December 8, 2015
Technology has many real applications for making people’s lives better. It can save them time, connect them with remote services they might not be able to access otherwise, help them find information and allow them to share meaningful experiences with people far away.
Companies are constantly on the lookout for technology solutions that can save them money and help improve consumer experience. Here are five companies that are doing it well.
Nordstrom, the Seattle-based high-end department store, uses technology in several different ways to give consumers a better shopping experience. They have touchscreens in their dressing rooms so consumers can shop online if they can’t find a garment in the color or size they want. If people start shopping online but decide they want to go into the store to make a purchase, a program allows them to determine exactly where in the store the item is located.
Nordstrom has very effective ways of utilizing social media to improve their consumers’ shopping experience. They analyze what photographs from their Pinterest page are being pinned to get a sense of what appeals to their shoppers. They then use that information to create signage drawing attention to those products in their stores. They also track how people are interacting with them on sites such as Facebook and Twitter so they can do a better job of getting consumers information they want and need.
To help itself do a better job of marketing, Nordstrom sometimes tracks consumers via their Wifi signal when they come into the store. They use these signals to determine where shoppers go and how much time they spend in various departments. A popular incentive program called Fashion Rewards allows Nordstrom to capture customer information that can be used to improve marketing, product design and the sale of ads on their online platforms.
Walmart is on the cutting edge of many business practices, and using technology to give consumers a better shopping experience is one of them.
The company is working on an e-receipt program that stores frequent purchases. That way, consumers can look back to see when they purchased an item and if it might be time for them to buy it again. If the item is currently priced lower than it was the last time they bought it, they might choose to stock up. Online ordering systems allow consumers to shop online, then quickly pick up their order when they reach the store.
Walmart is also using and exploring technology designed to do what it does best: help consumers save money. An existing app called Savings Catcher scans a person’s receipt and tells them if a product they purchased is being sold for less at a nearby store. If it is, the person gets a gift card in the amount of the cost difference. Walmart is also interested in developing an app that will help people on a budget determine which groceries to buy ahead of time, so they can avoid removing items from their basket in the checkout line if they try to buy too much.
Home improvement chain Lowe’s has made big investments in mobile technology to improve consumer experience in their stores. In 2013 they bought 42,000 iPhones, which they loaded with specialized apps and handed out to employees. Those employees use their phones to help consumers without having to leave them standing alone in the aisle. They can do things like check nearby stores to see if they have products in inventory, show people how-to videos to coach them through a home improvement product, check their prices against competitors’ prices, and educate people about what they can purchase on the company’s website.
Lowe’s also made some significant improvements to their app to help consumers who want to use their own iPhones in stores. With the MyLowes mobile app, consumers can determine if products are in stock in their neighborhood store, then make a list of items they want to buy using a feature called Quick List. Once they get to the store, the app will help them locate the specific aisles where the items they want are located.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
You know those binders in hotels that provide guests with information about hotel phone extensions, amenities and nearby restaurants? Those binders may be a thing of the past thanks to Microsoft and other technology companies, which are working to replace them with interactive technology.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is one of the first hotels to pilot this technology. The company owns dozens of high-end hotels and resorts across the world. These hospitality centers were the perfect place to try out Microsoft Surface tablets equipped with special software to serve guests.
In addition to accessing information about the hotel’s services online, residents can order room service, arrange for concierge services and request help from housekeeping. Guests can also share feedback about their stay at the hotel, and enter preferences for primary language and other needs that the hotel can remember for the person’s next stay.
Sainsbury’s is a British grocery store chain that uses existing and new technology to improve their consumers’ experiences in their stores.
The company was the first in the United Kingdom to install self-checkout technology in their stores. They’re currently testing a new system where consumers can scan their groceries as they shop for them, pack them into bags, and pay for them at the checkout line without having to unload their bags.
Sainsbury’s Brand Match app allows consumers to check their prices against those of its competitors. If another store offers a cheaper price, Sainsbury’s creates a coupon in the amount of the difference than can be used to buy anything in the store.
Sainsbury’s has centralized many of its benefits through Nectar, its rewards program. While you used to need a Nectar card to earn points, the “card” is now online. So is most of the information consumers need about their Nectar card. They can use their smartphone to conveniently check how many points they’ve earned, redeem coupons and vouchers, even find out where they can earn Nectar points (the company partners with several others on a joint reward program).