A new term: line-busting, which is the new retail tactic to get store associates to take orders and/or collect payments for goods anywhere on the store floor, using handheld wireless devices, like iPads. This gets the associates out from behind the cash registers and counters, and obsoletes that fixed mode of interaction, making the shopping experience very different. It also can decrease the wait time involved in waiting to order or pay, and therefore decreases the likelihood of abandoned purchases by frustrated shoppers.
Also note that these tablets can be used to show merchandise not physically in the store, and allow shoppers to buy those goods and have them delivered to their homes.
The blendo experience of talking with an associate and having them show both immediately available and remote goods is an interesting blurring of online and IRL shopping, and one made social through the device and shopping software.
[PS I couldn’t find the definition in Wikipedia, so I wrote it here.]
Murray Orange via Springwise
TalktotheManager aims to foster a closer connection between restaurants and their clientele. Specifically, as a substitute for comment cards or other less reliable means of collecting feedback, TalktotheManager lets restaurant patrons anonymously text their comments directly to the manager.
Microsoft settles some patent disputes with Barnes & Noble’s Nook division by investing $300M into the company. The market cheers. Am I missing something?
Microsoft’s Nook Deal, Aiming at Amazon, Sets Up Battle in E-Books - Michael De La Merced and Julie Bosman via NYTimes.com
Microsoft agreed to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Barnes & Noble’s Nook division on Monday, giving the bookstore chain stronger footing in the hotly contested electronic book market and creating an alliance that could intensify the fight over the future of digital reading.
The deal, which gives Microsoft a 17.6 percent stake, values the Nook unit at $1.7 billion — roughly double Barnes & Noble’s entire market value as of last Friday — and bolsters the bookseller’s efforts to make its digital business the linchpin of its future growth.
The announcement was the latest surprise in an unpredictable and rapidly shifting e-book market, which is crowded with technology giants trying to chip away at Amazon.com’s dominance. Amazon once had close to 90 percent of the e-book market, but since then, a handful of players, including Apple, Google and now Microsoft, have edged in.
So, B & N is a bookseller, with hundreds of stores. Remember when Borders went bankrupt? And Tower Records? The days of blazing a new trail in retail by undifferentiated sales are done.
Stowe Boyd via stoweboyd.com
Successful retail in the US is falling into two categories: companies selling their own products, like Apple, and focused specialty providers, like Trader Joe’s and Uniqlo. Otherwise: a wasteland. And soon we will be dismantling all the big box stores.
So, this is a bail out. B & N needs big cash to compete against Kindle, because Amazon is underpricing the device to hold onto the market in the face of growing market penetration of iPad and iPhone as better mobile reading devices. Microsoft, who completely missed the ereader market and who is fighting Apple and Google in the smart device marketplace, hope that a strategic partnership with B & N around the Nook can help, but how?
Unmentioned is the idea that some soon-to-market version of the Nook will be a Windows 8 device, instead of running Nook’s proprietary OS. And a spin-out of the Nook division into a new company, called Nook, with even more cash from Microsoft. Otherwise the whole thing makes no sense.
Mark Alvarez via Rebellionlab
Here’s where I see technology changing the store in the next 15-20 years.
1. The cash register will cease to be an organizing principle. You’ll be able to pay from anywhere in the store. Right now, the current is working in both directions — tablet apps that allow salespeople to complete sales from anywhere in the store, and phone-based apps that let the customer scan a bar code and buy.
2. Corporate stores will resemble local venues. They’ll all have your data, tablet-equipped salespeople will have access to your entire history with the store. Yeah, a lot of us don’t like talking to salespeople, but they could come in handy if they know our purchase history.
3. Stores will be able to better predict and control traffic flow. Everyone by now knows about geo-fencing and location-based services. But stores will soon have geo-fencing within them, making any area that a customer is in more interactive but also, more interestingly, giving more control over where people circulate and when. Got a bunch of grumpy customers in a customer-service line? Flash sale, aisle five.
Other technologies will allow retailers to better predict traffic flow. Space is at a premium, so retailers will need to maximize its effectiveness.
4. New sales spaces. Right now, brands that are using smart-display tech are mainly doing so for marketing. Nordstrom set up a Kinect-powered virtual window that allows customers to “write” on store windows. That’s fascinating — and the possibilities are infinite. But the big idea is to use digital technology to create a store in previously inaccessible space. Tesco’s subway virtual store is the most well-known example of this, and it’s brilliant — you’re basically setting up another retail location, without any of the overhead.
5. 24 hour access. The other thing that surface-display technology will lead to is the 24-hour store. Smart windows will allow passersby to look at and purchase store inventory from smart posters attached to their windows or walls. Yes, this is already done, and yes, even more people are designing for it. Especially in areas with high levels of night-life traffic, allowing passers-by to immediately purchase that coat displayed in the window. The ultimate impulse buy.
6. And that will make holiday displays awesome. Not that anything can really beat toy trains or a window full of kittens, though.
Keep in mind that not all of this is 100% tech dependent, so it’s going to take architects and designers getting into the act — and from what I’m seeing, they’re coming up with some huge ideas in integrating physical and internet architectures. But, like in fashion, this is a new generation, and a lot of these people are still in school.
I think that all of the most successful companies of the next 20 years will be software-driven, and will act like software companies, not like energy, media, or finance companies of the last economic era.