Future-Forward Shopping at Sam’s Club Now

Sam’s Club will soon be introducing a whole new way to shop in Dallas, Texas. Their new location, called Sam’s Club Now, will serve as the company’s “epicenter of innovation,” where they’re testing everything from augmented reality product overlays to self-checkout via mobile app. A video on their site demonstrates what the experience could look like. 

Shoppers will be able to make grocery lists on the app before entering the store. When they arrive, a map on their phone will direct them where to go to find the items on their list. The directions can also be activated by voice commands. Product pricing will use electronic labels — eliminating the need to manually print and replace signage. Scanning a product with their phone before adding it to a physical shopping cart allows for self-checkout when they’re finished.

AR product experiences will include showing ways to use the product, highlighting key features, and even speak to how items are sourced. There will also be kid-friendly experiences such as turning digital shopping carts into pirate ships or rockets.

Sam’s Club is using the new location to serve as a testing lab for these new technologies before rolling them out to other clubs. They’ll be using over 700 cameras to continually scan and optimize.

Why It’s Hot

Sam’s Club is testing innovative concepts that have the power to transform the everyday shopping experience.

Source: https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/327259/sams-club-goes-high-tech-adds-ar-voice-shopping.html

Jetblack Could Change Walmart Shopper Stereotypes

Walmart’s tech incubator is out with its first experiment. The incubator, known as Store No. 8, just launched Jetblack, a concierge-style service for requesting stuff and getting it really quickly.

To shop with Jetblack, first you need an invite. Right now the service is limited to some customers in Manhattan and Brooklyn who are part of an eight-month pilot program restricted to buildings with a doorman, though that will soon expand and a waitlist is available now. The service is $50 a month — considerably less than some adjacent competitors, while considerably more than Amazon Prime — and promises same-day delivery.

Jetblack is focusing on “time-strapped urban parents” seeking “more efficient ways to shop for themselves and their families.” To request something, Jetblack members send a text message and will receive product recommendations sent back in text. Those recommendations are culled from Walmart and Jet.com but also from specialty retailers locally.

That means any product request is fair game and “sourcing a specific beauty cream from a member’s favorite local boutique, curating custom Easter baskets and delivering them once the kids are asleep and rushing beach essentials to a family on vacation” are all within the realm of Jetblack fulfillments.

“Consumers are looking for more efficient ways to shop for themselves and their families without having to compromise on product quality,” said Jetblack co-founder and CEO Jenny Fleiss, formerly of Rent the Runway.

“With Jetblack, we have created an entirely new concept that enables consumers to get exactly what they need through the convenience of text messaging and the freedom of a nearly unlimited product catalogue.”

Sources: eMarketer Retail  TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

In retail and e-commerce, competition is hot around convenience. The pilot is interesting because (1) New Yorkers have opposed Walmart retail spaces in the past and (2) New Yorkers are already getting the best of same-day shipping/delivery in so many areas — so they expect it/are used to it — so they need it, but will they care about Walmart’s offering?


Amazon appeals to my furbaby emotions

This week I received an email from Amazon:

Well, ok!

Why It’s Hot

The value proposition is relevancy and savings — I’ll get coupons for exactly what my pets need. But there’s also an emotional element to being able to create profiles for my babies! I think they’ve displayed an understanding of target audiences — ie pet owners — in a way that is uniquely possible with Amazon’s data engine. I assume it will get smarter over time as I search and purchase and use coupons. This could actually be enough to get me moving my pet purchases from Chewy.com to Amazon if the value is high enough.

Walmart Puts Its Eggs in a Time-Saving Basket: Grocery Pickup

In today’s installment of the the ongoing food/convenience/price/partnership saga…

Seeking an edge against Amazon, Walmart is pushing a service that delivers your order to your car. Customers never have to step inside the store.

A personal shopper is something you might expect at Bergdorf Goodman or a boutique on Madison Avenue.

Not at the Walmart on Route 42 in Turnersville, N.J.

