By Ed Collupy, executive consultant, W. Capra Consulting Group
There was a long line when I ordered my coffee at the airport, but it moved pretty well. I placed my order, paid cash and proceeded to the pickup area. The baristas prepared a variety of drinks, placing them in a random fashion on the counter as they finished. Since I hadn’t had my morning caffeine jolt, I wasn’t paying full attention to where they placed my coffee.
I was headed to the Microsoft Retail Experience Center (REC) and would soon be walking through a mock shopping mall fully stocked with products you’d see at your favorite retailers— more impressive was the vast array of technology in use in each store.
At the ‘mall’s’ coffee shop the pick-up dilemma I experienced was reenacted. But this time, in-store technology fashioned a great customer experience. Once my medium latte was entered into the Point of Sale (POS) system a circle lit up at the pickup counter with my name facing the barista. The circle changed colors, and as a drink was placed down one of the circles turned red – it detected the wrong size cup was placed, and belonged to someone else. As my order was ready, my name rotated 180 degrees from its original position to face me. The circle turned green, signaling that my order was ready.
The REC stores are using system solutions already implemented and deployed at retail locations throughout the world. What distinguishes the REC mall from the mall down the street from my house is every REC store is equipped with several early adopter but proven technologies to make the customer experience, and the employee’s job, more engaging and efficient.
I experienced magnets that become sales generators – including one for my refrigerator that detects when my mobile phone is in proximity, and pulls up a quick-service restaurant ordering Web page on my device. Another magnet is designed for my washing machine, containing knowledge of the brand and size of laundry detergent I use, and will automatically place the detergent in my grocer’s Web market basket when I’m running low.
On the REC shelves, I saw product placements created from 3D planograms and a visual store walk tool designed to help category managers, merchandisers and store employees make the right decision on product placement. I lifted up a product to take a closer look and the video screen nearby began to play a video. The speaker aimed its sound to my precise location without interrupting other customers that stood several feet away from me. When I tapped the shelf label with my mobile phone, ‘my’ price appears, extending the personalization of on-line ordering into the in-store experience.
Visualization is an important part of the retail store. Before I decided to enter one of the stores, I used the interactive screen on the store front window. Inside the store, I approached another screen that let me ‘try on’ a sweater without entering a dressing room. A small business owner used a consumer-grade 50 inch monitor with a ‘stick’ PC to drive sales with a low cost digital sign.
Before heading home, I stopped at the gas station on the mall’s out parcel where I use my mobile phone to activate the dispenser and pay for my fuel. A beacon attached to the dispenser presented me an offer to encourage me to enter the store where I could redeem the time sensitive coupon through my phone on a highly configurable POS system that uses a tablet device as its terminal.
Marty Ramos and his team at the REC have done an outstanding job bringing together and showcasing functional, cutting edge solutions that could become a trend.
If you have an opportunity to visit the REC, as I did with a group of retailers, service providers, and staff from Conexxus (the convenience petroleum industry’s standards and technology advocacy association) you will walk away with many ideas and will want to implement some of these experiences in your stores as a consumer and, more importantly, as a merchant ready to sell.
Ed Collupy, executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group can be reached at [email protected] and be sure to visit www.capraplus.com for more retail technology and business insights. Collupy has IT leadership and business team experience directing and supporting retail systems for store operations, merchandising, fuel and accounting teams in the C-Store industry.