Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kiosk, Digital Signage Expos Showcase New Customer Engagement Solutions

Looking ahead to one of the most challenging holiday seasons in more than a decade, retailers are taking a harder look at innovative ways to engage the customer and optimize the in-store experience. With retailers striving to up the ante in-store and online, solution providers pushed the envelope by unveiling cutting edge technology at last week's KioskCom Self Service and Digital Signage Expo in New York’s Javits Center.

Interactivity, self-service and streamlining information were some of the key themes at the shows. Innovations at the shelf-edge, new tools to collect and measure customer feedback as well as applications which help retailers engage through their mobile devices were just some of the solutions debuted. Retail TouchPoints walked the aisles of both shows and the following report highlights some of the ground-breaking tools that made waves at the events:

Smart Shelf Technology
Marketing experts emphasize that messaging is more powerful when it’s relevant and timely. The folks at Nanonation say Smart Shelves do just that—deliver a message to the consumer at the point of interest to inform and engage. Consumers can pick up a product and be instantly greeted with pertinent information and insights delivered through digital screens and intelligent triggers. The application is dual purpose, as it works to provide employees with timely, consistent and in-depth information to enhance their training and selling ability.

Customer Feedback Management

Cleva Technologies debuted Xit Poll, which is currently deployed in Filene’s Basement stores. The solution is a whole new take on exit polling. To help retailers attain valuable and relevant information, the Xit Poll combines a versatile platform with a user-friendly Web-based data management system. The wireless device can be placed in any area of the store, as it gathers real-time data to provide intelligence on each user’s shopping experience. In addition to its survey capability, the Xit Poll has an interactive map which enables retailers to manage the device based on geographic location.

Smartphone Integration

Addressing the huge expansion of iPhones and other mobile devices, Intava announced the integration of smartphone technology to marry mobile phones with in-store digital signage to inform and communicate with customers, not only in the in-store environment, but beyond. The integration is designed to offer retailers the opportunity to deliver any in–store interactive system or marketing campaign to a variety of smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone. With Intava’s new smartphone solution, retailers can create personalized, mobile interactions to be used within the store environment, delivering promotions, marketing messages and product information directly to the mobile phone.

Home Scanner
Retail TouchPoints previously reported on the Ikan grocery scanning device. The company showcased the second generation device, the Ikan v2, which now offers a more compact, touch screen version. Offering consumers a chance for engagement in their own kitchen, the device facilitates shopping list building via the countertop device. Ikan plans to add weekly circular, personalized specials and coupons to the device interface, designed to help retailers drive incremental sales by having these features accessible to the consumer right in their kitchen.

High-Touch Service

Experticity and NCR announced their partnership to offer a new channel in customer support. The retail-specific solution engages shoppers at the point of purchase with high quality, live video customer support. Rather than having to ask a sales associate for help, or find product information on their own, shoppers can interact with a live person through video. Remote expert service agents-- supplied by the retailer, consumer goods manufacturer or a third party-- can be accessed by the shopper. NCR's team will now stage, deploy and support the Experticity platform.

TableTop Dining Solution
Casual dining restaurants can address their turnover rates and customer satisfaction initiatives with the first pay-at-the-table & digital promotion solution, from Dallas, TX-based startup TableTop Media. The device is designed to increase table turns by enabling customers to split checks, email and/or print receipts and offer a digital survey at the end of the meal. The device is fully interactive as it provides nutritional information, displays menu options and can be customized appropriately. If a survey shows evidence of a less-than-perfect experience, restaurant managers can be automatically notified to make a visit to the table, increasing customer loyalty. The device also serves as a form of “infotainment,” where diners can view movie titles and times, and even purchase tickets.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Retailers Work Web 2.0 to Craft Their Own Bailout For Fall and Holiday 2008

Written by Amanda Ferrante

Retailers are expecting Web 2.0 applications to “work it” to help pull out a decent holiday season amid a tough year. In fact, many major retailers are already in full swing with fall campaigns that stressing innovation and customer engagement to spark a bleak economy.

“Value-added services like how to’s and customer product reviews are now considered the norm in the retail industry,” says Doron Levy, president of Captus Business Consulting. “Customers are always looking for resources, especially when it comes to higher priced products, such as cosmetics and electronics. These services build confidence for the customer and can drive them to purchase based solely on the extra information they receive.”

Saks Fifth Avenue is taking Levy’s advice to heart. As part of its fall promotional campaign, Saks Fifth Avenue is pulling out an arsenal of Web 2.0 tactics to engage and entertain online customers. Saks.com offers a video catalog called “Fashion in Action,” which treats cosmetic shoppers to step-by-step instructions on proper skin care, makeup application, and combining scents. The new element is designed to give customers a “real sense of the product,” which is a big step forward in the Web 2.0 world, where video is vital.

Among other new Web features, Saks.com developed the Fashion Incubator, “as the source for what’s new, what’s now, what’s next.” Here customers can read up on new featured designers, and shop their collections.

Many retailers have already rolled out the Christmas allocation, while others will implement right before Halloween to try to get a jump on sales. Macy’s Inc. and Costco have already put out holiday merchandise. “There will definitely a sense of Christmas in the air much earlier than previous years,” says Levy. “It will be interesting to see the circulars this seasons and the aggressive promos and price reductions to get inventory moving.”

Levy says Wal-Mart and Target will be aggressive players this holiday season—Target will offer a gift card that doubles as a digital camera.

Hot products make the difference
Since prices have come down on electronic gadgets like MP3 players, smartphones, and LCD TVs, analysts say these items will be hot gift choices this year. “Prices have come down on many of the televisions, making them more accessible to more economic groups,” says Levy. “Video game consoles will also do well, especially since there is improved allocation on Playstation3 and the Wii. Blu ray disc players have also seen some price reductions.”

As part of its marketing campaign, Bloomingdale’s is integrating music into print advertisements, email messages, catalogs, Web site, shopping bags and window displays, bringing the concept to its customers across all channels. The retailers will offer live performances by musicians and bands in stores, in addition to selling artist CDs and DVDs distributed by the Sony Music Label Group division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Jack Hruska, executive vice president for creative services at Bloomingdale’s in New York told The New York Times the music campaign was inspired by the recent fashion trend for clothing inspired by rock and roll, like “rocker t-shirts, skinny pants, leather and siren pants.” But the campaign isn’t limited, as it will include genres like jazz, show tunes, pop and classical in the campaign. Bloomingdale’s plans to include music in its Christmas campaign as well, which is scheduled to start November 20.

One analyst says retailers need to focus on their customers rather than getting “caught up in all the teenage angst of the financial, commodity, political circus.” “Those who put their nose to the grindstone, work the long hours, connect with their customers and shut their mouths about anything related to disappointment, lack or worry will do fine,” says Bob Phibbs of The Retail Doctor.