Emoticons, McDonalds and kitchen appliances aren’t the normal topics of conversation during Coffee With CART sessions, but during the March 19 discussion, they were all on the table. Often, looking at trends in other industries gives insight into where marketing and technology is going in the near future. Sometimes these trends are just informational and fun, sometimes they challenge retailers to change what they are doing, or at least open their eyes to other possibilities.
Emoticons are a way to express emotion without words. About 41.5 million messages are sent every day and 6 million of them have emoticons in them. Why does this matter to retailers? One reason is brands such as Coke, Mentos and Apple are updating their emoticons to communicate with their consumer bases differently. These emoticons help digital communication mimic the subtleties of real life conversations. What it means for retailers is that consumers are communicating differently and in a more personalized way. Retailers need to understand these changes in the way their messages are being consumed. Plus, the most popular emoticons to use are food and drink emoticons. People love food and talking about it more than ever, retailers would do well to inspire those messages being sent while in store.
When looking at in-store changes, mobile payments are in the news frequently these days. Whether it is the ability for consumers to order and pay for McDonalds on their phone, or the new Starbucks process of ordering and paying, the way consumers shop is definitely changing. Kiosks, which used to be commonplace are phasing out as mobile phones are ubiquitous. Retailers can’t just rely on consumers to “get it” though. Apps and platforms must sync and be usable across all device and operating systems. The connection of these platforms allows retailers to see loyal consumers and offer them augmented value programs like ecommerce.
Technology isn’t just consumer facing though. Amazon recently bought a web-connected appliance business. While this seemingly is to help consumers, it also has the potential to help retailers. The CART team mentioned that by taking advantage of this predictive intelligence, this internet of things is going to help the retailers know when problems arise. One situation they mentioned was immediately being notified when a freezer is broken. Instead of losing all inventory because there is no knowledge of the broken freezer, this web-connected freezer will immediately give indication that something needs to be fixed, thus saving inventory and cost.
From connected appliances to connected consumers, saving money is always on the minds of the new consumer. Social media is just one of the digital channels millennials favor for promotions. This new generation of consumers favors this channel that allows the sharing of these offers. Another channel for digital promotions is through beacons. For retailers who don’t know where to start, the CART team recommends retailers do research and really understand what the best practices are, as beacon technology can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, retailers can make the store come to life for shoppers, communicating contextually relevant info. On the other hand, beacons can have downside too, especially if the retailer doesn’t provide relevant offers or have a strategy for success. All of these engagement tactics give retailers the ability to interact with a shopper on a one to one basis.
Not all the topics discussed in this Coffee with CART session were new, as mobile payment and beacons continue to be explored by retailers and the CART team, yet looking outside the traditional grocery industry news can give provide new insight.