100 scans of out of stocks for $5. While a meager reward, it’s reasonable and a fair offer for what  a shopper would get for telling the store staff; which would be nothing.  While it’s not for everyone, there is definitely a coupon cutting crowd at the supermarket that would enjoy this game.

I fully expect that same coupon crowd to hit the supermarket at full tilt on late Saturday afternoon and fight the stockboys to take a photo before they replace the merchandise!  It’s a great idea.  Anything that has a chance to reduce out of stocks is a positive. via Springwise

CaptureRepack – One of the challenges with online shopping is that eco-conscious shoppers miss the opportunity to bring their own bag or eschew packaging all together.  While recycling all of that cardboard and plastic is a good answer, avoiding the waste is even better.

Repack has developed re-usable packaging and a system to use it for eCommerce retailers.  Shoppers pay a small deposit when they purchase an item from an online store.  On receipt of their products, they flatten the package and throw it back in the post for return to the retailer.  On receipt of the packaging, the retailer refunds the deposit.

While this seems a bit overdone, who among us has not received a huge box in the mail for replacement headphone earbuds or some other tiny item?  Given that many retailers also provide free returns, and services like Trunk Club have many boxes going back and forth, the idea seems like one with some merit – one that could protect shipped items and save the retailers some packaging costs if the items are done right. via Trendhunter

Capture#retailing – Always on the lookout for monetization avenues, Twitter has announced a couple initiatives that may be of interest to retailers looking to add twitter to their list of channels where their shoppers can purchase their merchandise.

Buy Button – In September, Twitter announced public access to a Buy button that certain retail and other partner would use in the Twitter mobile app. Twitter wants to make shopping on mobile devices simpler and say they will store your card details to make it easier to shop in Twitter after that first purchase, presumably by not having to enter the details again.  Frankly, there are so many parties trying to do this already – what with Apple Pay and Google and various others trying to do the same thing.  Not sure that they will get a lot of uptake just by saving a credit card  number.  Also – a buy button is just one click away from a mobile website link. Why does twitter need to put a special button?  Why would retailers with perfectly serviceable eCommerce platforms need a button when a link will do?  Especially when the retailer wants to provide their own unique experience and pull client details into the process.  This may work for musical artists to sell t-shirts – which seem to be a lot of the initial partners – but major players seem unlikely to do more than test the waters with this one.

Amazon Wishlist – Amazon never turns their back on an opportunity to sell through another channel.  Amazon has enabled shoppers to save an amazon item in a tweet to their item wishlist by replying to the item with the hashtag #AmazonWishList. While this one is handy, it seems like something only the most die hard twitter fan would want to use twitter as a way of adding items to their amazon wishlists.

While these are really great attempts at thinking differently and putting together interesting pieces, it would be very surprising if these were to take off in any really large volumes.  That said, who can say what will take off next?   Perhaps Snapchat will add buy buttons to Our Live Stories next.  Retailers can never tell where the next channel for business will arise.

2013.16 | #music | curation | pizza

Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 5.15.21 PM

Twitter Music – It’s difficult to believe that iTunes turned 10 this past month.  The way that music is purchased and consumed has certainly changed drastically in that time.  Perhaps the way we discover new music is about to change as well.  Twitter recently released their twitter music service which allows users to see and sample top and trending music as well as music that interests the people you follow on Twitter. Accessible online or via mobile, subscribers to rdio and spotify can even link to their accounts to be able to hear the complete tracks.  It’s a clever way to leverage data at their fingertips to provide value for their users and to monetize their system.

Curation – It’s interesting that the focus on so many things retail is moving from price and selection to curated experiences.  It makes a great deal of sense to move the retail experience away from commodity items that can be obtained from the lowest bidder to becoming the sales agent by providing clients a window into what they like.  Leveraging data and taste to sell stuff is a natural move and we can expect to see a great deal more of this.

Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 6.57.38 PM

Two of the most interesting retailers I’ve been following are Frank & Oak and JackThreads.  Both of these retailers are blurring the lines between online retailer, a social club, and a mens magazine.  Email marketing missives from these organizations are as fun to open as messages from your friends – because they read like they are from friends.  Recent messages from JackThreads parent company Thrillist included gems like roomba like mini bbq cleaners, a walking hexapod and HD video glasses.  Frank & Oak’s first email to me was an invitation for me to join from an actual real life friend of mine.   On registration they asked me to categorize myself by selecting how I dress at work, what kind of clothing elements I like etc.  From that, they show me my store when I get online.

The communications from these organizations don’t feel like they are constantly trying to sell with discount offer emails like more traditional retailers.  They all but force you to get a login so that we can be identified, and yet they feel more like the promise of the ongoing conversation we’ve all been looking forward to with omnichannel retailing – with an actual conversationalist.  Online, mobile, email, and apps in JackThreads case, all seem to provide a single view to the client.  There’s some work to be done, but there is a promising future for these sorts of new retailers.  Perhaps like Amazon and Warby Parker, stores will be in the cards for these retailers as well.

Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 7.04.23 PMPizza Hut on Xbox 360 – You can never have too many ways to order pizza.  Over the years we’ve seen pizza ordering from websites, fridge magnets, augmented reality, tablets, facebook, and now Xbox 360.  The ability to order pizza via a video game console makes perfect sense.  It’s just another touchpoint, and provides another channel through which the target market spends their time.  This is yet another example of a savvy organization noting where their potential customers spend their time and making it easy and fun to do business with them.  Other organizations would do well to take note.  With a proliferation of channels, it’s important to be selective, but picking the right channels to suit your business and your customers could result in a perfect match.

2010.34 | Canadian Retailers and Social Media

Update:  Permanent page with ongoing updates is available.

If you have been wondering what Canadian Retail organizations have been doing with social media, you’re probably not the only one.  Having spent a fair amount of time looking across the board, the use varies widely.  From squatting on a name, to full fledged use of multiple platforms with engaging conversation and offers specific to the audience on a platform, many retailers are feeling their way through the process and validating what the return is on using these platforms.  The common denominator is that everyone is experimenting, and given the low barriers to entry here, we can expect some exciting ideas to come out.   The new announcement regarding Facebook places last week should give the whole situation a new twist as well – adding where to the mix.

I’ve compiled a list of Canadian retailers with links to their respective social media sites.  The brands that seem to be doing the most so far are the ones that have a community of interest already, such as Holt Renfrew, Best Buy, lululemon and Chapters Indigo.  The thing I find so interesting is that consumers essentially have to seek these sites out.  Few of them are staring you in the face when you are on the web or looking at billboards, and yet some of them have incredible numbers of followers or fans.  175,000 people ‘like’ lululemon on Facebook as of August 20, 2010.  132,000 ‘like’ Aldo.  These are people who want to be publicly affiliated with a brand.  What an incredible opportunity for any business!

Have a look at what’s going on and weigh in on your opinion.  Who is doing well?  What’s working?  Let me know if you would like to see other retailers or platforms added to the list.  I plan on posting this chart along with more details on followers as a permanent page, though we can’t really rely on that as a measure of value added.   Let me know your thoughts on what you would like to see on a permanent page!

You can also see a presentation I put together including some recent examples of social media usage by retailers here.

