Thursday May 30, 2013

Target's Cartwheel

Target is taking a crack at bridging social with the in-store experience using a new program called Cartwheel.  They are providing a dedicated micro-site where consumers can search for offers, share them via Facebook, and collect them for use in stores.  To apply the coupons, the cartwheel app provides a single code that is scanned at checkout, then all associated offers are applied.  The short video below demonstrates:

I like the consolidation of offers into a single code, which makes using digital coupons pretty simple. I'm wondering how the POS UI handles offers that don't meet the requirements.  If a customer expects 3 coupons to apply, but only one actually does, are they notified immediately or only after reading the receipt on the way to the parking lot?

On the social side, the Cartwheel site facilitates pushing offers out to friends via Facebook, but I wonder if Target will get their existing Facebook fans over to the Cartwheel site.  I suppose its good to lessen the dependence on Facebook and begin to cultivate Target's own social network.  This could be the start of that effort.

What do you think of Cartwheel?

Tuesday May 28, 2013

The Ultimate Second Screen Experience

After the kids are in bed, my wife and I like to watch a little TV.  But these days I can't just watch TV -- I also need the iPad on my lap allowing me to surf at the same time.  Most movies and shows just can't keep my full attention, so I'm also reading articles, shopping, or catching up on emails.  I'll hit IMDB to figure out the name of an actor, or Wikipedia to learn a little more than was explained on the show, or even look up the details on a car I just saw.

This use of a second screen opens interesting possibilities in the advertising world.  From an overt perspective, advertisers need to figure out how to connect their TV commercials to the Web better, where viewers can learn more about their products.  From a covert perspective, advertisers need to capitalize on product placement within shows that lead people to the internet to purchase.  This can be accomplished by viewers who want to do the work, but that's probably not the majority.

A couple weeks ago there were rumors that Shazam was going to remove the friction by synchronizing Web content with TV content using sound as a marker.  Although they are making connections with tags, they aren't yet ready for seamless integration.  VideoSurf is taking a crack at synchronization using still photos.  Snap a picture of the TV while The Office is on, and dive into information on Rainn Wilson.  Both companies are showing promise for connecting entertainment directly to the Web via mobile devices.

This is all going to get much easier once the XBox One is released.  The long-awaited merging of living room entertainment and the PC may finally arrive.  It won't be long before you're pausing a show to buy the shoes the actress is wearing without the need for a second screen.  You'll be barking commands at your TV like, "XBox, where can I buy that tie?" or "XBox, are there tickets available for that concert?"  Heck, with Kinect the mere gesture of reaching for your wallet may be enough to launch an e-commerce site.

It looks like 2014 may be the year where e-commerce and entertainment cross paths.  The best retailers will find ways to make advertising intriguing and let the Web set the hook.  This one-two-punch could change advertising forever.

Wednesday May 08, 2013

Legislation Impacting Retailers

Today, select retailers are accompanying NRF advocates to the hill to discuss key legislation with congress.  The Washington Leadership Conference is an opportunity for congress to hear directly from retailers and to better understand the issues they face.  The key issues being discussed are:

  • Sales Tax Fairness
  • Health Care
  • Patent Trolls
  • Tax Reform
  • Loss Prevention and Organized Crime
  • Mobile Location Tracking

The headlines have been focused on the recent passing of the Marketplace Fairness Act, which allows states to begin collecting sales tax for online sales regardless of a seller's physical presence.  This should help level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers vs the pure online retailers, plus it could prove to be a valuable source of revenue for states at a time when the coffers are low.

But for me, the more interesting legislation are those that have to do with technology.  Patent Trolls love to go after retailers for mundane things such as assigning unique transaction numbers to sales, using an online shopping cart, or making product recommendations.  Usually retailers calculate the cost of litigation and then just decide to license the patent for less, but recently Newegg fought a troll in court...and won.  Congress is considering the Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (Shield) Act, which forces patent trolls to pay for litigation costs when they lose.  That might make it easier for retailers to defend themselves.

Another pending issue is that of privacy and the use of mobile phones to track shoppers' location. There's an interesting battle going on between Senator Al Franken and Euclid, a company that provides analytics to retailers based on tracking mobile phones.  On the surface, the issue has to do with shoppers opting-in or -out to tracking, as well as full disclosure on who has access to the data.  That seems reasonable, but if those steps become too onerous then they detract from the relationship between consumers and retailers.  There are huge opportunities for retailers to better serve their customers if the data can be leveraged in a mutually agreeable fashion.


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