Sport & Hobby

Transportation Optimization - a silver bullet to solve "last mile delivery?"

Ted Matwijec, Managing Director, ACT Operations Research – Raleigh, NC.

Learn how knowing your constraints and customer demands feeds sophisticated algorithms to provide optimal routing and balance delivery vs costs   Lately I have been seeing more and more of those brand-new Amazon Prime - Mercedes panel trucks making deliveries around my neighborhood.   Also, I have even seen the USPS delivering packages on Sunday (contracted by Amazon I am sure).  What’s going on Sunday deliveries? On demand delivery with time windows specified by a customer is becoming the consumer norm.  Remember the delivery or service call by your cable TV/Internet provider saying my service guy will be there between 8 am and noon then shows up at 11:50am.  Met their promise, but ruined your whole morning wasted sitting around! Let me assure you that customer service problem can be solved and you don’t need the resources of Amazon, UPS or Fed Ex. Amazon is clearly moving into the supply chain delivery markets much to the chagrin of FED EX and UPS to take back their “last mile” deliveries of their goods and solve this problem for the customer.    The question is how can they make the most expensive part of delivery – the “last or golden mile” to a customer profitable? From our experience in these markets, simply put, Amazon, Fed Ex, UPS and other large transportation companies have the best and brightest staff of Math, Statistical Phds that constantly hone their algorithms to minimize costs and maximize the service requirements.   When profit is measured in pennies in a transportation system – (that’s why you see the UPS guys running from each delivery back to their trucks) – the solution cannot be a spreadsheet or database or even year 2000 optimization technology. It is not rocket science, well maybe sort of, but rather advanced mathematics (think Calculus) applied to route planning optimization and fleet capacity analysis.  These transportation algorithms (remember the traveling salesman problem) have generically been around for decades, however now they are totally customized, enhanced and improved enough to cover the most minutia of system requirements – by many software companies.  I read that UPS has put 10’s of millions of dollars in R&D over the years into their algorithms to update and improve optimize their KPIs – as an example! So, why now is the “last delivery mile” more complex and expensive than ever?   The short answer, the customer is demanding it and will go other places if your company cannot provide it!   We all know how poor delivery can be written up in YELP or GOOGLE about your business – a big problem in the social media world for your marketing department.   (eg. – delivered food late for a kid’s birthday party) The good news for any retail or grocery store fleet manager is that to solve the “last mile delivery” the technology today is much less expensive and available for all size of fleets and route planners The long answer is the complexity of the business rules, constraints and requirements to execute this service.   First some examples…of customer/supplier requirement I am seeing today in our markets of retail and grocery applications - Customers: Wants confirmation of a tighter availability of their grocery delivery – eg. In the next 30 minutes Desire communications via a mobile app, email or text to the customer – about the updated arrival time. Want a positive experience to tell their friends how good their deliveries are! – We all want that on demand! Grocery/Retail Stores with their own fleets, or outsourced via 3PLs - Wants a confirmation signature the groceries have been delivered and that information is sent back to the IT system in real time, with SKU information, for example – for replenishment purposes. Wants real time updates from their drivers about location, traffic and estimated delivery window to communicate back to the customer. Wants to be able to reschedule a driver in real time for a new pickup at the store/warehouse or pick-up a returned item. So, the lengthy transportation distances between warehouses to stores is a natural issue solved by logistics teams for inventory replenishment.  Now add that complex delivery network and inventory now required “on demand” from a store location or back in the warehouse for a customer that wants it delivered this afternoon – and you get to see why the “last mile” delivery starts to become complex and expensive!  From a labor, IT system connection, communication systems, loading, unloading, time window point of view, the human brain cannot possibly manage all the variables in your network – to balance cost vs services. Lot’s of moving business costs involved to serve the customer. So, from my 30  + years in the Operations Research field, I can strongly recommend an updated math model is appropriate for route planning and optimization and is the potential strategic “silver bullet” you are looking for – to support you competing in your markets!  Of-course it is not the whole answer, you have to execute a plan, change some processes and manage the fleet – the cultural processes. Question, when was the last time you asked for your route planning algorithms to be updated in your home grown business system,  TMS or ERP system, meanwhile your points of service network has changed a lot just in the last 5 years! I have seen the market share winners in the tight margin grocery or retail store business realize that the supply chain strategy to optimize delivery to their clients from source through the delivery point is accomplished by using transportation optimization.   Managing constraints like labor, fuel costs, traffic conditions, time window, texts and emails to meet that short time window and the “last mile” requires serious modeling/computational power and IT changes. The good news is that this technology is more readily available, less expensive from providers, easier to use for your staff, and has proven real cost savings – to meet or exceed your customers expectations. How much did your optimization algorithms cut your cost in your delivery system last year? Find the hidden value in your delivery system today, using math optimization, your savings should be a min. 10%+ or more in our experience to deliver on time or earlier and impress your customers! +MORE

Timing is everything and ‘your newest team member’ is right on time!

Lan Nguyen, Marketing Manager, Bossa Nova Robotics

With AI and data from your newest team member, retail work has never been easier. Bossa Nova, a leader in creating autonomous service robots for the global retail industry, tracks inventory plus store and shelf conditions in real-time. Its solution delivers data with speed and accuracy. By reducing inventory time, Bossa Nova is able to provide real-time data for stock levels with improved accuracy. So how does this translate to a financial gain for retailers? First, by automating mundane tasks, employees are happy and happy employees make a happier retail environment. You might wonder how many hours are spent on mundane tasks such as inventory audits.  There are 30,098 items in the average grocery store. A typical Target store has around 80,000 SKUs and a Walmart supercenter sells up to 120,000 items. It takes about 20 human hours to audit 10,000 products. Following this logic, an average grocery store would require over 60 hours per store,  160 hours per store for Target, and a whopping 240 hours auditing shelves at a Walmart Supercenter. It’s easy to see how grocery stores following the recommended minimum quarterly inventory schedule forfeit a high proportion of human working hours to this task. For those that audit monthly, the labor costs are even more tremendous.   Bossa Nova helps retailers automate these inventory audits and monitor shelf-conditions in parallel, scanning an 80 linear foot aisle in 90 seconds with 98% accuracy. Through automation, employee focus can be shifted to more action oriented, customer-centric tasks, while the Bossa Nova robot detects anomalies in shelf conditions, covering everything from addressing out of stock and misplaced items, to pricing, and more. This shift in employee focus to the customer directly translates to higher shopper satisfaction and increased loyalty. It is estimated that out of stocks cost retailers over $129 billion in lost sales in North America - a loss of -4% of revenue annually. (the cumulative worldwide cost of out-of-stocks for retailers has now reached over $984b) A study conducted by MIT Supply Chain Management Research determined that 78% of products that are not on the shelves (i.e out of stocks) are actually on-hand. Given this, a majority of out of stock issues can likely be resolved in-store. Inventory replenishment is critical to success, and those tasks need to occur at store level. Having the right products in the right place when consumers are looking for them (both online and in-store) allows sales to escalate and deliver a sales velocity that makes the most effective use of each square foot of space. Bossa Nova is committed to maximizing this efficiency by gathing  reliable, real-time data that delivers task oriented, actionable items. Efficient inventory control improves speed to shelf by alerting store-level associates of inventory on hand, as well as buying desks / suppliers of true OOS situations. Through computer vision implementation, retailers can accurately assess, and more importantly, address in-store conditions in real-time, across all locations. Real-time accuracy is not only important to retailers, but it is also important to your shoppers. By having accurate inventory, confidence thresholds for item availability can be increased for both in-store and online shopper inventory inquiries. In fact, 81% of shoppers do research online before visiting a physical store for what they want to buy, yet only 27% of retail sites provide store level inventory. When the robot “wheels” into your stores, you will be saving intensive labor hours and improving your store conditions with unmatched accuracy. Bossa Nova has the credibility and experience to help retail operations realize the return on investment and successfully integrate with existing platforms and systems. There are two popular sayings that really affect your bottom line: “Timing is everything”, and “Time is money”, and in business, money really is everything. While many technology companies are still working to surmount the bell learning curve of applied technology, Bossa Nova is equipped with extensive retail experience and has been trusted by operations and IT professions to successfully integrate and lead this huge step in retail automation. With accurate inventory management, you can increase your revenue potential and more accurately can forecast the future. +MORE

