ECOMMERCE

Study: Nearly half of U.S. consumers ready to shop through IoT-driven devices

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Consumers are growing increasingly comfortable using connected devices for daily tasks — and shopping is not far behind.

As more devices connect to chatbots and virtual assistants, an increasing number of consumers are ready to embrace the automation and convenience delivered by IoT technologies. Nearly half of consumers (48%) said they would feel comfortable with a connected device, such as a refrigerator, ordering items on their behalf.

This was according to “Connected Consumer,” research from Worldpay. The study examined the opinions of approximately 20,100 consumers across 10 markets related to IoT, connected devices and the use of payments via the technology.

While shoppers are eager to use connected devices for shopping, 62% would want to approve all purchases beforehand, and 78% would prefer to be notified before the order is placed.

IoT is also spurring the adoption of virtual assistants and chatbots. These services are also rising in popularity as an increasing number of consumer-centric devices, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, support the technology.

That said, 35% of consumers would “probably” or “definitely” consider using a virtual assistant to perform a simple task. While 55% of consumers would welcome the convenience of a chatbot or virtual assistant shopping on their behalf, only 37% would allow a virtual assistant to have access to their payment information.

There is still work to be done in helping consumers fully embrace this technology, however. For example, respondents would like the virtual assistants and chatbots they interact with to have two personality traits: helpfulness and intelligence. Many respondents (48%) are also skeptical about a virtual assistant ever being able to conduct a conversation like a real person.

However, these tools, along with robots and drones, open the door for consumers to experience automated ordering and delivery in new ways. U.S. respondents are fairly enthusiastic about using this technology in their daily lives. However, those feelings vary greatly across generational divides.

While 62% of Millennials would allow a connected device to order something without asking, just 22% of consumers over the age of 55 feel the same.

A significant number of consumers said they would be comfortable with drones delivering purchases to their home, and robots performing tasks within their homes, 50% and 49%, respectively.

“The beauty of technology advancements means that there are many opportunities for virtual assistants and connected devices to make consumers lives easier,’ said Casey Bullock, general manager for North America at Worldpay.

“If machines can offer consumers a &lsquoconcierge’ style service that reduces day-to-day life admin and menial tasks then there’s no reason why they won’t want to delegate some of their shopping responsibilities – after all, we would all appreciate an extra bit of time to ourselves,” Bullock added. “In the end, consumers need confidence that machines can be trusted to make the right decisions and keep their owners informed and in control.”

For now however, the overwhelming majority of respondents (73%) expressed concerns about the manufacturers of these devices having access to their personal data. Meanwhile, 77% worry about devices being hacked by fraudsters.

“No matter if done by a human or machine, it is vital for consumers to remain in control when they’re delegating payment tasks,” said Bullock. “Our research has found that there should always be a conscious &lsquoact of consent’be that via a device notification, button push or a pre-set rule like a spending limit, being agreed in advance.”

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News

Thrift store chain goes ‘wireless’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Staying true to its “thrifty” roots, Savers has added a robust wireless solution without breaking the bank.

Savers, the largest for-profit thrift store chain in North America, operates 320 retail locations in the United States, Canada and Australia. Over the last decade, the company has expanded and modernized its enterprise in a number of ways. For example, it added a call center located in El Paso, Texas, a move that supports scheduling operations like donation pick-ups and trucking operations among smaller charity organizations that did not have infrastructure in place.

The company also expanded its Bellevue, Washington, headquarters to nearby Renton. Savers also manages more than 10 regional distribution centers and warehouses to support its growing retail stores.

However, all of this expansion was taking a toll its existing wide area network (WAN). Besides struggling to support operations, the company was burdened with a break-fix model of support, which was too time-consuming to solve IT problems.

That’s when the company began exploring a move toward a Wi-Fi solution — a move that would support continuous store operations, support store-level mobile operations, and more flexibility when augmenting internal operations. It also needed to allow visiting employees and corporate staff to connect to the corporate network from any retail location. As a company that thrives on thrift however, cost was also a key factor in their decision.

Savers chose Aerohive as its wireless network standard across all retail stores and corporate operations. It deployed Aerohive access points across retail stores and trucking operations, as well as among corporate offices and locations. The company also supports network management, and secure device authentication among a new guest network.

“There is always someone who has the ability to build a better mousetrap,” said Charles Blair, IT infrastructure manager at Savers. “Now Savers team members in our retail locations have the flexibility to brainstorm ways for increased productivity, and can move workstation configurations without additional cost.”

Looking ahead, the retailer plans to deploy access points in retail locations with integrated Bluetooth capabilities. This will allow Savers to connect with customers, including unauthenticated users — a move that will drive customer interaction, offer promotional opportunities and enable push notifications, according to the company.

Savers, which operates under the banners Savers, Value Village, Village des Valeurs in Canada and Savers Australia, generates revenues of more than $1 billion worldwide.

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MOBILITY

M.Gemi bolsters in-store experience

BY Marianne Wilson

M.Gemi, the Boston-based Italian-made footwear brand, is using a digital tool to drive in-store customer satisfaction.

The direct-to-consumer retailer, which was founded online but recently jumped to the physical space, has launched an app for store associates that combines online and offline functions, allowing associates to provide an elevated experience for store shoppers.

Powered by mobile commerce platform PredictSpring, the app gives associates access to customer information including name, date of birth, past purchase history, including the ability to see items added to the customer’s online cart. In addition to clienteling, the app provides real-time inventory data. With one click, store associates can check the availability of online inventory and arrange for shipment directly to the customer. This allows M.Gemi to limit in-store inventory in terms of storage and sizes.

The app can also be integrated with a hand-held payment capture device to provide a user-friendly mobile checkout process.

"PredictSpring has enabled our store associates to seamlessly assist customers and ensure that their needs a met from the moment they walk in, until the moment they checkout,” said Cheryl Kaplan, co-founder and president of M.Gemi.

Founded online in 2015, M.Gemi operates two freestanding stores, in New York City's SoHo neighborhood and Boston's Prudential Center, in addition to its e-commerce site.

The brand works directly with a network of family-owned factories in Italy. New products are delivered in store and online each week. Because it sells direct with no middle man, it is able to offer a luxury handcrafted product at an accessible price point.

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