TECHNOLOGY

Target execs share their ‘wow’ picks from 2017 Consumer Electronics Show

BY CSA STAFF

Voice-activated technology and connected devices are among the hot tech trends that caught the attention of Target executives at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Target posted the faves of some of its executives on a blog on its website. Here’s a sampling:

“As we’ve seen in recent years, connected devices continue to be a mainstay at CES. This year, the acceleration of voice-activated platforms is changing the game — everything from cars to core electronics to sporting goods and more. The noticeable change this year is the increase in guest usage and adaption as these devices become more mainstream. Consumers want convenient solutions that will simplify their lives.” — Scott Nygaard, senior VP, merchandising, hardlines

“I think that Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration will become the new mobile integration. Basically, if a product doesn’t have some sort of AI component, it won't be taken seriously." — Ryan Broshar, managing director, Target + Techstars Retail Accelerator

“In 2017, we’ll see a much bigger presence of voice technology, and it will accelerate connected device adoption. The voice interface will ‘humanize’ the tech, because everyone knows how to talk to something.” — Gene Han, VP, consumer IoT, and head of Target’s San Francisco innovation office

"For me, the power of CES is about seeing larger trends that are on the horizon. This year, there were two trends that will shape the way I think about the year. First, computing technology is growing quickly, which helps explain why there is so much automation being developed for things like driverless cars, health diagnostic tools and dryers that fold your clothes. Second, CES was a good reminder on the power of data and how it can enable us to serve our guests even better.” — William White, VP, marketing

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TECHNOLOGY

Tech Bytes: Top three tech predictions

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As the retail industry settles into 2017, CIOs industry-wide are dusting off their To-Do lists, and creating a game-plan on how to implement this year’s top priorities.

While these projects will run the gamut, retail is facing an inflection point — one that is influenced by new, “smarter” solutions that will not only change the trajectory of how businesses operate, but how chains will communicate with employees and customers.

With so many projects — and underlying disruptors — to choose from, following are my predictions of where CIOs will focus their attention throughout 2017:

Machine learning. Artificial intelligence is finding a place in retail, especially as more computers are designed for machine learning. A platform where computers learn from previous — and ongoing — processes, machine learning will play a role in how retailers embrace complex data, and produce more accurate results.

Staples for example, is piloting a machine learning-enabled office supply reordering system with business-to-business customers. The cognitive learning process makes the chain “smarter,” allowing it to make predictions, optimize orders, and better service customers.

A new level of personalization. According to loyalty marketing firm ICLP, 59% of U.S. customers would buy more if retailers understood their individual requirements better. This is more proof that traditional loyalty initiatives that neglect to individualize rewards and offer relevant perks are dead.

Shoppers are demanding their favorite brands cater to their specific needs — online and offline — or they will move on to a brand that can deliver. Consider this a wake-up call: it’s high time to better detect and act upon customers’ preferences, wishes and needs — and tap new sources to do so. Dig deeper into mobile and social networks, and use these nuggets to augment transactional data. Armed with this richer level of personal data, use shoppers’ individual interests, location tracking, and social influence to drive even more personalized engagement.

Drones for merchandise deliveries. If Amazon has taught the industry anything, it’s that relying solely on traditional delivery methods don’t work. If retailers want to compete with same day deliveries (heck — even hourly windows), they need to think outside of the box. Many companies, including Walmart, Toys R Us, among others, are off to a good start with buy-online-pick-up in-store services. CVS is further shrinking the window with its curbside pick-up service.

To cover more ground, especially in rural areas, however, drone deliveries are beginning to take off. Unsurprisingly, Amazon laid the gauntlet with its PrimeAir drone pilot in England right before the holidays. However, other competitors, like 7-Eleven are trying their hand at the service as well.

The key will be finding the right formula of technology, service and timing. While companies are in a race to see who can deliver merchandise the fastest (these aforementioned examples are making deliveries within 10-30 minutes), the only way drones will fly is if they can consistently get merchandise into shoppers’ hands quickly, accurately, and damage-free.

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Gift card spending hits $46 billion

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Despite being criticized as being impersonal gift options, gift cards continue to rise in popularity.

In fact, gifts care are increasingly expected and eagerly used, especially among "older" millennial adults, according to “Prepaid and Gift Cards in the U.S., 5th Edition,” a report from market research firm Packaged Facts.

Adults across the United States spent $46 billion on gift cards in the last 12 months. Of this amount, consumers spent $28 billion on gift cards for others, and they spent $11 billion on gift cards they kept for themselves. Consumers also received $7 billion worth of gift cards from their employers, data showed.

As expected, Christmas reigns as the largest gift card giving occasion by dollar value, with consumers spending more than $9 billion on gift cards for others, accounting for 33% of gift card spend.

Birthdays followed, with almost $7 billion spent on gift cards as birthday gifts. Another 26% of spending on others falls outside of holidays, with giving tied to "doing something nice," "rewarding someone," and “saying thank you,” the report said.

In terms of dollars and percentages, 25-34 year-olds are heavy gift card givers, spending more than $7 billion on others (26% of the total), while 18-24 year-olds spend the least. Adults aged 35-44 also account for a disproportionate share of gift card spending on others ($6 billion).

Income also translates to gift card giving spend. For example, those with $100,000+ household (HH) incomes comprised 29% of survey respondents but 47% of spend ($13 billion), data revealed.

When it comes to self-gifting, gift card spend by age narrows, albeit with 25-34 year-olds and 35-44 year-olds still spend the most (roughly $3 billion each). Meanwhile, those with $100,000+ HH incomes comprised 48% of spend (more than $5 billion), the report said.

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