Discovering the Holy Grail of Retail: Online-Offline Convergence

Sena Zorlu, Instapio

Over the past years, retailers have been investing into digital transformation, creating online stores and making their brick and mortar locations smarter. On the startup side, there has been a massive growth of retail technology companies in multiple areas to improve operations, cut costs and bring in more customers. There’s no Magical Solution Today there are multiple solutions that claim online and offline convergence. These are mainly: Data Management Platforms that will tie online and mobile identities to retailer’s offline data (CRM, POS, Loyalty) to provide historical view. Mobile Attribution and Retargeting platforms that will understand when mobile users are in your stores and retarget them with timely and relevant information. iBeacons that will help you communicate with your app users in granular proximity. Guest WiFi that requires social login or email that can be tied to your CRM. It is very confusing for retailers to understand what solution to invest in when the common value proposition is the same: we will bring you the holy grail; we will connect online with offline. However, the main problem with all these technologies is that they are lab technologies. They work perfectly in controlled environments where every condition is met. Well if all your customers download your mobile application and they turn on their bluetooth and they open the application and they stand next to this sensor than the technology works. Retailers are promised an amazing connected world where they have full control of their customers yet when these solutions are installed, the results don’t come near what was promised. This is why there are so many POC’s but so little mass deployments of technologies. Retailers need to understand that today, technologies that promise to connect them to customers are still in preliminary stages of growth. This is because there are pre-conditions for these technologies to work and consumers rarely act the way we aspire them to.  The costs and efforts associated with having every customer download and not delete a mobile application are astronomical. Even when you bear the costs, app store discoverability is really difficult and consumers are app tired, looking for a reason to delete an app. When a technology is not adopted by the masses, your results will be skewed because of the small usage base. Any A/B testing or campaign on a small sample size will lead for wrong strategy. Another blocker with mobile technologies is the device manufacturers themselves. Mobile based technologies use sensors and features within the mobile phone which puts the retail industry at the mercy of the manufacturers. So when a manufacturer decides to turn off location collection from mobile applications, your investment into mobile attribution may sink overnight. Which retail technologies will win? To be able to understand what is going on in the store environment, retailers need better data generation than what exists today. In order to take real time responsive action the way ecommerce sites can do, retailers need access to real time, contextual data that can speak with existing systems they have. Mobile apps do not fill the void of collecting this data. Meaningful information can only be collected with sensory technologies that will passively collect data from a large sample. The first result of this trend has been in-store analytics. In-store analytics has presented a better picture of what is going on in the store and help understand the funnel that leads to purchases. The next wave of technology is to improve what we can do with this sensory data. Historical analytics is nice to have but will not magically save retailers. The next wave of retail technology will come as software layer that sits on top of sensory information and will affect all operations from merchandising, real time campaigns, personalization, staffing and everything else. So what can retailers do today? One thing we know for sure is that consumer behavior is rapidly changing and brick and mortar retailers must adapt to the changes demanded by customers. Retailers must be educating themselves with new technologies and changing consumer behavior. Big box stores have built lab environments to test new technologies, the easiest thing smaller retailers can do is to dedicate one store, preferably near their headquarters as their lab environment. They can be open to testing new technologies rapidly and choose best startups that can act with a real store rather than doing a fancy presentation or a demo. Retailers need to be in the conversation of emerging technologies. There are many technology startups like us who are working for the core problems that retailers are facing today. Whatever the retailer’s size may be, a lot of startups will be open to testing and working with them to solve specific industry problems. Small and medium sized retailers can become more innovative by becoming part of the solution. Building internal teams, dedicating test stores, working intimately with startups, having leadership teams advise retail tech startups are just some of the things retailers can start with that won’t require significant budgets. What we are working on At Instapio, we have been working on unifying different identities customers have to paint a clear picture of what is happening in the store and bring aggregated insight to help retailers. Our goal from the first day was to bring the automagical aspects of online to the physical world. It’s a big challenge and there is no one shot solution to create it. It requires collecting and merging of data from multiple assets, unifying different identities, making all the data talk in the same language and delivering it to the retailer in a format that can be used. This is why we are building an ecosystem around bringing all this sensory information together and make it available to talk to management systems in real time. We are working closely with the Advancing Retail platform, very excited to learn and help solve brick and mortar business challenges. +MORE

Whatever the Question, A.I. is the Answer Because Nobody Likes Calling Customer Service

Susan Galer , Forbes SAP voice

Bejoy Narayana, CEO of BoodsKapper, develops AI applications that can cut down customer problem resolution time by a factor of 10. Give us your superstar customer service representative, and we’ll provide an AI application that replicates their behavior, reducing problem resolution time from 10 minutes to one. This is what I heard and saw from Bejoy Narayana, CEO of BoodsKapper at the recent SAP Financial Services Innovation Summit held at the SAP Leonardo Center in New York. The Texas-based startup develops AI applications on the SAP Cloud Platform designed to not only ferret out what customers want quickly, but also communicate in their preferred medium – using any texting app or moving to a telephone conversation.   “No one likes calling customer service, and we believe that experience can be much better by training the software to behave like the ideal customer service representative, getting to the point quickly to provide a solution for busy people,” said Narayana. “Modeling the actions of a company’s best customer agent, we can train the AI engine to be up and running in weeks just as you would a new employee. This can cut down interaction times by a factor of ten.” Creating a Human-Like Dialogue…Read the rest of this article by Susan Galer on Forbes SAP voice Posted on the CART blog with permission from Bejoy Narayana, CEO BoodsKapper +MORE

Grab and Go Automated Commerce

Accel Robotics

We are building a ‘Grab and Go’ vision-based automated shopping system. Think about this like an Amazon Go solution for everyone else. +MORE

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Automation and Personalization of the Retail Store

Instapio Inc.

Instapio allows chain retailers to gain control of their business and automate customer experience standards. By using Instapio, retailers create seamless and intuitive locations that are responsive to the presence and habits of their customers.  The solution will operate as a decision making engine for each store and across the chain to measure millions of data points in real time, make decisions based on business priorities and optimize operations. Imagine a super store manager that oversees the everyday operations of all stores. +MORE

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DART Displays

DART Displays

DART Displays offers a way to transform the in-store shopping experience to one that is digital and dynamic, with reporting and analytics that lead to big insights about what moves your shopper to purchase.     By leveraging DART Displays structures (both permanent and flexible) you can and will create a best in class approach for enhancing the brand experience in-store.  +MORE

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BoodsKapper Retail bot

Boodskapper

This is our service for the retail industry and is primarily delivered through Facebook Messenger.  Consumers are able to send a picture of an item and ask if the retailer carries the item. The software is able to look up a retailer's catalog and answer the question.  Two-minute simulation here best explains the solution: http://www.boodskapper.com/#!retail/jjvu4 In this simulation, retailer has no prior record of the customer. Customer starts an organic conversation from Messenger, just as people do in life. BoodsKapper assists the customer to locate an article at the store. The customer picks up the conversation thread several months after the purchase and enquires about a variant of the item purchased. An organic conversation ensues and a purchase is made.is Deep reporting:   We would argue that information gold for the retailer are the conversations that your customers had with you through various channels. Our AI algorithms automatically find the meaning of the written text and use that to make the conversational response. As the meaning of conversations is analyzed and documented in real time, it is possible for us to enhance traditional reporting with this information. +MORE

