Digital Gift Cards on the Rise
While gift cards are still made of plastic, digitally formatted gifts cards are increasing in popularity. (According to research by payments giant First Data, electronic gift card sales grew 71% from 2012 to 2013.) Consumers particularly like the customization options — including video and audio in some instances — that some retailers offer with digital cards. Another popular option: the ability to load a digital card onto a mobile device
Here are a few other unique benefits digital gift cards offer:
• Unforgettable: “The challenge with plastic gift cards is that consumers forget or lose them,” said C.J. MacDonald, co-founder of San Francisco-based digital gift card platform provider Gyft Inc., which was recently acquired by First Data. “Digital gift cards solve this problem by giving consumers the ability to have access to them at all times.”
• Promotable: Digital gift cards can be used as holiday promotional tools in several ways. For example, they are perfect for last-minute gift promotions since they can be instantly bought and delivered, and can also be offered as an instant incentive to promote customer shopping and store visits.
“A gift card platform can be used like a supercharged digital couponing platform, because there is real stored value,” said MacDonald. “You can limit the use of a promotional card to one user for a finite period of time, with low cost of delivery.”
• Findable: Digital gift cards can also serve as a handy location-based marketing tool.
“A digital gift card is a mobile device,” said Lisa Gamby, director of marketing at InComm, whose prepaid card technology helps support Gyft’s platform. “With Gyft you can do geonotification pushes and send customers reminders and offers when they are near a store to drive foot traffic.”
The Next Revolution in LEDs is Control
The LED revolution sweeping the building industry is now ready for the next stage: intelligent lighting control, which has the potential to transform the retail environment by making it more flexible, better understood and connective with shoppers.
LEDs are inherently dimmable, and many LED products are sold with dimming capability regardless of how the owner plans to control them. Pairing dimmable LED lighting with lighting controls can accelerate energy savings, extend product service life, satisfy energy codes and provide greater flexibility.
As digital devices, LEDs are also inherently compatible with intelligent lighting control, in which intelligence is embedded into each light fixture. This provides individual addressability of light fixtures in a network (an Internet of Lighting), control zoning/rezoning using software, instant setup and remote calibration, and two-way communication for monitoring and analytics.
Intelligent lighting control is increasingly going wireless, which simplifies design and installation while increasing opportunities for installation in existing spaces. Miniaturization allows integration of controllers and sensors within the fixture (or lamp). Color-tuning control allows retailers to select color or shade of white light that is optimal for presenting merchandise at its best, basing it on shopper preference (dressing rooms), display characteristics, time of day or season.
Manufacturers are now offering packaged solutions of light fixtures and controls that bring the best of LED lighting and lighting control together in a way that maximizes energy savings, facilitates asset management and simplifies installation. The LED will increase adoption of intelligent control, while intelligent control facilitates adoption of LED.
In the future, the “Internet of Lighting” will play a part in the “Internet of Things,” with the LED light fixture offering strong potential as a platform. As LED fixtures are installed, they could be specified with additional sensors (including video) and controls. One particularly interesting capability is visible light communication (VLC), with solutions now being demonstrated by companies like Acuity, GE and Philips. VLC allows indoor location positioning, with light used to transmit information to shopper’s cell phones using a store app to communicate wayfinding, coupons, recipes, etc. With the introduction of sensors in the fixture, the LED lighting could also monitor floor traffic and otherwise help retailers better understand what is happening on the sales floor.
We’re at the frontier of transformation that will be unlocked by these emerging capabilities, which take the typical conversation about light to the benefits from illumination/cost to total control — lighting that generates business data, expands capabilities and adds business value in new ways.
Craig DiLouie, LC, is education director for the Lighting Controls Association (lighting-controlsassociation.org).
Pandora Sticks to the Plan
With some 3,200 franchised, independently owned and corporate stores, the fast-growing Danish jewelry retailer Pandora needs to ensure customer relationship management (CRM) consistency throughout its operation — especially during the heavily promotional holiday season. It does so by using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system and a retail portal based on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. The solution helps ensure that every store is aligned with the same marketing and customer service plan.
“We use Dynamics for tracking of visual merchandising at stores,” explained Phillip Kennedy, director of IT for Pandora, whose North American division is based in Columbia, Maryland. “We do store visits and upload photos of holiday promotions, tagged for management to review.”
In addition, Pandora uses a custom cloud-based platform-as-service (PaaS) retail portal built on Microsoft Azure for sharing CRM information, such as product master files. Through the portal, Pandora also executes holiday promotions, such as new product drops and email releases, across the organization.
“We manage retailer participation and planning and go back to review their performance,” said Kennedy. “We get our biggest promotional volume during the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays, as well as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. We’re able to scale up to handle the volume. Microsoft technology allows us to do it easily without significant increases in staffing.”