In the first four months of 2017 alone, there have been 14 retail bankruptcies–almost as many as in all of 2016. Other companies, such as J.C. Penney, Macy’s, and Sears, have announced massive store closures.
Retailers who have adopted new forms of technology, such as artificial intelligence, are hitting record numbers. A few companies that have stood out so far in 2017 are Starbucks and Lowe’s.
Starbucks already allows people to order remotely and go into their retail locations to pick up drinks, and is presently deploying and A.I. assistant into their app. Called My Starbucks Barista, the feature will allow users to place orders with one tap of a button, then speak to a virtual barista. The bot then communicates with a nearby store, which makes the drink. This initiative should increase remote ordering, which already allows consumers to bypass long lines to the cash register. Smartphone payments already make up 25 percent of Starbucks’s transactions in the U.S.
Lowe’s the home improvement retailer, is proactively trying to figure out the future of retail–in fact, it has been testing store-mapping robots for two years now.LoweBots are designed to help customers find what they need in the store.
Each LoweBot employs natural-language processing to help customers find what they’re looking for. Customers can approach the LoweBot and ask for its assistance, either verbally or by typing on a touch screen. Additionally, LoweBots are equipped with 3-D scanners, so that if a person is, say, idling next to the cabinet fixtures section, it can approach and offer assistance. Once the bot knows what the customer is looking for, it then guides them towards the item in question, using smart laser sensors to navigate.
Its no surprise Hershey company’s priority is to increase sales of its candy and snacks, but there are some facts and figures that could prove useful to retail managers. The company notes, that 56% of online grocery shoppers regularly make impulse purchases of candy and snacks before checking out. Hershey research also found shoppers linger in the candy aisle longer than any other aisle in the store, at 91 seconds (wine follows in a close second place, at 90 seconds).
As far as its own innovations go, the manufacturer noted its recently introduced stand-up candy bags provided a 5 % sales lift over its traditional lay-down bags. Hershey also touted its supply chain efficiencies, like a shelf-ready shipping box that uses 32% fewer materials that its conventional box.
In this day of mobile wallets and inserting cards, not everyone likes to be rushed at the checkout line. And not everyone can be. Tesco is testing a “relaxed” checkout lane at one of its stores in northern Scotland. The shopping lane is promoted to older customers, particularly those with dementia who may need a little more time to find their cash or close out the sale.
The lane includes a sign urging customers to “take as long as you need to go through checkout today.” And for those who might have strayed into the line by accident, it includes a warning: “Please be aware that you may experience a wait to complete your transaction.”
The idea came about when a Tesco employee attended a seminar on people with dementia, finding that pressure to hurry along at the grocery checkout can be stressful. Tesco has devoted two mornings a week to the relaxed lane, which includes personnel trained by a local Alzheimer’s organization to, for example, speak more slowly.
It’s a good reminder that, even in today’s zippy world, not everyone likes to be rushed. Some elderly shoppers might appreciate the social interaction.
Apple’s mobile payments wallet is growing quickly. The number of Apple Pay transactions in the latest quarter rose 450% from the same period a year ago, CEO Tim Cook said on Tuesday during a conference call with analysts about his company’s quarterly results.The likely reason: Apple Pay expanded to a number of new international markets in 2016. It is now available in 15 countries.
In the past, Apple has said that one million new users sign up for Apple Pay each week. Apple Pay debuted in 2014 as a way to let shoppers load their credit card and debit card information onto iPhones’ “mobile wallets.” Customers can then use either their iPhone (or linked Apple Watch) to pay at retail stores equipped with point-of-sale registers supporting near-field communication (NFC) technology, which allows for payments between smartphones and registers. Apple Pay users simply place their phones or watches near the registers’ sensors for payments without having to swipe a card.