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Robots for Retailers

Bossa Nova Robotics

It is estimated that out-of-stocks account for -4% loss in revenue, not to mention the possible long-term effects of losing loyal shoppers. Great shelving conditions can lead to great shopping experiences. Bossa Nova is the leading developer of robots designed to provide real-time inventory data for the global retail industry. Our retail service robot autonomously tracks inventory and the true state of in-store conditions to seamlessly deliver actionable tasks benefiting retailers through efficiencies and accuracy.   Ensure implementation and maximize operational efficiencies by relying on the retail experience and expertise of Bossa Nova. Our trusted team makes it work for all retailers - helping them turn real-time data into actionable tasks and insights.  Real-Time, Accurate Inventory Data Product Availablity with Efficient/Actionable/Timely Replenishment Real-time Corrective Actions to Remedy Merchandising, Pricing and Promotion Compliance  +MORE

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Darius™ for Retail

Darius Technologies

Darius for Retail is a fully integrated, cloud based shopper engagement platform. Darius delivers proven and measurable return on investment, by allowing retailers to put their shoppers at the center of everything and making it easy to engage and influence them pre-store, in-store, and post-store. Darius allows retailers to design, manage, develop and, measure interactions with their customers throughout the entire shopper journey.  The ‘tech’ bit: Darius™ is a modular ‘ecosystem’ retail technology platform that is designed to integrate and allow interaction with any existing retail systems and solutions such as Beacons, WiFi, dynamic shelf illumination, or e-coupons, and so on, to make continuous engagement with shoppers possible, wherever they are on the path to purchase. The customer experience bit: Darius™ allows retailers to put their shoppers at the center of everything by making it easy to engage and influence them pre-store, in-store, and post-store. The business bit: Darius™ delivers proven and measurable return on investment. That means more shoppers in-store, more often. It means attracting new and hard to engage shopper types. And it means bigger baskets and the increased spends that comes with that. It makes marketing budgets and, where they may already exist, retail tech investments work so much harder. +MORE

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LISNR

LISNR

LISNR powers transactions and connects the global customer journey with the most advanced Ultrasonic Data Platform. LISNR’s technology addresses the growing need for simple communication between myriad devices. Based on that idea, LISNR created proprietary software for encoding data into inaudible “tones”, which were then transmitted and received using standard speakers and microphones. +MORE

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App Store for Retail

Sparkle CS Ltd

Sparkle connects legacy and online retail solutions into a real-time cloud ecosystem to enable Big Data, connected store marketing and a true omni-channel customer experience.  Using Sparkle’s technology, retailers from independents to major chains have been able to rapidly and cost-effectively deploy integrated digital technology to drive customer engagement and increase sales. Extensible Framework, an app store for your POS: Our framework allows the digital world to interact seamlessly with tills.  Want your till to do something we haven’t thought of? Add another app. Making Coupons Work, Example App: Redemption Validation (RV): Our RV POS App allows digital and paper coupons to be accepted by the POS with controls against mis-redemption, reuse and fraud. Driving Out Costs, Example App: Electronic Clearing (EC): No more need for expensive clearing houses! With EC, you know who owes you what within hours. Settle via trade accounts or let us manage it for you. Cloud-based Management, Take control of your tills: Our cloud-based solution will get you up and running in no time. Change how your tills behave from your tablet in real-time. Bridging the Gap, bringing tills online: We provide a range of patented technologies that allows legacy tills, from corner shops to mainline grocers, to join the App Store for Retail. Future Proof, avoiding strategic paralysis: NFC, RFiD or QR Codes? You don’t need to guess. The App Store for Retail allows new interfaces to be plugged in at low cost. +MORE

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Balance Innovations Suite of Solutions

Balance Innovations

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Balance Innovations offers the only retail software platform that connects all points of your currency operations,  lowering the cost of accepting cash and increasing efficiency at all levels of the organization. It provides multi‐ layer security and effortless integration of all your devices and systems to give you an immediate, complete view  of your entire enterprise.  This comprehensive visibility enables you to understand what’s happening across your entire organization without tapping into multiple systems or reports. It puts all the information you need right in front of you –  customized to thresholds you choose – so you can be proactive in addressing issues before they become problems.   +MORE

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GoSpotCheck

GoSpotCheck

GoSpotCheck is mobile form and execution management software that enables team leaders to improve workforce operations. Organizations can assign tasks, analyze real-time reporting, and drive action to accomplish critical goals and objectives. +MORE

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BEFORE! Predictive Analytics

ACT Operations Research

1) Predict demand down to store and SKU level 2) Predict promotional campaign affect in the store, transportation and warehouse operations 3) Buy optimal quantities 4) Manage the risk associated with stock outs vs promotional campaigns and waste 5) considers assortment constraints and category efficiency 6) simulate store queuing for capacity analysis purposes and cost reduction purposes.  REVENUE, SALES & PROMOTION Revenue management and price optimization is a core-activity in any market oriented company operating in different industries (Retails, Fast Fashion, Chain Store, Car Rentals, Web Business, etc.). The goal of our suite is to provide, to the revenue managers, advanced analytics, using a unique combination and integration of predictive, optimization and simulation models. While the analytics tools are complex the results are always presented in an intuitive way. The core products included in the Revenue, Sale, Price & Promotion (RSP&P) suite are: Dynamic Price Optimizer (DPO), the multi-paradigm predictive paltform - Before! Predictive Analytics with Before! Sales Campaign -, the customers and market profiling analytics (CMP), the promotion optimization and what-if analysis platform - Before! Promo.  Before! Sales Campaign Before! Sales Campaign software addresses the needs of industries where the products and the merchandise assortments, have a fast renewal  dynamics, even during the same season, like the case of fashion and  fast-fashion channels, electronics or several web-business  Before! Promo Before!Promo, is a complete multi-paradigm analytical tool by ACTOR, developed for scaling enterprise companies. In the current competitive scenario the consumers pay high attention to the promotions, on the other hand promotions exposed retailers and vendors to higher risks in terms of image, in case of stock-out or costs in case of over-stock. When products are fresh-food or fast fashion for example, the risks become even higher.  Before! Predictive Analytics  Before! Predictive Analytics or simply Before!, is a complete multi-paradigm demand forecasting platform by ACTOR, developed for scaling enterprise companies. Before! provides you the capability to forecast the demand while gaining control of the related organization processes such as; planning, procurement, inventory optimization, store replenishments, etc..  Dynamic Price Optimization  Dynamic Price Optimization (DPO) is a capacity and revenue management software based on sophisticated analytical algorithms. It permits users to optimize the prices of products, assets and commodities over the time based on the expected demand, the competitor’s prices and other key-information like, for example, price elasticity.   +MORE

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Personalization and Relevancy Can Be a Game Changer for Independents

David Kiehle, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Smart.Market

Independent grocers are increasingly aware of the impact of industry disruption. These retailers are facing a new landscape marked by emerging technologies, quickly changing consumer behaviors, and a wide range of traditional and nontraditional competitors building scale through acquisitions and organic growth. This new environment creates challenges across the independents’ business, and a case in point is in marketing. Independents and their wholesalers are often lacking in resources and expertise. They typically don’t have big marketing budgets. Many don’t operate loyalty marketing programs. Most are without the teams of data analysts more typical of bigger chains. Some are still tied to weekly circulars that deliver the same offers across an entire market to an eroding base of newspaper subscribers. How can independent retailers compete in this new environment with effective marketing resources and strategies? Independents are expert at being relevant for their individual customer bases. However, increasingly they need to be on-target not just for their market as a whole, but for each household and each customer in that market. This requires a more sophisticated personalized approach to coupons and other offers, supported by technology. Independents often don’t know the best ways to get started down that path. There are numerous methods to embracing personalized marketing, some effective, some not so effective. These employ a range of platforms, from digital to print. Independents need to ensure that a personalization strategy is really personal. That means it needs to be targeted to individual households and customers, rather than being merely a segmentation approach that addresses large groups of shoppers. One of the most effective and cost-efficient personalization strategies is leveraging direct mail, a seemingly mature form of retail marketing, that can be transformed through data-driven personalization techniques to drive profits and traffic. Recent research from the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) shows personalized direct mail campaigns can increase ROI from three to 10 times compared to traditional strategies. Ironically, personalizing direct mail often results in a hybrid approach between print and digital. It’s actually digitally-driven print marketing. This approach leverages the best of print and digital through a state-of-the-art process called personalized variable direct mail. It not only outperforms traditional campaigns, but consistently outpaces online digital efforts as well. The result can be a game changer for independent grocers. Here are five ways this kind of personalization can transform marketing for independents. 1-Accelerate Response Rates: Personalized variable direct mail can deliver double-digit response rates consistently, which is markedly higher than traditional direct mail. 2-Capture Performance Analytics: A personalized data-driven program should be able to provide back-end analytics to measure scores of events across a marketing calendar. Ideally a retailer should be able to leverage a database to match consumer purchasing habits back to the individual household level for each store location. This enables the retailer to learn more about its current customers by location and identify others that have similar characteristics and behaviors. 3-Blunt Competitor Strategies: Personalized variable direct mail can be effective in battling a range of competitors, from big chains to hard discounters. Making use of this strategy can help to neutralize new market entries by competitors while at the same time rewarding valued repeat shoppers. 4-Redefine Trade Areas: This personalized approach helps to establish and grow a primary trade area. It’s common to achieve material increases in unique shoppers with each campaign. 5-Engage with Customers: The point of a personalized program is to connect directly with individual customers and households to boost basket sizes. It’s also geared to supporting new customer acquisition by understanding the similarities your core shoppers have with those who are not currently your customers. Marketing pieces can be customized for a wide range of demographics and other attributes to boost performance. This strategy can be particularly effective in gaining the loyalty of millennial shoppers, who are famously resistant to brand loyalty. +MORE

