ENERGY/HVAC

Restaurant chain to pursue national waste and utility expense management

BY Marianne Wilson

Kona Grill is looking to minimize energy consumption and cut down on waste.

The restaurant company selected Ecova to provide waste expense management strategy and utility expense data management for the American grill and sushi bar chain’s more than 43 restaurants in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Ecova will perform a series of services for Kona, including utility bill processing, site specific utility service management, and monitoring monthly financial information to help optimize budgets.

For waste management, Ecova will assist with waste bill processing and analysis, and waste service optimization management. Kona Grill will access these analyses through Ecova’s energy and sustainability management platform, a single intuitive source of data and insights that will assist in setting companywide benchmarks, identify performance outliers and prioritize facility improvements.

“We believe that minimizing energy consumption and waste output begins with having reliable data,” said Paige Miller, director of facilities at Kona Grill. “Ecova is a fantastic partner not just for the range of data it can help us acquire, but also in the actionable insight it can read from our data. We’ll soon be able to improve our cost savings and environmental footprint company-wide.”

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ECOMMERCE

Amazon launches Black Friday deals — starting now

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

For every shopper that asks “Alexa, what are your holiday deals?,” Amazon now has answers.

The Internet giant has officially kicked off the holiday countdown with the launch of its Black Friday Deals Store and curated holiday gift guides, along with an array of other digital services geared to attract shoppers this shopping season.

Starting Nov. 1, shoppers can visit Amazon’s Black Friday Deals Store, a destination that features early Black Friday sales, as well as exclusive sales as often as every five minutes, through Dec. 22. These sales will feature top gifts such as electronics, toys, clothing, jewelry, kitchen items, and more.

Amazon is also offering up to 20 daily “Deals of the Day.” Some examples include $20 off the Kindle Paperwhite; savings on an LG 55” 1080p Curved Smart OLED TV, and up to 40% off select Magformers toys.

These efforts will feature “tens of thousands of deals this holiday season,” with new deals as often as every five minutes, according to a company statement.

Meanwhile, Amazon has compiled curated holiday gift guides across various categories. For example, the 2016 Amazon Electronics Gift Guide features more than 500 of this year’s most-coveted technology products. The 2016 Amazon Home Gift Guide curates more than 1,000 must-have products for the home, and the Handmade at Amazon Holiday Gift Guide features curated lists of handcrafted items sold directly by artisans.

In addition to the deals store, Amazon announced updates to its mobile apps that are designed to allow for easier shopping, even when a customer is in a physical store. In addition to a visual search tool and “Watch-a-Deal” alerts, the app is launching its Package X-Ray feature on Nov. 15. As the app’s camera icon scans a package’s barcode, images of items inside the box will pop up on the user’s mobile screen.

The camera icon is also making searches visual. For example, as customers use the camera icon to snap a picture of an item, the app will pull up a list of similar items.

Also new, Prime members can use their voice to order tens of millions of products by asking Alexa on their Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire TV, or Fire tablet. To promote the service, Amazon is featuring exclusive deals just for voice shoppers, the statement said.

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TECHNOLOGY

Report: A majority of shoppers use social media throughout their path to purchase

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Social media is increasingly influencing the shopper’s entire path-to-purchase.

This point was revealed in “Social’s Influence on the Path to Purchase,” a report from Crowdtap that reveals the in-store and online purchasing behaviors and shopping preferences of 500 U.S. adults. With 75% of consumers visiting Facebook during their pre-shopping planning, especially in search of recommendations and advice from friends and family, shopping is becoming more social than ever. And this “guidance” can take place a few days prior to planning their purchases (one-third of shoppers), or only a few hours before (one-third), the survey said.

Once in-store, more than 80% of consumers use their mobile phones to compare prices on other retail sites and social networks, and see if stores have online coupons or loyalty programs. Post-purchase, 47% of consumers will use the retailer’s site or social networks to write a review. Of those shoppers, 68% will purchase from the same brand again within three months, the report said.

"Our research indicates that shoppers naturally turn to social media as they plan and make purchases,” said Claudia Page, VP of product and partnerships at Crowdtap. “By creating ways for shoppers to share their real experiences on social, brands and retailers promote consumer engagement and build brand loyalty.”

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