But that’s where you will find Joann Joseph and a team of Walmart workers each day, filling up shopping carts with boxes of Honeycomb cereal, Cheez-Its and salted peanuts.

The customers select their groceries online, and then the shoppers pick the items off the store shelves and deliver them to people when they arrive in the parking lot. Customers never have to step inside the store.

“It’s about saving people time,” Ms. Joseph said as she helped load groceries into the back of a minivan one morning.

Walmart, which is one of the largest food retailers in the United States, sees grocery pickup as a way to marry its e-commerce business with its gigantic network of stores — a goal that has eluded many other retailers. The company started ramping up the service two years ago, and it is now available in about 1,000 of Walmart’s 4,699 stores across the country.

The initiative is the latest salvo in Walmart’s retail battle with Amazon, and the centerpiece of its strategy to gain the upper hand in the pursuit of consumers looking to streamline their food shopping.

Many retailers are focused on new ways to deliver groceries to people’s homes — particularly in big cities. Walmart is betting big on the millions of Americans in suburban and rural areas who drive everywhere. The company is trying to make ordering groceries online and then picking them up in your car as seamless as a fast-food drive-through.

Amid this heated competition, Walmart has been experimenting with different ways to get an edge. In a few cities, it works with Uber to deliver groceries to homes.

And last month, Walmart said it would begin testing a home-delivery service in which a worker loads the food into the refrigerator, even when no one is home. The customer can watch the process remotely from a home security camera and track when the delivery worker enters and leaves the house.

While these initiatives are limited to only a few states, the company’s grocery pickup is widespread. Walmart is betting that a big part of the country (“from Scranton to Sacramento,” one Walmart executive said) is more of a drive-through than delivery culture.

Source (and interesting longer article): NY Times

Why It’s Hot

This is business-model interesting! There is a lot going on in the grocery industry to deliver on customer demand for convenience. Walmart, as king of retail, needs to innovate while ensuring that they can maintain their fundamental model and prices. Fresh Direct, then UberEATs then Amazon + Whole Foods — create interesting pressures. Will Walmart stay ahead?

A bodega to kill all bodegas


Called Bodega, this startup installs unmanned pantry boxes in apartments, offices, dorms, and gyms. It promises convenience, but also represents competition for many mom-and-pop stores. Bodega’s logo is a cat, a nod to the popular bodega cat meme.

Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the “store.”

Why it’s hot?
Other than the fact that it has angered all the mom and pop corner bodega lovers

The end of centralized shopping as we know it 

“The vision here is much bigger than the box itself,” McDonald says. “Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you.”

Personalized Bodega Boxes
“By studying their buying behavior, we’re hoping to eventually figure out how the needs of people in one apartment building differ from those in another. We could customize the items in one dorm versus the next.”

The backlash:

Source: Adweek, Fast Company


Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon

Google and Walmart are testing the notion that an enemy’s enemy is a friend.

The two companies said Google would start offering Walmart products to people who shop on Google Express, the company’s online shopping mall. It’s the first time the world’s biggest retailer has made its products available online in the United States outside of its own website.

The partnership, announced on Wednesday, is a testament to the mutual threat facing both companies from Amazon.com.

But working together does not ensure that they will be any more successful. For most consumers, Amazon remains the primary option for online shopping. No other retailer can match the size of Amazon’s inventory, the efficiency with which it moves shoppers from browsing to buying, or its many home delivery options.

The two companies said the partnership was less about how online shopping is done today, but where it is going in the future. They said that they foresaw Walmart customers reordering items they purchased in the past by speaking to Google Home, the company’s voice-controlled speaker and an answer to Amazon’s Echo. The eventual plan is for Walmart customers to also shop using the Google Assistant, the artificially intelligent software assistant found in smartphones running Google’s Android software.

Walmart customers can link their accounts to Google, allowing the technology giant to learn their past shopping behavior to better predict what they want in the future. Google said that because more than 20 percent of searches conducted on smartphones these days are done by voice, it expects voice-based shopping to be not far behind.