CART Weekly Report 3/28/19

CART, Advancing Retail

"PRESCRIBING" FRUITS AND VEGGIES WOULD SAVE $100 BILLION IN MEDICAL COSTS | Fast Company Gary's Take: The massive food and healthcare industries are converging, driven by healthcare costs, widespread chronic conditions, the growing understanding that food is medicine, and all enabled by technology. Read about iRetail comes to Healthcare in my latest book, Retail in the Age of 'I' available on Amazon. 50,000 WAREHOUSES TO USE 4 MILLION ROBOTS BY 2025, SAYS REPORT | Robotics and Automation News Gary's Take: Automation is exploding across distribution centers as more than 4 million robots are projected to be deployed in 50,000 warehouses by 2025. That's more than a 10x increase from the 4,000 warehouses using automation in 2018. The growth of eCommerce is driving more automation as companies are focused on efficiency and accuracy in order fulfillment. At the core of the rapid increase in robotics across the supply chain are growing capabilities enabled by AI. To stay competitive, retailers and wholesalers must look to the use of automation, both in existing distribution centers and new warehouses. This trend creates big opportunity for retailers to redirect resources into customer-facing roles to improve service and customer-focus. WILL RETAILERS BE READY WHEN AR ADOPTION TAKES HOLD? | RetailWire  Sterling's Take: AR or VR (or any technology) is not the answer. It should be the result of finding better ways to deliver more value to the consumer. As we’re able to create meaningful experiences that use AR/VR, something like 65% of shoppers expect it will change the way they shop, so they’re ready and willing to engage. ARE AMAZON'S PRIVATE LABELS FALLING SHORT OR JUST GETTING STARTED | RetailWire Sterling's Take: The key that Amazon has is that they've built into their culture the ability to learn, adjust and change. Even with limited success, I'm sure they're not only capturing all the data, but understanding exactly what is happening and why for their next iteration. Instead of worrying, other retailers and brands can focus their efforts on developing their people and their cultures to continually learn how to deliver increased value to the shopper. FEATURED BLOG OF THE WEEK: IT'S INDEPENDENT RETAILERS WHO ARE BETTER POISED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY, Guest blog by Chris Cialone, Director of U.S. Sales Operations, Wonder Rewards​ HAPPENINGS CALL FOR PRESENTERS FOR VR/AR ASSOCIATION RETAIL & eCOMMERCE MAY WEBINAR DISRUPTIVE LEADERSHIP & THE SELFCARE REVOLUTION​, Boston Immersion Event Apply to present at Retail Tomorrow Labs: Boston Immersion Event on July 17-18 SPRING 2019 RETAIL INNOVATION PITCH EVENT, hosted virtually on May 23, 2019 ​Get on the Inside - CART Community FOR RETAILERS>>  FOR SOLUTIONS>> Become part of the epicenter of retail innovation exclusive network. The place where retail decision makers and solution providers come together to advance retail into the future. +MORE

Litmus7 Ecommerce Acceleration Program (LEAP)

Litmus7 Systems Consulting

Litmus7 is a first ever, grow together technology venture capitalist partnership model that enables access to technology at no cost for aspiring and emerging retailers, so that their businesses get fast tracked to the next level and digital revenues are accelerated. +MORE

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Why Your Grocery Store Needs the Latest Scanning Technology

POSRG

For independently owned grocery stores to stay competitive with nation-wide retailers like Costco and Wal-Mart, having the latest point of sale (POS) hardware is essential for both customer and employee experience. While there is no replacement for knowledgeable, friendly cashiers, the checkout line is the nexus of the grocery store experience. A bogged down point of sale severely limits an independent retailer’s ability to effectively manage long queues, ultimately sacrificing their business to larger chains. Outdated and inefficient scanners at the POS means longer lines, frustrated customers and abandoned purchases. A POS upgrade can be a simple yet effective solution to many of the challenges faced by independently owned grocery stores today. Staying on the Forefront of POS Technology  A modern retail management system can narrow the gap between independent grocers and larger chain supermarkets. People often prefer the feel of a locally owned and operated grocery store to that of a larger chain, but in order to retain a loyal customer base, maintaining high quality equipment that serves the needs of the customer is a must. It is imperative for independent retailers to be on the forefront of technological POS advancements to stay competitive amongst the nationwide conglomerates. Smartphone use is constantly increasing as it integrates itself into virtually every aspect of the modern world, retail included. Being able to easily accept mobile coupons, pay via phone, scan items without concern for damaged barcodes, and weigh items quickly and accurately to reduce shrink are all elements that a store should consider when assessing their current stations and maximizing checkout efficiency.  Effective Mobile Couponing As mobile couponing becomes more widespread, it is important to implement equipment that can actually process electronic discounts. If you can’t accept a mobile coupon, customers may end up buying those products elsewhere, lowering your profits and decreasing the likelihood of the customer returning.  And while some POS systems do accept these coupons, a customer usually must either hand the phone to the cashier to scan, or the cashier must use a handheld scanner (relying on steady hands from both parties) to input the coupon code. Unfortunately, there is always the unwanted possibility of a dropped phone in this exchange, causing the grocer to be held liable for damages to the customer’s phone.  Customer Side Scanners State-of-the-Art checkout scanners now include customer side scanners for both ease of use and liability concerns. If the customer is able to use their phone to enter their loyalty information or coupons, scan an impulse buy at the counter, or even—eventually—make mobile payments, the cashier can focus on improving your store’s efficiency while the customer is supplied with an effortless way of entering information or discounts.  Versatility in Scanning Speeds up the Process  New scanning equipment also uses better quality laser scanning, with both vertical and horizontal scanning windows and omni-directional symbol orientation, helping to improve overall scanning speed. Many of these units can read barcodes even when they’re under plastic wrap, damaged or worn, faded, or poorly printed. Older scanning units can have scratches on their glass platters, increasing the time it takes to move items through the checkout line. Newer models use glass that is scratch resistant, limiting lost time and helping items ring up smoothly. Although lines may be long, with modern POS equipment discouraged customers may be surprised by the short wait times, therefore increasing customer satisfaction.  Maintenance Made Easy POS maintenance can also be an issue for independent supermarkets. With the advancements of technology, checkout lanes and their hardware are not immune to obsolescence. As equipment ages, it can become more difficult to service, taking longer and costing more in both labor and downtime. And while upgrading your store’s POS can cause concern—you might worry that it would be too costly or time-consuming, or even call for altering the structure of the checkout counter—products are now available that can reduce the total cost of ownership, lowering the time needed for servicing and overall power consumption. They’re easy to install, use a minimal number of parts, and have no moving pieces, thereby providing fewer failure points. Also, the housing of newer systems is often secured without screws, increasing accessibility for technicians and lowering checkout downtime.   What to Expect From Reputable Service Providers As a Point of Sale IT solutions and service provider, POS Remarketing Group is committed to helping your store manage every need at any phase of your equipment life cycle—from preventative maintenance and onsite repair to custom configurations made to order from our partnered, reputable brands. To stay competitive with nation-wide retailers and supermarkets, your equipment makes a difference to both customer and employee experience.  As experts in POS servicing and maintenance, POSRG can make these possibilities a reality, helping you acquire and implement a new checkout system that that will keep you competing with larger retailers. Upgrading your POS hardware is one of the easiest and most rewarding means to boost profits, reputation, and customer satisfaction.  Contacting Us If you’re interested in our services, we can be reached at www.posrg.com. We are confident that we can help with any POS or IT issue and provide valuable solutions. We will be present at this year’s National Grocers Association Show, occupying Booth 1015, where we’ll be showcasing the Zebra MP7000, a top of the line checkout scanner with some of the technology and features mentioned in this article. The details of our exhibition can be found here. Stop by and say hello, and we’ll be happy to show you our knowledge and expertise firsthand. +MORE