  Facebook Twitter Flickr Youtube
Aldo [] []   []
Ardene []     []
Banana Republic Canada [] []    
Beer Store   []    
Best Buy Canada [] [] [] []
Blockbuster Canada [] []    
Body Shop Canada [] []    
Bouclair   [] [] []
Browns Shoes   []    
Chapters Indigo [] [] [] []
Cineplex [] []    
Empire Theatres [] []    
Fido Mobile   []    
Gamestop Canada [] []    
Gap Canada   []    
H&M Canada [] []    
HMV Canada [] []    
Holt Renfrew [] []   []
Home Depot Canada   []    
Home Hardware   []    
Home Sense [] []    
IGA Quebec   []    
iTunes Canada [] []    
Jean Machine [] []   []
La Senza [] []    
L’Occitane Canada   []    
lululemon [] [] [] []
Mastermind Toys [] []   []
McDonalds [] []   []
Mountain Equipment Coop [] [] [] []
Old Navy Canada [] []    
Planet Organic [] []   []
President’s Choice / Loblaw [] []   []
Rona [] []    
Roots Canada [] [] [] []
RWandCO [] []   []
Sears Canada [] []   []
Sobeys [] [] [] []
Toys R Us Canada [] []    
urban fare [] []    
West 49 [] []   []
Whole Foods Oakville [] [] [] []
Zellers   []    
zip.ca [] []    

Note: For some context on followers, see my list of twitter accounts with followers here.

Update:  Permanent page with ongoing updates is available.

2010.28 | Maker Becomes Retailer – DODOcase Study

I’ve found myself buying things directly from the manufacturer from time to time instead of going to a retail store for the purchase.  Having heard this trend highlighted at the Store 2010 conference in Toronto, I reverse engineered my own purchase process to understand how technology has changed the shopping process in favour of smaller players with niche products.

Before I received my pre-ordered iPad, I knew that I needed a case.  After a quick browse online, I had found that there were approximately a kazillion cases.  So how to decide?  I have gone through at least 3 cases on my iPhone, and it took experience to find one that worked in that case, and I’m still not blown away with what I have.

I tried hunting through Twitter – overwhelming amounts of data and nothing I want.  A few days later I came across a potential in one of my favourite blogs – uncrate.   It showed a case that looked like a moleskine notebook – the DODOcase.

I clicked through the link indicating where the trusty uncrate team found it.  On that page was a video review by San Francisco based blogger Kevin Rose who highlighted the benefits of the case (which is handcrafted in San Francisco) and why he liked it.  I searched twitter and googled the DODOcase to see what others were saying, and I didn’t see any red flags.  I checked out the DODOcase website – all looked good there.  They use Paypal – not unusual for a small enterprise like this, and they will ship to Canada.  It indicated a 4-6 week timeline which is a bit long – but it is handcrafted and since it’s precisely what I was looking for, I’m willing to wait.  So I placed an order on May 30.

Over the following weeks, I regularly visited the DODOcase Facebook page, which has all sorts of information, including videos of how they make the product.  They also constantly updated the dates for shipments on the page.  They regularly indicate what days’ orders were being shipped that week.  It’s also possible to peruse the page and see where customers have made complaints.  I’m happy to say that the DODOcase team appear to make every effort to respond and make suggestions on resolutions to customer issues.

On June 27, DODOcase cashed my Paypal payment, and I recieved an email notification of shipment on Thursday July 8.   I expect the shipment in a few days, and am looking forward to having the case I wanted.

So what does this all mean?  It has become possible to build a company from the ground up, have access to an international market who can find you purely through word of mouth, and maintain a relationship with many current and prospective customers via tools that are freely available online at no cost.    If someone has a great idea, the time to market is greatly reduced and intermediaries between the producer and the customers are removed.   You can even get micro-celebrities to give a no cost shout out.

Who knows where this goes in the larger scheme of things, but it certainly means that retailers will need to think out their value to consumers and manufacturers very carefully as there are more and more options for manufacturers to go to market.    DODOcase only started their business on April 1, 2010 and have built a viable business with back orders.  They kept it simple, and seem to be doing well without many bells and whistles.

For more information on this shift towards these social media tools and how they can be used to build a business, be sure to read Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel.

Update – July 28 – Got my DODOcase on my return from vacation and love it.  Martin was kind enough to point out to me that DODOcase has deservedly won the Shopify Build-a-Business award !

