How many POS-enabled iPod Touches can a retailer purchase
for the cost of a traditional cash register? Five, said URBN’s Chief Information and Logistics Officer
Calvin Hollinger at the NRFTech Conference. Checking out more shoppers quickly
is great, but the retailer has also developed a suite of mobile apps to help store
associates better serve their shoppers – and not just for the cool factor, but
because it makes financial sense. URBN will be removing all cash registers from
its stores within five years says Hollinger.
We’ve been watching the
news about the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) – a new, multi-retailer
initiative to develop a mobile wallet for shoppers. The scale is impressive – the
retailers involved so far do more than a trillion dollars in annual sales – but
how much the new Exchange can accomplish is an open question. A strong
advantage for shoppers should be that it lowers the cost of payment. As a recent NY Times article reports, some believe that no one is in a better position
than large retailers to lead this change, but others think that there are so
many other initiatives under way (Square, Google, Microsoft, credit card
companies, phone carriers . . .) that MCX will find it hard to get out in
front to drive mainstream adoption.
Paying with your phone can create a gee whiz moment for shoppers like
the one that Miguel Helft describes in a recent Fortune article on the
state of pay-by-phone technology. Unique and different? We’ll buy that.
And the mobile wallet will simplify things for shoppers – at least
that’s the grand vision. But we’ve got a question: Is this what shoppers
really want? Will they see and appreciate the benefits?
Walmart’s pay with cash option fits the needs of people who can’t or
would prefer not to pay with plastic. You shop online, pay with cash
in-store within 48 hours, and then the merchandise ships. It’s a helpful
response to the increasingly bi-polar, high-end/low-end marketplace. It
also reminds us that there are more “degrees of freedom” in the payment
system than most people think about - e.g. you can pay before, during, or after you make a purchase.
Chain restaurants and 7-Elevens can use a new business called Plink to build loyalty
among Facebook users. Every time you eat at one of your favorites like
Quiznos or Dunkin Donuts, Plink awards you virtual currency you can use
to buy internet music downloads, movies, TV episodes, and virtual goods
in Facebook games.
offers a unique twist for shoppers in the Northeast part of the US:
They will literally go to the store for you - at about 300
retailers. Drag the Suddenlee button to your browser bar and start
shoping online for in-store items at big names like Target. AnnTaylor,
Zara, TopShop, and Sephora, and Suddenlee will do the running around.
Shoppers get the
convenience of one order, one checkout,
one shipment, and next-day delivery for the NE – all for the same price
charge for regular shipping.
Some retailers, RedBox, and ATMs are already emailing digital receipts. Now SF-based Proximiant is beta testing technology that makes it possible for shoppers to collect itemized receipts to smartphones with a single tap at the register via NFC.
Some BMC Conversations are just too good not to build out, so we’re hitting the “refresh” button on November’s question. Here, the ideas and insights that surfaced converge on answers to four important questions about how and when retailers adopt new technology.
Here’s a challenge I see: Every retailer needs to decide how they are going to deliver more value in the “new normal” marketplace, a place where shopper expectations are high, limits on disposable income are real, and technology delivers nearly limitless possibilities. A CEO I respect said not long ago, “It’s not yet clear to me which way to take our company.” I sense many of his peers are in a similar situation. There are no maps, and without some guidance, we’re likely to wander around for a while. One way to establish direction is to go back to a familiar reference point and modify it to work better in today’s world. I suggest we update the shopper value equation. Here’s a draft set of ideas about what’s needed to deliver value to 21st century shoppers for discussion, feedback, and improvement.
Something new is happening in retailing – to retailers. Shoppers still
want easy access to products they want to buy when they want to buy them.
What’s new is that innovators are aggressively rethinking some basic elements
of the retail business model. Here’s what I’m seeing: retailers rethinking
access, retailers responding to new demand drivers,
and retailers taking new approaches to availability.
To me, there are enough connectable dots to indicate that we’re approaching a
major expansion in the range of ways we serve
shoppers. Do you see what I see?
We like to keep an eye on the text-to-buy space. Now someone’s come up with Fresh List "a text-based marketplace” designed to help people buy and sell fresh, local produce in real time. The app makes it possible for sellers to list their inventory and buyers to access the lists (20 apples, anyone?). When the buyer wants to make a purchase, the seller receives a text with the buyer’s number. GPS tells them where each other are located.