“We are trying to help customers shop in ways that they may have never imagined,” said Marc Lore, who is leading Walmart’s efforts to bolster its e-commerce business.

Google is a laggard in e-commerce. Since starting a shopping service in 2013, it has struggled to gather significant momentum. Initially, it offered free same-day delivery before scrapping it. It also tried delivery of groceries before abandoning that, too.

If Amazon is a department store with just about everything inside, then Google Express is a shopping mall populated by different retailers. There are more than 50 retailers on Google Express, including Target and Costco. Inside Google Express, a search for “toothpaste” will bring back options from about a dozen different retailers.

Google said it planned to offer free delivery — as long as shoppers met store purchase minimums — on products purchased on Google Express. Google had charged customers a $95 a year membership for free delivery. Amazon runs a similar program called Amazon Prime, offering free delivery for members who pay $99 a year.

Source: NY Times

Why it’s Hot

Amazon has been considerably powering forward of late — when it comes to partnerships, integrations, and expansions — and one was left wondering where the competition would net out. The future implications about data and voice integration are more interesting than the retail implications today, since Google is king at data integration.

Gone In 6 Seconds

Australian retailer Myer hosted a flash sale using YouTube’s six-second pre-roll ad slots.

The 6 Second Sale ads feature more than 100 Myer products with discounts greater than those available in store and online by 5%. Viewers have only six seconds (the length of the pre-roll ad) to secure the deal being offered, with those that manage to click on the offer in time are taken to a pre-populated shopping cart on Myer’s site.

The campaign created using Google’s Vogon –  customization tool that lets brands create unlimited variations of the same ad by changing the text, audio or images. The targeting used in the 6 Second Sale ensures no YouTube user will see the same ad twice.

The 6 Second Sale is being promoted through Myer’s website, social channels, catalog and print.

Why It’s Hot

-It merges shopping impulse with a platform experience that times out in a very short amount of time

-Leverages scarcity to heighten the need to buy and drive sales

-Great example of a brand “hacking” a platform to drive a campaign



Pinterest Introduces Lens, Shazam for objects in the real world

Lens uses machine vision to detect objects in the real world and suggest related items on Pinterest.




Lens is part of a series of updates including “shop the look” which can isolate pins that can be bought and provides links for you to make the purchase.

What its hot:

As Instagram and Pinterest continue to seduce us with images, it makes sense that we’re now thinking and searching visually, too. Pinterest (and Instagram) and creating and redesigning their products and experiences to put visual enjoyment first and tying the experience to purchase.

Amazon GO Shopping

Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. Amazon has created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so shoppers never have to wait in line. With Amazon’s Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout.

Why It’s Hot:

By eliminating much of the staff needed to operate a store, Amazon keeps costs lower than traditional competitors. It’s also in a strong position to bring together data on its customer’s shopping habits online and offline to make better suggestions in all situations.

The experiment could also be seen as a new technology platform that Amazon could offer retail businesses after working out all of the kinks.  Similar to the way Amazon Web Service provides hosting for sites like Netflix and Adobe, Amazon Go will provide patent-protected technology infrastructure for “self-shopping” brick and mortar stores.

Amazon Launches Next-Gen QVC

stylecode2We knew it wouldn’t take Amazon too long to connect its streaming service with its shopping genius. So here it is, Style Code Live, a daily 30-minute streaming entertainment and shopping show that claims to be this generation’s answer to TV shopping. Goodbye, QVC.  Hello, content shopping.

We’ve seen social titans Pinterest and Instagram successfully play with social shopping. This evolution signifies where it’s headed. Content will no longer just be layered with connection to product and services, but will envelop simple product selling into narratives and ongoing storylines.

Boxing Weekend

ebay tried to cure some holiday woes in the US this year by instituting a “Boxing Weekend,” playing on a long tradition of Boxing Day in a number of other countries.