2010.18 | Canadian Retailers Using Social Media

I’ve been on the lookout for how retailers in Canada are using social media and mobile solutions to interact with their customers.   I was pleasantly surprised at the creativity and innovation of some of the organizations.    My observations are purely observational at this point, and based on what goes on in the Greater Toronto Area, but here are a number of uses of social media that have caught my eye recently:

Integrating Social Media and Digital Signage – Holt Renfrew has a limited time ability to tweet your #holtsbeauty tip on to their in-store digital signage in Toronto.   A free way to share information among HR customers, and get ones’ name in lights as it were.

Highlighting Social Media On-Site and Following their Customers Online  – Jack Astor’s are encouraging their customers to join their Facebook page when they bring the check.  They also started following me on Twitter when I became mayor of one of their locations on Foursquare, so they are paying attention.   That’s the kind of two way interaction that is novel to people and shoes a dedication to customers who are loyal enough to visit their restaurants and publish it online.

SMS Coupons – Payless Shoe Source Canada is offering a limited time SMS coupon for 20% off next purchase (text 77777 with Payless).  There is a very quick response with the coupon.  Kudos to Payless for highlighting that you have given them your number for messages and providing a very quick opt out, which worked flawlessly.  It’s a novel opportunity to use a coupon without paper, and the instant gratification of the text is satisfying as well.

Youtube Channels – Mastermind Toys has great coverage across many social media sites; particularly their Youtube channel where they show videos of their staff discussing products for sale in stores. This is a great way to bring the store experience into the online world.

Beyond these individual businesses and their ideas, I’m impressed at the increase in Twitter Feeds in Canada over the past couple of years.  Many consumer facing brands working in Canada have active Twitter feeds.   Here are the more active accounts that are either Canadian Based or have a Canada specific Twitter Feed along with their Follower counts as of May 3, 2010:

Canadian Retailer Twitter Feeds – May 3, 2010

Retailer Followers Retailer Followers
Addition Elle 175 Nutrition House 301
Aldo Shoes 1,810 Pet Valu 816
Bath & Body Works Canada 164 PizzaPizza 757
Best Buy Canada Deals 5,398 Planet Organic 1,343
Birks Jewellers 840 President’s Choice (Loblaw) 343
Browns Shoes 753 Purdy’s Chocolates 426
ChaptersIndigo 3,064 Roots Canada 2,716
Cineplex 224 RW & Co 443
Dairy Queen 77 Sears Canada 2,901
Empire Theatres 3,284 Shoppers Drug Mart 923
Fido Mobile 726 Subway Ontario 216
Future Shop 6,753 Sunrise Records 60
GameStop Canada 4,217 Suzy Shier 176
HMV 2,832 Taco Bell Canada 1,547
Holt Renfrew 3,011 Teaopia 205
Home Depot Canada 768 The Body Shop Canada 664
IGA Québec 717 Tim Hortons 2,250
Jack Astor’s 255 ToysRUs Canada 42
Jean Machine 398 West 49 293
Koodo 52 Whole Foods 1,159
La Senza 1,782 (My local store – find yours here)
Mastermind Toys 861 Wireless Wave 222
McDonald’s Canada 1,620

While the numbers are not massive, they are interesting to analyze.  Not surprisingly, technology leads the way: Future Shop, Best Buy and GameStop show very high numbers, for example.  Niche grocers Whole Foods and Planet Organic also have very high follower numbers considering that Planet Organic is a relatively small chain, and Whole Foods number represents one store.  Remember that this list is mostly composed of people who have chased down a retailer and added it to a list.  Not many of them highlight their Twitter accounts beyond an email or link on a webpage.   This may very well represent a very dedicated demographic – or at the very least, one that is interested in the stores, the bands and what they are about.

Social media is certainly a growing opportunity for retailers and has grown leaps and bounds over the past couple of years.  It will be interesting to see how it matures in Canada over the coming months and years and what we learn from it.  So far it affords retailers an essentially unheard of opportunity – a virtually free marketing experiment.