It’s Independent Retailers Who Are Better Poised to Take Advantage of Technology


Chris Cialone, Wonder Rewards, Director of U.S. Sales Operations

Usually it’s the big chains that get the credit for leveraging the latest in technological innovations. We’re all used to seeing the splashy headlines announcing Kroger, Ahold or Amazon about to launch another new tech-centric feature or capability.  And it makes sense, one would think – the big guys have the big budgets, have innovation labs, and have R&D funding.  But independents have something the retailers don’t have – faster and nimbler decision-making abilities. Unfortunately, many independents don’t capitalize on this strength, waiting instead for technology to filter down – and by then, customers aren’t as excited and any point of differentiation is long gone. Today’s regional supermarket chains should find partners that can provide them a technological edge. Companies like Wonder Rewards, who have the ability to launch a turn-key, 100% digital loyalty marketing program that drives incremental sales by attract new customers, retaining the best customers, and offers up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. Wonder Rewards uses transactional data to: Plan out a responsive customer journey Analyze data for insights and segmentation Design marketing campaigns using insights Execute those campaigns with offers and content in personalized texts, notifications or email Report on results, re-calibrate and optimize campaigns What other technology is under-utilized by independents? Globalization. Technology has made the world smaller, it is now possible for a local grocery retailer to expand their customer base to include consumers in other countries, and these consumers LOVE American-made consumer packaged goods. There is a high trust factor to consumable products made in the US under stricter government safety regulations that exists outside of the US. Technology, like that made available to independents allows products sold by grocery retailers to be sold and delivered to the doorstep of millions of consumers in Asian countries.  In another example of an attention-grabbing headline from a big chain, last August Kroger released a statement saying that “e-commerce enables Kroger to quickly scale to reach new customers and markets where we don't operate physical stores, starting with China.” And that the arrangement will “meet Chinese consumers' growing demand for high-quality, organic food products.” Independent stores can now do the same with the Wonder Rewards online marketplace. You can expand the size of your customer base from your local market area to include millions of Chinese consumers who appreciate the value and quality of American made consumer package goods.  A logistic partner manages the process from product placement on the online marketplace to shipping direct to your new Chinese customer’s doorstep. E1 Marketing Edge is an example of an emerging tech-centric company that can expand the size of independent retailers’ market from those within a reasonable driving distance to a global audience, regardless of language or culture. Interested? Stop by booth # 1204 at NGA to learn more. +MORE

The Age Of Assistance: Learning How To Survive & Thrive

Caroline Brady - Product Integration & Marketing Specialist, Pointy

The death of brick & mortar, the retail apocalypse and the closure of big box retailers have all been frequently featured news topics in the past few months. With more and more customers choosing e-commerce many brick & mortar stores are struggling to stay afloat. So what are the main influences that have caused this change in buyer behaviour? Thanks to smartphones, the process of buying online has become even easier & more efficient. Now customers can simply search for the product they want on Google and buy it from an online retailer at the click of a button. The path to purchase online is clear for the customer – the product is easy to find, its stock status is known and the delivery date is certain. By comparison, buying a product from a brick and mortar store is often a much more complicated and uncertain process. Customers often don’t know where to find the product, if it’s in stock or if the store is even open – this leaves a lot of unanswered questions for the customer. The differences between these two experiences may partly explain why more and more people are choosing online instead of in-store.  So what can retailers do to stem this flow from in-store to online and attract customers back to the main street? A good place to start is by looking at the most recent trends in consumer search behaviour and seeing how retailers can capitalize on these.  Product Searches vs Store Searches The introduction of the smartphone has changed the way we search. With ready access to a computer in our pockets people are spending huge amounts of time online but their sessions are very short. Customer’s attention spans have decreased significantly and they expect instant answers to all of their search queries. The graph below compares searches for different toy products over searches for toy stores in the last 90 days. It highlights the increase in specific product search queries and shows that customers now have clear intent when it comes to searching online. Currently, most retailers rank number one when you search for their store’s name on a search engine like Google. However, even if someone is 50 feet away from their store searching for their best-selling product, the customer is most likely going to see an Amazon result rather than their local store. In order to capitalize on this recent change in search behavior you need to display your products online. The problem is that getting all your products online requires a huge amount of work and resources. Pointy makes displaying products online a whole lot easier. We create a webpage displaying all of your store’s products together with listing key contact information for your store. These pages are optimised rank well in this changed search environment. Path To Purchase With Products Displayed Online Displaying your products online together with having key contact details present on each and every web-page for your store removes many of the barriers and uncertainties customers are currently faced with when looking to buy products in-store. By removing these barriers the path to purchase from search to sale in-store begins to look very similar to that of buying online, thereby attracting more customers back to brick and mortar stores. A recent study conducted by Google found that 50% of customers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a local business within a day and 18% of these lead to a purchase within a day. Customers who are doing local searches for products are usually in a hurry. They want the product now and they are not willing to wait for shipping. By providing customers with instant gratification brick & mortars can actually beat Amazon. Many of our Pointy retailers say that the in-store experience they provide is one of the biggest strengths. Displaying your products online means more customers finding your store and visiting it. In-store purchases will improve the likelihood of repeat visits and gives the retailer a great opportunity to up-sell. What’s more, it allows you to develop a relationship with your customers that online retailers simply cannot mirror. (Retailer Testimonials: here) +MORE

Meet Your Point of Sale Solution: Modular Now™

Amy Pulcini, Marketing manager, Innovative Workspaces

Innovative is pleased to be showing their Modular Now™ product line; a customizable mount solution for point of sale at The NGA show 2019. With various pole heights and mount styles, extension arms, and accessories; Modular Now ™ is the perfect solution for any point of sale environment. Expert engineering and a thoughtful production process means Modular Now™ is one of the highest quality POS mounting systems available.  Meant to withstand heavy use in point of sale environments, Modular Now™ provides an upscale look and clean aesthetic without sacrificing quality or durability. “Not all point of sale environments are alike, which is why Modular Now™ was developed. It allows our customers to quickly and easily create custom tailored solution.” says Jarrett Dugas, Point of Sale Manager. “It allows users to maximize counter space by using a single pole mount to support multiple displays as well as a payment terminal device, receipt printer, and even a keyboard tray for low counters.  Internal cable management helps maintain a clean, sleek, and attractive esthetic.”  Every customer has a unique way of doing business and therefore needs their own unique solution. Ergonomics are also becoming increasing important to reduce workplace injuries and increase employee comfort. Modular Now™ helps solve these challenges by providing a fully adaptable mount solution that can be tailored to each customer’s need. The result is better ergonomics, reduced development costs, reduced lead time, better long term support, and an upgrade path for users as parts are interchangeable. Why choose Innovative for your Point of Sale Solution? Configurable POS Solutions Not all POS installations are alike, which is why Modular Now™ was developed to allow customers to quickly and easily create a custom configured solution. Use our Modular Now configurator to build yours today. Durable Solutions for Continuous Use POS environments are notoriously heavy-use, which is why point-of-sale applications need mounting solutions that are designed and built with durability in mind. Expert engineering and a thoughtful production process means Modular Now™ is one of the highest quality POS mounting options available. Image is Everything Choose Innovative’s clean, attractive POS design to convey a quality image straight through the checkout process. Maximize Counter Space More counter space means more selling space. A single Modular Now™ pole mount can support multiple displays, a terminal payment device and a printer. Place your technology exactly where you need it Monitors, kiosks and payment terminals can quickly be placed in user-convenient positions with Innovative’s POS solutions. Do you have a unique requirement? Bring your custom projects – Innovative’s custom-design and rapid-prototyping capabilities will deliver. Join satisfied customers and partners such as Kohl’s, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A to improve your POS setup today. Check out our full solutions catalog her https://innovativeworkspaces.com/pdfs/Innovative-POS-Catalog.pdf Don’t see what you need? Don’t worry. Product configuration is our specialty. Whatever your project specifications, Innovative can help you find the right solution.  Contact us today about your project requirements and technology mounting specifications: 800.524.2744 InnovativeWorkspaces.com/POS +MORE

