MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

America’s most trustworthy brand is…

BY Marianne Wilson

Face-to-face human contact is not necessary for a brand to make a strong connection with consumers.

Amazon was deemed the most trustworthy brand in a first-ever national survey by social science research entity The Values Institute. It was followed by Marriott, Microsoft, Hilton, and Southwest Airlines. The survey, which ranks the six largest national brands in seven key categories and also overall, calculated trust by looking at 25 "trust dimensions" in five categories: competence, consistency, connection, candor and concern.

“In the past, we have seen the strongest Concern and Connection scores come from brands where there is a personal interaction with the customer," said Mark Weinfeld, TVI’s director of strategic planning who administered the survey. "Amazon has done an amazing job of creating that personal touch that may even exceed what you get at a brick-and-mortar location.”

In addition to having the highest score overall (290.75), Amazon scored highest in the retail category. Rounding out the top five most trustworthy retailers were Costco (266.80), Target (261.25), Macy's (251.50) and Walmart (240.75).

The most trustworthy quick-service restaurant brand was Subway (270.25). It was followed by Wendy's (268.85), Starbucks (264.15), Burger King (257.65) and Taco Bell (254.05).

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ECOMMERCE

Restaurant lets customers pay using their face

BY Marianne Wilson

A new restaurant concept gives customers an easy — and high-tech way — to pay for their meal without having to take out their wallet or even their smartphone.

KPRO, by KFC (from Yum China Holdings), in Hangzhou, China, was developed for young, tech-savvy consumers who are open to new tastes as well as digital innovations. The health-focused restaurant features the first commercial application of Alipay's new "Smile to Pay" facial recognition payment technology globally. (Alipay is the mobile and online payment platform created by Alibaba.)

The technology utilizes a multi-step verification process that only takes about two seconds. It includes a facial scan using a 3D camera. Customers who opt for the facial payment must also enter their mobile phone number to facilitate payment.

In addition to facial recognition payment, KPRO incorporates other cutting-edge technology to provide customers with a convenient and connected dining experience. It has no traditional ordering counter. Instead, customers are able to order at digital kiosks. They can also use their mobile phones to scan QR codes and order at their tables.

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REAL ESTATE

At the World Trade Center Mall, honoring heroes is an everyday thing

BY Al Urbanski

Outside the Oculus, the skeletal edifice that houses the World Trade Center’s transportation hub, thousands gathered this week to honor American heroes who lost their lives there on 9-11. Inside the Oculus, Westfield’s mall has been honoring America’s military heroes ever since it opened a year ago. Before any store opened its doors, Westfield staged a job fair aimed at enlisting veterans to come to work at Ground Zero.

Bill Hecht

It was two years ago that Bill Hecht decided to jump with both feet into a chain-wide community program for Westfield. The then new COO started with a desire to help veterans and a logical notion: get the community-minded people within the company to get the project going.

“I was keenly interested in doing more to help the veterans,” said Hecht, whose father was a veteran of World War II and the Korean Conflict. “I sent out a note to the company at large to see who else might be interested and I got responses from over 100 people.”

The big mall owner now has 50 employees involved in the Westfield Veterans Initiative (WVI), which provides veterans with one-on-one mentorship opportunities, supports retail entrepreneurship, and drives awareness for issues faced by transitioning service members.

Early on, WVI formed a relationship with The Rosie Network, an organization founded by Navy SEAL spouses to help counteract high unemployment rates among transitioning veterans through entrepreneurship. In July, Westfield Mission Valley in San Diego sponsored a Rosie Network Veteran Business Showcase where 29 veterans and military spouses were allowed to display their wares.

“Thanks to Westfield, our military entrepreneurs have a meaningful way to connect directly with consumers,” said Rosie Network founder Stephanie Brown.

The National Retail Federation and its RISE Up Initiative partnered with WVI at a veteran’s job fair at its Century City mall in June to advise veterans on how to acquire the necessary skills to turn retail jobs into promising careers in the industry.

The Veteran’s Initiative has taken root at Westfield, and Hecht says the experience has been as rewarding for Westfield and its employees as it’s been for veterans.

“One of the most pleasant outcomes of this program has been the involvement of a wide variety of different employees,” he said. “Leaders have emerged from this project who were not among the most senior people in the company.”


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