Update – July 28 – I’m maintaining a list of Canadian Retailers on and Canadian Restaurants Twitter.  Let me know if I’m missing any!

2010.16 | Record Stores & Technology

With this weekend’s celebration of record store day, I became nostalgic and thought of how buying music worked in days gone by.  I thought of my first album purchased from the local record store, the whole asthetic pleasure of buying music in those days.  The spurious decoration in the store.  The sketchy characters that worked in record stores.  Taking home the physical object.  The art on the cover, the smell of the new CD, the booklet with the words.  It was an experience. 

Over time, the pleasure of that experience was chipped away by massive piracy.  The rise of Napster and Limewire and then iTunes and the iPod chipped away at the record stores.  The pleasure of the music purchasing experience was overcome by the convenience and simplicity of obtaining music from these places for a younger generation.  The stores where I used to browse as a youngster slowly disappeared – A&A, Sam the Record Man, Tower Records and many others.  Those that survive are re-inventing themselves for a very new situation. 

I obtain all of my music online.  I frequent places like the iTunes, the sixty-one, and last.fm to listen to, hear about new music and get suggestions for new material.  I can look at endless blogs like quickbeforeitmelts, cavacool, or Cover Lay Down as well.    I sometimes buy music directly from the bands themselves.  In fact, I was listening to an NPR technology podcast last night that was talking to a band who has never released a physical CD and yet make a living from their music. 

If there has ever been a retail segment fundamentally impacted by technology it has been record, er, music stores.  What lessons can be learned from the demise of the record store as we knew it, and what could the music stores do to ?

  • There is no way to control the sorts of technologies that overcame the music industry and its’ retailers.  The Internet and social media have such a huge hold on society today – and particularly the young monied demographic that they serve, that it would be more productive to embrace it and use it to advantage than to fight it with old strategies.   For example, if you are a used music store, use Twitter to tweet about recent additions to stock.  You can develop a following.  The internet is all about niches and leveraging them.
  • Consider selling things that can’t be downloaded electronically.  Many music stores are jumping on this very well – selling vinyl is picking up again for audiophiles – and video games for Xbox and Wii still require physical media.
  • Find a way to drive traffic using the technology – foursquare is gaining a foothold with retailers as a way to drive traffic with special deals for the mayor or those who check-in at their stores
  • Provide an experience that can’t be had online – Starbucks provides a sensory experience.  It’s certainly possible to do something similar in a music store to cater to a specific demographic.  Build a physical community that can then leverage the one online.  Why don’t have digital downloads for customers in the stores?
  • Go local – Align with local bands who haven’t been discovered yet that are playing venues in the neighbourhood of the store – whether on Myspace or by a label.  Building a relationship with them brings their fans along, and shows those that love the medium that the store is part of the local fabric.  Make the store a gathering place for like minded people.

All of these things are much easier said than done, and I don’t have the answers – merely the benefit of hindsight.  In fact, I think physical music stores are doing many of these things, and probably more.  One thing is certain – as a retailer – or owner of any consumer facing organization, it is now important to understand the business impacts of technology – it goes beyond ROI and a CIO.  It is important to consider how any new consumer technology trend could fundamentally undercut your business.  If you don’t, there will be someone to take the business from you with their unique business model – directly or indirectly.

2010.10 | Social Media for Special Events

Retailers have been leveraging the popularity of special events to sell more goods for as long as there has been retail.  The pervasiveness and immediacy of social media now presents a greater opportunity for retailers to leverage the excitement around special events.  The incredible potential of leveraging social media has been highlighted with the recent 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and by the 2010 Oscars.

What are the benefits of social media over traditional methods (print, television, radio, email) of providing special event offers and coverage?