Mobile App Pain Points

John Kangas, CEO, FwdMbl Solutions

Your current in-house system works great within your four walls.  The pain starts when you walk out that door and it can give you a full-on business migraine by the end of the day. We can ease the pain by targeting these five major sources when your workforce hits the road. Breakdowns in Communication When an Account Manager, Sales Rep, Delivery Driver, or Customer directly needs information, they need it NOW!  It should not require phone calls, strings of emails to and from the office or multiple warehouse locations to find product, invoice information, aging or account information, upcoming orders, etc. It’s frustrating and time consuming for everyone involved.  You should not require an Internet connection to give this to your customer when you are standing in front of them. FwdMbl Solutions gives Account Managers, Sales Reps, Delivery Drivers all this information right at their fingertips. It is available without the need for Wi-Fi or a cell signal and can be printed, emailed or faxed right there. There’s no need to track down items or pricing, looking up inventory and pricing is immediate. Pricing Errors Let’s face it, pricing can be complicated. If updates in pricing don’t make it to the ones that are selling in the field you can lose money. If incorrect information is given it can turn into an embarrassing situation.  Pricing can be different per customer given contracted pricing or discounts. Sales may be given leeway to adjust pricing on the fly within reason.  There are many scenarios as there are companies.  Pricing needs to be up-to-date and correct each and every time FwdMbl Solutions handles all pricing scenarios. All pricing updates can be real-time saving you money and confusion. Workflow Issues The system you are using doesn’t match your workflow.  You need to hunt for your tasks and weed through things you don’t use.  You are jumping from one item to another just to complete these tasks.  This takes precious time and leads to frustration. FwdMbl Solutions gives you role-based programming.  It gives you only your work for the day and one task seamlessly flows to the next. It’s so efficient, before you know it, your day is complete with time to spare! Internet Connection/Equipment Problems I see it almost every day while going to the grocery store, convenience store or my favorite restaurant.  Account Managers, Sales People, and Delivery Drivers trying to connect to Wi-Fi, or get any Internet connection.  Once they do, connection is slow and they have wait for webpages to display on their screen.  When it does finally appear, the information is hard to read or cannot be given to the customer. Printers disconnect or jam. Old devices just giving up the ghost. FwdMbl Solutions’ Apps are native apps that work connected or disconnected. They are not merely a webpage you are trying to display on your phone.  We use our unique technology to make sure your employees are never waiting for the information they need.  Once the information is pinpointed it can be printed, emailed or faxed to give immediate access to your customer. Training is Difficult FwdMbl Solutions’ Apps are robust, yet simple and elegant.  The screens are not busy or hard to read.  The workflow is intuitive and training is a breeze. The PAIN IS REAL!  When your software is in your employees’ hands and doesn’t work disconnected, has missing or inaccurate customer or order information, has printer or scanner malfunctions, or is cumbersome to use it is a recipe for unhappy employees and unhappy customers. At FwdMbl Solutions we can enhance your customer experience and improve employee satisfaction with our Mobile Apps and Portals.  We do this by connecting to your existing systems, so there is no need to change everything you do, only what they see.  We interface to your backend ERP, POS or other systems and display your information in a Mobile App or Portal that is fast and truly mobile. It is easy to use and best of all, it runs on the mobile phone you already own. Don’t own a phone? You can use an affordable Android device from our hardware partners. +MORE

Innovative Workspaces

Innovative Workspaces

Designer and manufacturer of ergonomic monitor mounting and height adjustable sit-stand work space solutions.  Products Innovative is an award winning market leader of monitor, laptop, and tablet mounts. We are committed to creating reliable products through insightful design, responsive manufacturing, and superior product performance, providing the best in space savings, flexibility, and ergonomic benefit.  Monitor Mounts Regardless of application, our monitor mounts offer ergonomics, flexibility, and space savings for the professional user.  Height Adjustable Bases Encourage a healthier workplace by giving workers the ability to add more movement into the work day.  Sit-Stand Workstations Improve wellness and productivity in all work environments by incorporating standing into the day.  Power Beam + Benches Bring power and data into open spaces by choosing our power and data beam or our benching system which incorporates a built-in power beam. SHOP OUR SOLUTIONS > +MORE

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Vegetables Shouldn’t Be the Only Green in Your Market

Rachel Prince, Business Development, Tebo Store Fixtures

Every day, millions of people go shopping for groceries. They go to large and small grocery chains, independent markets, and even farmers markets- we all need to eat. Driving to these grocery stores wastes enough emissions as is, shouldn’t your shopping experience in turn be more efficient? By adding the use of Promolux LED, Econofrost Night Covers and Digital Menu Boards, your market can go from an ordinary every day or week occurrence to a fun, engaging and more energy efficient shopping experience. The first way that your grocery store can go green while enhancing the look of your product is by incorporating the use of Promolux Lights. Promolux Lights are a form of LED lighting specifically designed for your meat, produce, and other refrigerated displays. These long-life LED lights have a low-lumen depreciation which means they last long while staying bright. They also encompass a frosted technology which provides a diffused light to deter shadows and dark spots on food to keep it looking fresh and delicious. These lights and their cool physical temperature are safe if close to food and sprinklers and when added to your market, help save energy all whilst keeping your refrigerated displays looking superior to the rest. The next option to consider, Econofrost Night Covers, focuses more on efficiency than anything else. Econofrost Night Covers are used specifically in refrigerated cases instead of using traditional mesh or plastic covers to protect perishables. These covers are more hygienic than the traditional night shields and they reduce radiation and heat transfer onto the product. By incorporating these night shields, your grocery store can save anywhere from 37-50% of normal energy use per hour- an overall 10-12% energy savings in a 24hour period. Econofrost keeps your refrigerated cases cooler during downtime and helps reduce the amount of food shrink and discard levels up to $1 per foot per day, even during power outages and natural disasters! Because of the massive energy savings involved, some grocers have been granted tax considerations for their conscientious environmental contributions. As you can see, Econofrost Night Covers are a great way to save you money as well as keep your store running green and efficient. So far, we have discussed two energy saving options which help markets stay fresh and green, but where is the excitement and fun in all of this for consumers you ask? That is where Digital Menus enter the equation. Digital Menu Boards may just be your new favorite way to display specials and entertain customers in an economically friendly manner. Joe Michaels, VP of Product Development for the Tebo team and an active NGA member for over 10 years, has designed and built menu boards specifically for independent grocers. They a great way to market high margin and signature product, increase revenue and save money. Let me take a step back and let you know what exactly Digital Menu Boards are and why they need to be included in the grocery world more now than ever. Digital Menu Boards are durable and commercial grade screens with the option to display daily or weekly menu options, specials or ads. They have the capacity to play a moving video while highlighting the screen in different areas for specials or can be a still display to your liking. Besides all the technicalities involved, Digital Menus can help a busy lunch hour or day go by seamlessly. I will explain why in a moment. The first direct energy saving aspect involved in Digital Menus come from the elimination of paper and plastic signage, therefore cutting down on waste. Digital Menus have a proven 8-22% increase in revenue when used thoughtfully in store; whether it be the deli, over the hot foods, or on top of a refrigerated case. Aside from being green from the energy standpoint, they can also be green for your pockets by bringing in more desired sales. Another great opportunity stemming from Digital Menus is that customers can easily see highlighted specials on the board which, in turn, help sway people to purchase the item in focus. Highlighted specials are a great tool to use to drive customers to purchase more profitable and signature items. Even more, on top of the many previously stated benefits of menus, is their assistance with perceived wait times. From experience, I have noticed people often get impatient when waiting on their sandwich to be made or waiting in an order or checkout line, but this solution gives customers something to look at which can take their mind off their task, therefore making their perceived wait time dissipate. We at Tebo have been successful in integrating Promolux LED, Econofrost Night Covers and Digital Menu Boards into chain grocery retailers such as Super Value, Piggly Wiggly, Associated and Unified Grocers, as well as many single-location markets. These three solutions, designed with independent grocers in mind, have the capability to improve efficiency and save you money as well as provide a more inviting shopping environment. The focus above all is to keep markets eco-friendly and people-friendly, thus ensuring that vegetables will not be the only green in your market. +MORE