The brand used a cultural moment of excess or unwanted gifts as an excuse to use ebay as well as their ebay Valet service.

The promotion let sellers use ebay Valet for free, and offered a number of drop-off points in Westfield malls across the country during the post-Christmas weekend.

This promotion does a number of things well, especially a contextual integration of physical and digital services with the drop-off stations in malls.  It’s also interesting to note Westfield’s willingness to play with the secondary market ebay creates in the context of their own spaces, where brands are already competing for attention and revenue.

Worth noting as well is that ebay partnered with The Onion Labs for the video promoting the Boxing Weekend extension of their #wishbigger campaign.  Fun stuff.

Facial Recognition for Marketing Faces Consumer Backlash

At a time when consumer tracking appears to be reaching a “Minority Report”-like state of the art, new research suggests that brands and retailers who implement some of the most cutting-edge technologies — especially the ability to recognize consumers’ faces — should be prepared for considerable consumer backlash.


According to a study that surveyed more than 1,000 consumers in June, more than 75% of respondents revealing they would not shop at a store that used facial recognition technology for marketing purposes. However, this number drops to 55% if discounts were offered by the stores.

Why It’s Hot

For retailers and advertisers, facial recognition technology could be a huge opportunity…. as long as the technology was used in a way that provided value to consumers rather than just creeping them out.


The Future of Shopping is by Text, and It’s Glorious…


[image courtesy of PSFK]

PSFK posted a really interesting roundup of text-to-shop apps yesterday that you should definitely check out, but probably the most fun of those cited (in my subjective opinion) is called Drunk Shopping. Not just a clever name, users text “heyyyyyy” to 551-333-7865, which incites an exchange like those seen above, wherein Drunk Shopping engages the user in playful, friendly banter, and offers them random items they can buy with a link to where they can buy them. Combining drinking with impulse buying seems like a dangerous (or awesome) combination, but it certainly seems entertaining if nothing else.

Why It’s Hot
Well, it’s fun. But, more importantly, it leverages a ubiquitous, familiar, and convenient (always accessible) behavior – not just texting, but drunk texting – in order to bring shopping to someone right where they are, even if it’s Mahmoun’s at 3AM. For all of its silliness, it’s a great example of how on-demand services are proliferating into all sorts of directions. The name of the game today is reaching people where they are with what they want (or what they don’t even know they want), and there are plenty more examples of on demand, text-to-shop services you should check out over at PSFK.

Shopping Made Even Easier With New ‘Crave’ App

Have you ever seen someone walking down the street and really admired their clothes or shoes and thought, “I want that”? With the new app called Crave that went live to the public on Tuesday (it’s a free download on iTunes), you can now snap a photo of the clothes you see and crave in your everyday life, and it will pull up visually similar results in seconds, then you can purchase the item directly on the app itself.

There have been other applications on the market in which you need to scan a barcode to compare prices but this requires no barcode scanning– instead it just analyzes a photo in order to help consumers find things that look like the item in the picture. “These photos can be snapped right from the Craves app, or they can be uploaded from the phone’s Camera Roll,” says the article.

Craves features clothing from a variety of stores at the moment from department stores to boutiques (Nasty Gal, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor, ASOS, Signer22, Coach, etc.). When a user makes a purchase through the app, Craves receives affiliate revenue but they hope to expand to other revenue systems in the future.

There is also a social component to this app, shoppers can follow friends and influencers and also browse through trending items and favorites and receive sale notifications.



Read more about Craves Here. 

YouTube Adds Click-to-Shop Buttons

YouTube is tweaking its commercials to be more like interactive infomercials.

A month after YouTube added interactive cards to its skippable TrueView ads, retail advertisers can now use those card overlays to include product information, images and links to purchase a product on a brand’s site. They can also use these ads to remarket to people who may have checked out a product on a brand’s site without checking out.

For YouTube, the move is a recognition that people are turning to the Google-owned video service to learn about products they’re considering buying.YouTube claims there are more than 1 million channels on the video service focused on product reviews and that views of product review videos have increased by 50% year-over-year.