  • Social Media can quickly attract customers to deals related to special events in a timely and effective manner.  In the past, retailers may leverage a small display in a store with some signage and some topical items, but that relied upon the fact that customers would have to be in the store to capture them.  In email, the opportunity may be lost in the user’s inbox. With the use of a twitter feed, or a facebook update, customers that are part of the retailer community will be open to hear the connection between a special event and a retailer.  Establishing the shared passion of a brand and a consumer can forge a bond for long term sales, as well as drive immediate traffic with a good posting that connects an offer with a short term special event like Canada Reads.
  • Retail organizations can leverage special interest groups into sales by getting their eyes during a special event.  IMDB tweeted all of the winners, and posted all of them on their start page. Followers are now one click away from the links to the winners, and all of the details, including very very soft sell links to Amazon to buy the DVDs and books.   Amazon owns IMDB and it does a great job catering to a very devoted film audience and is smart enough to make it easy to buy, but not overshadow the information that film lovers get from the site.
  • Social Media allows consumers to take part in a discussion where their input is appreciated, building a closer alignment with the brand.
  • Social Media shows the discussion taking place – effectively customers build the dialog and the content, and retailers can look at the customer interest to build offers and adjust the brand to suit their customers interests. Sepphora Product Reviews is a great example of how that dialog can be built.

Social Media allows for quick, timely campaigns that would never happen in other media.  They are very cost effective, can be timely (sent out right after a game winning goal perhaps), and don’t require extensive planning. Given the low cost of social media and the potential upside, expect a great deal more of this to take place.

2009.47 | Paper Free Offers Please

Given the state of the global economy, special offers have become the new normal in retail.  Retailers are increasingly able to offer relevant offers on products and services desired by individual consumers.  Consumers who are loyal in these fickle times are rewarded with great deals. 

A technology decision such as requiring a barcoded coupon can have a heavy influence on the closure of a sale.  If a physical coupon is required and forgotten, there can be disasterous concequences.  The consumer may make a special trip to a location, spend sigificant time and energy to fill a basket, and then discover that the offer can not be redeemed. 

The end result is an abandoned basket, at best.  At worst, a customer will feel cheated by the retailer for forgetting a slip of paper.  This sort of small annoyance finds its way to places like Consumerist, or onto Twitter.  While these small annoyances were not worth addressing in the past – with no facility for consumers to vent such a small issue, these items could be ignored.  These new media provide instant response, and the potential for massive backlashes never before possible.

The opportunity to bring a consumer closer to a retailer – to make them more loyal – has been transformed into a pain point for the consumer.  And why the pain point?  Why is it necessary that we all kill trees and feed toner onto paper so that a barcode can be scanned?   The reasons are myriad, and include:

  • Limiting the offer – Perhaps retailers don’t want to provide the offer to the general population, but to a select audience.  Perhaps they are limiting the stock for a BOGO or free item.  While this is sometimes the case, many offers generally encourage you to send them to friends and family and use them over and over again. 
  • Sweethearting – Retailers want to reign in associates who give discounts to people on their whim – they could give it to everyone.  Using a barcode provides an audit trail with the paper coupon and the scanning requirement that will minimize the impact of a dishonest cashier providing discounts to unqualified individuals.
  • Tracking – Any campaign requires measurement, and some campaigns may want to track where the consumer found the offer, so they can understand their multi-channel mix.  There may be different barcodes for e-mail, flyers, newspaper ads, for whatever medium was used to validate the offer source.

There has to be some way to meet these very reasonable retailer needs in some manner without the handicap of a paper coupon – a 19th century innovation.  Unfortunately, barcodes can’t be scanned directly from most mobile devices, so this problem may take some time to be resolved with technology.  While there are some amazing opportunities using 2d barcodes or coupon apps to bridge this divide that are wholeheartedly encouraged, an interim measure that works for all consumers – not just mobile users – is key to avoid the bad press on line that can sink brand capital – particularly in the online world where bad press spreads so quickly.

