Advanced Selling

Kiosks, cell phones, ESLs satisfy time-starved shoppers

Retailers have traditionally committed significant dollars to advertising, marketing and promotional events to lure consumers into their stores. But the traditional methods may no longer be sufficient to get and keep an increasing number of time-starved customers. In response retailers are working to improve the customer experience, often with the use of advanced selling devices and tactics. Food Lion's new Bloom concept, which is centered around improving the customer experience, is a prime example.

In 2004, the company debuted five Bloom stores equipped with leading-edge technologies including self-service kiosks and mobile POS systems.

Satisfied with initial consumer response to the new format, the retailer is continuously evaluating its offerings. "We continue to test the current portfolio of technology offered in our Bloom stores, collect consumer feedback and make adjustments to drive higher customer satisfaction," says Doug Miller, director of store systems.

Following examples of leading retailers such as Food Lion, Domaine Serene, a winery in Dayton, Oregon, that produces premium pinor noir, chardonnay and syrah wines, is now providing premium customer service with a new purchasing system. "We want our customers focused on the wines, and the best way to do that is with limited distractions during the purchasing process," says Allan Carter, marketing director of Domaine Serene.

With that in mind, the company worked with New West Technologies to customize the Microsoft Retail Management System software package for its operations. It also deployed New West Technologies Workstations, Elo TouchSystems touchscreens and a Symbol Technologies MC-50 handheld PDA. "Now we can bring the sale to the customer and integrate purchases seamlessly into the tasting experience," says Carter.

The system deployed in October 2005 replaced a manual process that included hand-written order forms faxed to a warehouse each day. "We went from a tricycle to a Ferrari," notes Carter. Total cost, including hardware, was less than $40,000. "It has been paying off through improved speed, data accuracy and an enhanced customer experience."

Personalized Payments

Broadway Marketplace also is improving customer service while creating a new channel for the retailer to communicate with customers. Local customers can use their cell phones to make payments.

"Rather than issuing a loyalty card, MobileLime turns our customers' cell phone numbers into their unique identifier, offering a unique way for us to build personalized relationships with them," says Charles Bougas, president of Broadway Marketplace. "Shoppers benefit from faster checkouts, store level promotions and special rewards that are communicated to them while they make their shopping decisions. We have seen an increase in sales."

To use the service, local customers who live near the 10,000-square-foot store in Cambridge, Massachusetts, fill out an application on MobileLime's Web site with a credit or debit card number, their cell phone number and other personal information.

The system is integrated into the StoreNext ISS45 systems that are installed in the store's five checkouts, Bougas adds. "The entire program is provided and managed by MobileLime, including cell phone validation at POS, which keeps things simple for us and our customers," he says. Bougas believes advanced in-store selling devices have a bright future in small retail operations: "In the past, it was difficult to compete with the bigger players. Now MobileLime's technology levels the playing field so we can effectively communicate with our customers to bring them back time and time again."

Increasing Price Accuracy

While Broadway Marketplace has simplified the checkout process for its customers, 4 Corners Grocery Store has simplified the task of changing prices, resulting in increased price accuracy. The retailer, which operates an 8,000-square-foot store in Middlebury, Connecticut, has improved the process using electronic shelf labels (ESLs) from NCR. The labels also help to build confidence in shoppers that prices on the items they purchase are going to scan correctly, says Joe Dinova, the store's owner. "Price changes go from computers in the store to the ESLs and to checkout. With the devices, I am now able to make immediate price changes and be more competitive."

The retailer installed 8,500 ESLs, ceiling antennas for communicating data between the store's computers and ESLs and a new POS system in December 2004. ROI occurred within a year. "We have paid off that investment in a year as a result of fewer pricing errors and a reduction of labor that was needed to make price changes manually," Dinova says.

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