YouTube_TrueViewShoppingMobile  YouTube_TrueViewShopping3x2

Why It’s Hot

YouTube’s addition of the click-to-shop feature will likely attract more advertisers with “brand response” goals- those that want to educate customers on their brand/product while also driving sales. So far, this feature has already proven to work for one advertiser: Wayfair tested a shoppable TrueView ad against a standard TrueView ad and found that the shoppable version delivered 3x more revenue.

In addition, YouTube is now allowing TrueView for Shopping ads to retarget users that have already checked out products on a brand’s site, providing a great way to find users that could response well to the brand’s video and end up converting.


Neiman Marcus touchscreen technologies bridge gap between digital and physical concepts

The Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab (known as iLab) has launched their interactive retail table project in three of its major locations in Austin, Chicago and Topanga. Displayed in each store’s shoe salon, these concept tables are approximately 70” long, 34” tall, and 26” wide and comprise of a clean-cut Ultra HD 4K touchscreen that features a single, continuous pane of glass that changes to fit in with Neiman Marcus’ color scheme.

The table’s software enables shoppers to browse and filter Neiman Marcus’ inventory including collections both in-store and online. There’s also a ‘My Favorites for Wishlist,’ that visitors can add items to and request to be emailed the product links should they want to think about their purchase at a later date. There are also benefits for employees as the software includes an up-to-the-minute inventory that presents what’s “coming soon,” and latest trend reports, which means staff can offer accurate, insightful advice as to new arrivals and where the customer can purchase something elsewhere.


Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

We’ve been focusing a lot of how digital and physical marketing and user experience come together, and this is a great example of bringing customer expectations to the forefront of the store experience. This has a lot of potential for the “cool factor” as well as data collection, helping customers find what they want, and tracking customers across channels.

For Sale: Vintage Boeing Airplane Parts

It’s the perfect gift for the one on your list who truly loves to travel: An airplane! Well, at least part of one.

Taking off just in time for the holidays, Boeing has launched a Custom Hangar store full of limited edition items including everything from home decor and furniture to apparel. Vintage airplane parts such as an authentic 747 jet window picture frame and a high-top table made from the real engine of a 737 are being diverted to your home.

Be it a couch of business class seats, a coffee table or a beverage cart, Boeing is arriving in consumers’ living rooms. Talk about a conversation piece.

Via Adweek.

Why It’s Hot: Boeing isn’t itself an airline or a traditional consumer brand — most of us probably don’t have a few hundred million dollars lying around to purchase aircrafts — but their sale of merchandise is getting consumers’ wheels spinning. As opposed to typical furniture retailers, Boeing’s products are a part of history. They even have fans; that is, they have spinning blades and people that are fond of them, and willing to spend money on memorabilia.

For a brand usually reserved for long-distance travel and faraway trips (via airplane), it doesn’t get much more personal than landing inside the home. Brands already vie for ad space in our hands, on our screens and outside our homes, so perhaps it won’t be long before more conventionally out-of-home, outdoor brands move inside to serve real purposes as household items.

4,000 Beacons Coming to All Macy’s Stores

Following beacon trials in New York and San Francisco, Macy’s is expanding its beacon program to all stores nationwide, with the installation of more than 4,000 beacons in its stores. The beacons program is being done with shopping app Shopkick, one of the early pioneers in presence recognition with devices at entrances of stores that send a signal to smartphones that have the app. Macy’s said the installation of Shopkick’s shopBeacons is expected to be completed by early fall, ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Why It’s Hot

When the Macy’s beacons are activated, as shoppers enter a store, shopBeacon will send to anyone with the Shopkick app on their phone a message reminding them to open the app. The use of Shopkick, with its virtual reward currency of kicks, adds a twist to beaconing. Shoppers are rewarded with points for entering the store, and are routed to different departments where they can be rewarded by receiving more kicks, which can be cashed in at a number of stores, such as Best Buy, Target, Crate and Barrel and, of course, Macy’s.