Pointy

Pointy

Get your products online instantly. More customers through your door. Your products appear online Carry on as normal. Your products will appear on your Pointy Page automatically. No data entry needed. Simple to Set Up Pointy works with your existing barcode scanner. Just plug it in and you're ready to go. No Maintenance We maintain your Pointy page. There’s no on-going work to do! Visible Everywhere From laptops to iPads and smartphones, Pointy will help people find your products.  Integrate with Google "See What's In Store" Google's "See What's In Store" gives shoppers an additional way to discover what your store sells, directly on the Google search page. It's an effective way to attract more customers.  Expand your online presence even further Pointy ProductAds is an optional feature that runs high-performing ads on Google for all your products automatically. You have total control over the daily budget and geographic targeting range. No Commitment If you are not happy, you can leave at any time. +MORE

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​SmartAisle and The Rise of Voice-Powered Retail

Ethan Goodman, Co-Founder, SmartAisle

There are three converging retailer pain points and dynamics that have created a compelling and important market opportunity:  First, there’s an historic labor shortage in the US – for the first time ever, there are more job openings than people to fill them, and this is undoubtedly impacting retailers’ ability to put high quality workers on the floor to interact with shoppers.  Second, The “Amazon Effect” is putting intense pressure on brick & mortar retailers to deliver a user experience that meets or exceeds that of E-Commerce – for example, better personalization – or risk losing trips and sales to Amazon and other pure plays.  And third, shoppers are indicating that they are increasingly open to engaging with voice-based virtual assistants in the in-store environment in favor of summoning a human sales associates – 52%, in fact, according to a recent report from AdWeek. So, we created an innovative new solution to help retailers address these challenges head-on. Meet SmartAisle, the world’s first voice-powered in-store shopping assistant.  SmartAisle brings the power and simplicity of voice technology to brick & mortar retail stores in a completely unique and ground-breaking way.  Specifically, it is a patent-pending technology platform that combines an intuitive voice interface, connected LED lights embedded on the shelf and a powerful artificial intelligence engine on the back-end to help shoppers with product selection and education at the First Moment of Truth.  It’s incredibly easy for shoppers to use:  First, shoppers see a call-to-action on at-shelf signage with a prompt for what to say to initiate the voice assistant – for example, “Alexa, open SmartAisle.”   Next, they answer a series of simple questions audibly about their product selection criteria – for example, in whiskey, their desired type (bourbon, rye or scotch) and a target price range (like, under $50).  And finally, our algorithm selects up to 3 recommended products; reads out the product names, descriptions and other relevant information (like ratings & reviews); and lights their position on the shelf for easy identification.   Beyond providing an undeniably cool & novel experience to shoppers, the value our platform can deliver to retailers, as I insinuated at the beginning, is significant. SmartAisle can do everything from enhance at-shelf navigation, selection and education to help close the sale; to capture and report incredibly valuable data about shoppers’ at-shelf behaviors and interactions, and allow retailers to optimize their staffing decisions – not necessarily replace human associates, but rather augment their capabilities and allow them to focus on other key tasks And we think SmartAisle does these things better than any available competitive options today, bet it:   Store associates, who in most cases have limited product knowledge, and whom shoppers sometimes avoid because they’re seeking discretion or don’t want to be “sold.”  Be it traditional at-shelf signage, which can only deliver static content and can’t capture shopper engagement data.  Or be it mobile apps, websites or bots, which require shoppers to have necessary hardware, software or browsers, and a reliable internet connection, and whose screen-based experiences can create barriers to speed.  At this point I’m sure you have all sorts of questions. Here’s my best effort to address the ones most frequently asked by clients and prospects alike:  Do I have to use Amazon Alexa as the underlying AI platform? No. SmartAisleSM is platform-agnostic, and can be built using other comparable AI like Google Assistant.  Has it been executed in a live store environment? Yes. We successfully ran a 2-month test with a boutique wine & spirts store in New York City, and just signed a contract for a 5-store test with a national liquor store retailer on the West Coast (set to launch this December).  How does it perform? Very well. During our 2-month test, SmartAisleSM drove a 20% YOY category lift for our client, and shoppers told us it provided an experience that was “noticeably better”, “easier to use” and “more entertaining” than normal.   Does it only work for Alcohol/Beverage? No. SmartAisleSM is perfect for any retailer aiming to elevate the in-store shopping experience, particularly those in heavy-assortment, high-consideration and/or premium-priced categories like Beauty/Cosmetics, Electronics, Fresh & packaged Grocery, Health & Wellness, Home Hardware, Pet Care and Fashion/Apparel.   How complex is it to execute? Not very. A typical engagement takes 3 months to launch from contract signature to go-live, we handle the installation and all needed maintenance, and the only infrastructure requirement of clients is accessible power. How is it priced? For the time being, pricing is still determined on a case by case basis. But we’re planning to implement a standard per store, per month model in the coming months.   Our vision is to be the world’s biggest, best and most indispensable network of digital in-store shopping assistants – installed in tens of thousands of stores, serving tens of millions of shoppers, and generating millions of dollars in incremental sales for our clients – and we hope you’ll join us on that journey. For more information, visit www.smartaisle.io or email help@smartaisle.io. +MORE

