As technology becomes a more pressing need for retailers, Coffee with CART sessions continue to highlight some of the programs and ideas at the forefront of the industry. In the March 5 session, the main topics of focus were online shopping, mobile payment, loyalty programs and beacons. All of these topics have been discussed before, but new developments within the categories demand that retailers and CART explore the changes constantly, staying up to date with the evolution. Below is a recap of what was shared.
A recent study brought to light by Morning News Beat highlighted the fact that consumers are shopping more and more from tablets. The desire for free shipping was also in the study, but the CART team mainly focused on the need of retailers to ensure that their websites are mobile responsive, meaning the layout of the website changes depending on which device a consumer is using. The discussion on whether a retailer really needs an app is still being had, but as consumers shop more and more from devices, mobile responsiveness will become more imperative. The main opportunity for an app over just a responsive site was that an app would have the built-in capability of being used with beacons.
With the news that Samsung purchased Looppay, the game for mobile payment is heating up. The CART team discussed the wide variety of mobile payment options out there including Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Pay Pal & now Samsung and Looppay. Looppay offers consumers the ability to pay at stores without NFC (near-field communication) integration as it uses a magnetic field to convey credit card information into the terminal. Retailers can take all forms of mobile payment, but need to be ready for the form the consumers prefers, as the CART team speculated that mobile payment will hit critical mass this year.
As consumer data becomes more essential, the CART team talked about the foray into loyalty by Whole Foods. Noting that they had tried it years ago before pulling the program, the team thought the Whole Foods consumer base is an ideal audience for loyalty as consumers are shopping there for a reason. Currently Whole Food uses email open rates to see how engaged their consumer base is, but those can be skewed because the most loyal shoppers are the ones opting into the email program, but they could be expected to be the ones likely to open emails. The CART team noted that while independent retailers have been doing a good job of entering the digital space, measurement of what is happening continues to be an opportunity. Loyalty programs can help retailers tie all of the digital data together. Walmart is doing this through their use of an app, which in turn, turns into a defacto loyalty program.
But retailers aren’t the only ones in the loyalty game. Manufacturers are also after consumer information. MyCokeRewards was mentioned, as they are revamping their entire program. Discounts and coupons are no longer real exciting to consumers as they are commonplace, so trips or VIP experiences are becoming more commonplace as rewards. Two the other manufacturer programs with established roots are Kellogg Family Rewards and GMI’s Box Tops for Education.
Theme of the Month
Beacons are the CART topic of the month. As there is more information out there about them, retailers are still not sure about them, how they work or what they do. As a quick description the CART team described beacons as small bluetooth devices that transmit a signal that is then read by an app. The beacons can either be open, which means any app can read it, or closed, which means only a specific app can interpret the signal. Everyone is talking about beacons, and they are becoming a commodity, but retailers must use the beacons correctly and have deep data behind their application. The CART team warned retailers that the correct message must be served to consumers. Phones are powerful devices and consumers don’t want to be spammed on their phone. It takes a lot of understanding behind the scenes to understand big data and what message should be served. All of this screams algorithms, machine learnings and big data – even for retailers with large scale. Beacons are a double- edged sword, the retailer has to provide contextually relevant offer which makes it an incredibly powerful tool, but at same time, if a retailer only provides mass digital coupons to anyone that walks by, it is spam. Then the retailer is going to hurt their efforts at shopper engagement and the shopper gets turned off pretty quickly.
The variety of programs discussed in this Coffee with CART session shows the rapid evolution happening in the grocery space. From the way consumers are viewing and making transactions to how major players are changing and evolving as quickly as possible, retailers must be aware of what they are up against.