“Shopkick has found a way to change consumer behavior,” Shopkick CEO Cyriac Roeding told MediaPost this week. “We can influence behavior in a measurable way. Shopkick users spend 50 to 100 percent more than others.”

The Shopkick approach with Macy’s is to customize each person’s shopping trip. The idea is that different people receive different messages as they roam the aisles.

Two of the obvious challenges of beaconing are that a consumer has to have an app that the beacon triggers and they must have Bluetooth turned on.

We will see what the future holds for beaconing as more retailers and marketers take on large-scale deployments. A recent study by Adobe projected huge growth in beaconing over the next year (54% of Mobile Marketers plan to Beacon).

Mannequins Tell People What They Are Wearing via Mobile App

Three shops in the UK are trialing a system in which store dummies send messages to people via their mobile devices.

Smart dummies use VMbeacon technology to communicate with shoppers within a 50-meter radius. They will be sending customers alerts with details of what they are wearing. These could include the prices of their clothes and accessories, links to the items on the retailer’s website, as well as where they can be found in-store.

With VMBeacon, beacons sense when a shopper with an enabled smartphone app is within a 50m radius both inside and outside the store. It transmits an automatic alert to the customer, which is programmed by the retailer and sent via a secure web portal.

The app invites users to view more detailed photos and product descriptions, share them with friends, save looks for later and access additional offers and rewards.


Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

Beacon technology has been gaining momentum, but we are yet to see its practical and widespread use in retail outlets.  This brings another dimension to window shopping and could be helpful if you spot something you like after closing hours but need more information in order to make a purchase.

From a retailer’s point of view, being able to interact directly with customers on mobiles is priceless. Beacon technology turns store props into smart devices that can promote their products and potentially turn passers-by into customers. Stores could also benefit from the information gathered on customers to understand their consumers better.

For consumers, instead of having to search the store for an item you see in the window, the information will come straight to the user. It promises to offer the convenience of online shopping combined with the benefits of an in-store experience.

Zatarain’s Cooks Up iBeacon Campaign


The rollout of Apple’s iBeacon technology is one of the most closely watched trends in mobile marketing and retail circles this year. For stores and brands, it holds the promise of boosting sales by delivering offers and information to customers via mobile when they enter a retail location or while shopping in specific departments.  One of the initial companies embracing iBeacon is mobile shopping platform, InMarket, who currently has two shopping apps – Checkpoints and List Ease. These apps will have the capability to interact with the beacon sensors.   McCormick & Company-owned Zatarain’s will be one of the initial brands to run a campaign using this technology at over 200 grocery stores in Southern California.

Why It’s Hot

Zatarain’s is running recipe-focused ads for its rice products. A shopper with the CheckPoints app, for example, would receive a Zatarain’s ad when entering the store that would allow her to click one button for recipes and another to scan the product – New Orleans Style Yellow Rice – to earn rewards points using the app’s barcode reader.

“So we’re basically driving people into the store, and when they’re in the store, we drive them down the aisle, and have them pick up the product to learn more about it,” explained InMarket CEO Todd DiPaola. Zatarain’s identified recipes as a “key driver of purchase habits” for customers so that became the focus of the campaign.  InMarket is selling ads on a cost-per-engagement basis, so Zatarain’s only pays when someone actually picks up a box of rice and scans it.

iBeacon utilizes Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) technology instead of a GPS system to accurately determine your location. It is the next step to micro-location targeting. iBeacons are strategically placed throughout a store and will transmit an ad/offer/recipe to your mobile phone when you are within proximity of the product. This is a great selling tool to capture new customers at the point-of-sale.

It will take a few months and more extensive results to determine if iBeacon is a game–changer that retailers and brands are hoping for and vendors are promising.  Several hurdles to overcome are the set-up required, the need for consumer apps to integrate with the iBeacon system, and consumer awareness.