Social Media: The neglected customer service department

Charlie Luck, Display and Instagram Marketer at Cisco

In today’s perpetually connected world it is more natural to contact a brand via social media than the traditional phone call. The instant nature of all social media platforms beats email and sometimes even phone calls. No customer enjoys being put on hold! Knowing that they can tweet a query or complaint and receive a reply or resolution a few minutes later will give customers plenty of peace of mind. 1. Address the Complaints Quickly! When a customer complains about you on social media, it’s important that you respond, and respond promptly. Even if you can’t immediately fix the issue, it’s great to acknowledge the customer and their problem. A simple “thanks for the feedback, we will work to resolve this issue as soon as possible” can go a long way with a disappointed client.  Customers love to feel seen and heard. There is nothing worse than waiting forever for a response from a company when you have a problem with a product that you bought from them. People get angry when they feel that they have wasted their hard-earned money. If you respond quickly and positively to complaints on social media, you may be able to turn a disgruntled customer into a loyal and raving one with just a minute of your time.  A customer willing to take their time to bash a company through social media also has great potential to gush about that very same company if their experience is turned into a positive one. Turning a sour customer situation around is easy when a company is regularly active in responding to their customers’ complaints on social media. The company also can showcase their superb customer service skills to the rest of the world when quickly addressing customer complaints.  2. Entertain or Inform!  Social media should be eye-catching, and overall, fun. Scrolling mindlessly down the timeline is a difficult reflex to break for most social media users. You need to arrest that mindless, endless scrolling of the Instagram or Twitter feed with interesting, challenging or even controversial content. The more creative you are with advertising, the better.  Funny pictures, interesting quotes, even relevant video links can capture attention from your potential customers. Posting unique messages on social media will set your brand apart from other companies that offer similar products.  A customer will remember a funny picture advertisement that made them laugh for far longer than they would a boring sales slogan. Don’t forget the power of the share. They will also be more likely to spread that funny ad and tag their friends in it--creating, even more, potential customers.  For instance, “going live” is a newer social media feature that many companies can utilize to engage their customer audience. This feature could be used to show sales in real time, to introduce members of a store team, or to showcase an event and create buzz.  Using creative hashtags or employing instagram influencers on social media to start contests can also be an effective way of getting an audience’s attention. Involving customers and starting a conversation with them online generates more views which lead to more business. Companies need to be ahead of their competition by displaying an online presence that makes their product or service more exciting and engaging.  3. Use Social Media to Educate Using social media as an educational tool and not just for advertising can bring you more customers while also answering questions that many potential customers might have about your product before they decide to purchase it.  Businesses can creatively post facts about their company as well as answers to frequently asked questions on their social media accounts. By using this strategy, you are proactively providing customer service before a customer might individually come seeking help.  Social media helps to reach a wider audience in less time than one-on-one customer service may take. Lens.com created a customer knowledge database which compiled answers to a plethora of common questions that many customers had. This proactive educational step brought them a significant increase in customer satisfaction ratings. Giving the customer more information right up front could also lead to an increase in sales (knowledge is power, after all). 4. Take Customer Suggestions While customer complaints might seem discouraging, they are a great tool for businesses to build on. A complaint is feedback that you can use to better your product. No one can improve unless they know what it is that they are doing wrong in the first place. The only way to grow as a business is to listen to what the consumer wants, and to then give them what they asked for.  When a customer posts on social media that the ice cream shop was out of their favorite flavor, the owner of that shop can apologize, and now knows to keep more of that particular flavor in stock since it’s obviously become more popular than he/she knew. Social media provides the opportunity to connect with the consumer in an immediate and convenient way.   There is hardly anyone left in the world that doesn’t own a smartphone or tablet, and everyone checks their devices on a daily basis. Checking into social media several (and sometimes hundreds) of times a day has become the normal routine for more than 50%  of the human population. By building an eye-catching and substantial social media presence, you can make your brand indispensable to the daily lives of customers in a friendly, memorable, and non-invading way that they will appreciate.  Today, most social media platforms are interactive with one another, so it is best for businesses to keep all of their social media accounts linked. Some customers may prefer Instagram to Facebook, and if a business’s posts are shared among multiple social media platforms, they will have a higher chance of reaching a larger customer base. If brands fail to recognize the marketing tool that social media has become, they will miss out on the most impactful (and often, the most cost efficient) form of advertising and customer service that is available in this day and age.  +MORE

Retail POS and IT Hardware and Service Solutions

POS Remarketing Group Inc.

POSRG provides innovative and tailor-made solutions and support throughout the complete life cycle of our customers’ POS & IT hardware. There are many ways POSRG can help your stores get the technology and services needed to run efficiently and effectively.  Whether it’s new hardware or repairs, or on-site services such as store wirings or installations, POSRG has been in business for 15 years helping retailers of all types with their retail IT solutions. IT Hardware solutions – New or refurbished to match existing environment – POS, Digital Signage, Surveillance, Networking, Telecom, etc. Retail IT Services – Store wiring, Site Surveys, IT and POS Installation, On-Site Repair, etc. Hardware Repair and Maintenance Programs – Flat rate or customized plans to prevent and minimize downtime in grows and dispensaries Managed Network Services – Cloud PBX, Managed Wi-Fi, SD-WAN, Cellular Failover, etc. IT Asset Disposition, E-Waste and Data Destruction – Certified, end of life solutions that provide piece of mind and limit liability +MORE

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Customer Touchpoints and the Human Experience

Gary Hawkins, CART

I was visiting someone in the hospital the other day and, looking about the room, noticed an Amazon Echo installed on the wall opposite the hospital bed. There was a sign under the device telling patients that they could ask Alexa to call their nurse or make other requests. In speaking with the nurse I learned that Amazon is working with the hospital in a pilot to test the application of Alexa in the hospital environment. Beyond the hospital, Amazon is pushing Alexa into the hospitality industry where a growing number of hotels are putting the digital assistant in rooms so guests can request services just by asking. While this alone is fascinating, and illustrates just how far and how fast voice-based technology is moving, it really opens up a larger discussion on customer touchpoints. Retailers today have a fast growing number of ways to connect with a shopper, inside and outside the store. And, more than ever before, retailers need to be mindful of the human experience they are providing across those myriad touchpoints because in today’s digital world, user experience is everything. Consider the myriad ways a retailer can touch a shopper: In the digital world that includes the website, mobile, email, text, social media, and more. A Deloitte study calls out that “more than 60% of customers interact through multiple channels and irrespective of time, place, device, or medium, they expect consistency.” In the store, retailers can engage using kiosks, mobile, and the POS. We can’t forget about print, including the weekly ad and direct mail, along with television, radio, and other mass channels. And of course, just like in the hospital, voice will soon be everywhere. A good exercise for retail marketers to go through is to create an inventory of all the touchpoints they currently use, and then alongside that create a list of other touchpoints that could be deployed or used. Once the list of existing touchpoints is created, work to understand which shoppers are using each and why. For example, do high-value shoppers regularly use your mobile app? Do more convenience shoppers gravitate to your website?  Don’t forget about your associates; oftentimes they are the only interaction the shopper has with your business. The Wall Street Journal had an article recently about how airlines are arming their flight attendants with extensive data on their flyers to facilitate service on board. As a very frequent flyer I have experienced this firsthand, the attendant addressing me by name and asking if I would like my usual drink. Retailers have untapped potential to arm in-store associates with product and customer intelligence via smartphones to help them provide better service. One of the largest challenges traditional retailers face is having disparate capabilities and an inability to provide the seamless digital experience across devices and touchpoints that today’s shoppers are expecting… and demanding. Another Deloitte study (Customer Ambitions Delivered) states “research shows 89% of market leaders expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience - a number that has jumped from 36% four years ago. As more companies realize the benefits of engaging with their customers along every touchpoint, customers are growing accustomed to top-of-the-line experiences. Modern customers expect a tailored experience— one with flexible purchasing options, painless technology integrations, and ample opportunities to provide feedback if they receive stellar or sub-par products or services.” Retailers can then extend the inventory of touchpoints exercise, thinking through the ‘mission’ of each touchpoint and its role in growing (retailer brand) awareness, shopper acquisition, growth, and retention. Core to this is making every interaction across each touchpoint contextually relevant to the shopper. Again, the human experience is critically important. Every customer engagement at every touchpoint provides an opportunity to learn more about the shopper and, for digital touchpoints, provide a more personalized experience. To do this requires identifying the shopper as quickly and easily as possible so that you respond with relevant offers and information. Increasingly we are seeing digital displays and signage in the store incorporate cameras and other sensors able to provide additional analytics and insights to customer behavior. Best practices: Create and maintain a list of customer touchpoints used. Consider grouping the touchpoints such as digital, print, in-store, etc. to better understand your capabilities Create a ‘mission’ for each touchpoint which forces you to think through how it can be used to support shopper acquisition, growth, and retention Work to create a platform infrastructure that ‘feeds’ each touchpoint to create the seamless - and relevant - experience shoppers want Use every touchpoint and customer engagement to learn; improving the relevancy of the engagement and learning to make the touchpoint more valuable Any digital touchpoints should be fed by realtime intelligence reflecting the latest interactions the shopper has had with you _____________________________ To learn more join the CART team along with Kate Favrow, Corporate Marketing Manager for AWG, and Roger Marin, CIO of Draeger’s, for the upcoming Customer Touchpoints webinar on Tuesday, July 24, at 2pm Eastern. View article on Winsight Grocery Business here   +MORE

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