As always the best route is to make the technology as invisible to the consumer as possible.  Why not make the unique barcode something that can be entered manually if the client reads it off their device to the cashier?  If there are concerns about limiting or sweethearting, why not have a code that the cashiers can enter manually if a customer mentions the offer, and a different code if it is scanned?  If the coupon is fundamentally required, offer a lesser discount without it. 

No matter the answer, it’s important to consider the desired end state, and not get caught in technology for it’s own sake – be it a barcode or a mobile device.  The solution has to be simple for the consumer.

2009.28 | More Mobile and Social Media

Retailers continue to delve deep into the murky waters of mobile apps. A Sears representative recently talked about their experiences and suggested success criteria for mobile retail with Sears2Go. Best Buy has also jumped in, with both a mobile website an iPhone app that will provide information on deals at your local Best Buy based on location – a sort of virtual local flyer.

Taking the social media trend to its logical next level, Whole Foods recently announced that individual stores will now have their own Twitter accounts. Expect departments and special interest by store to follow as those interested in certain subjects open themselves up for communication. As mentioned previously Sephora is encouraging its customers to post reviews of its products on its site.

Geeky as these items appear at first glance, the movement of mobile technologies and their applications to the maintream represent an amazing opportunity for retailers to go back to their roots.

Years ago, retailers operated in small communities, knew their customers on an individual basis and would market to them at that level. A sporting goods store owner knew that a new rod and reel would appeal to a very specific group of people in his community. That retailer could be in touch with those people he knew to let them know about the product. Much of that one to one relationship marketing was lost with the advent of big box stores and the migration of commerce from city centres and markets to suburban shopping malls.

With the ever widening number of mobile tools and the increasing number of tribes and communities out there, there is a real opportunity for retailers and consumer facing organizations of all kinds to go back to that sort of one on one relationship that can result in real benefit to both parties – consumers recieve products and services tailored to their specific needs, and retailers obtain an opportunity to gain real loyalty and value add for providing those tailored offers.

2009.21 | Handheld Payment | Geek Coupons

Handheld Payment – The CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey recently announced via Twitter his next project, code-named Squirrel. While few details are available as of yet, the rumour is that it will enable credit card payments to be processed on the iPhone.

This brings some interesting questions into play around EMV and PCI and how it would be handled. Perhaps the certification and security issues can be accommodated via the increased capability of handling peripherals supposedly enabled by the new “to-be-released-in-Summer-2009” iPhone 3.0 OS.

Squirrel could take the mobile payments impetus away from the mobile carriers, who own the infrastructure and are experimenting with how to charge for this service. Instead, it could be a regular data transaction on an iTunes App Store application – taking the carrier out of the equation. This assumes, of course, that the massive issues of security and fraud are covered to the satisfaction of the credit card companies and banks – no simple feat even without PCI and EMV requirements, though there is at least one company who is trying it.

Payments on mobile also bring us closer to the expectation that for the right retail environment a truly mobile based POS is a potentially realistic solution. Tomorrow’s retailer’s POS area could be limited only by the space in and around the store, the number of handheld devices available, and how many people they want at work that day.

Geek Coupons – Coupons and Loyalty programs really are all the rage given the Great Recession we all find ourselves in.

I was recently reading a copy of Canadian Retailer and came across the horribly named (and lets face it – an awful looking ipod ripoff) GreenThingE, a keychain based electronic device that allows for electronic distribution and acceptance of coupons and loyalty cards.

The unit uses Mobeam technology from Ecrio. This technology flashes an LED at a frequency that today’s currently installed barcode scanners interpret the same as paper based barcodes.

While I find the technology intriguing, getting consumers to find coupons online and pass them to the unit via USB is an unlikely proposition. The demo on the Mobeam website says that 71% of consumers 18-24 use coupons. Do you see them sticking an ugly 2001 dollar store gadget on their keyring? Do people even still have keyrings? They scratch your mobile in your pocket.

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