FINANCE

Walgreens launches financial services in select markets

BY Marianne Wilson

Deerfield, Ill. — Walgreens announced it is launching a full suite of integrated financial services, Balance Financial, in phases over the coming months. The services are all built around the chain’s new Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard.

Balance Financial is currently offered to customers of more than 250 Walgreens locations in Detroit, Milwaukee, and Nashville, with a nationwide card rollout expected before year end and additional financial services in 2014.

Balance Financial is powered by Galileo, a leader in advanced payment processing solutions.

“Millions of Americans do not have — or want alternatives to — traditional checking accounts and debit cards,” said Jason Dubinsky, Walgreens VP and treasurer. “For them, Balance Financial will represent safety, convenience, value and rewards. With Balance Financial as our platform, over time we plan to add more features and functionality that give our customers even more powerful financial tools to get, stay and live well.”

Balance Financial is a collaboration of Walgreens, MasterCard, Galileo and FIS. In addition, Western Union services are expected to be available in 2014.

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Through the Looking Glass

BY Dan Berthiaume

The “present” of retail technology just got a little more futuristic. Specialty paint retailer Sherwin-Williams recently released a new consumer app for Google Glass, called ColorSnap Glass, which provides a digital layer of color samples customers can view using the Google Glass device.

While the retail industry has been doing an admirable job as of late in recognizing the need to develop customer-facing apps for portable connected devices such as smartphones and tablets, for the most part it has not yet acknowledged that wearable connected devices such as Google Glass are now part of the IT landscape. Wearable technology is hardly mainstream today, but there is no reason to think it will not become a standard means for consumers to connect to the Internet tomorrow.

Any retailer with any kind of mobile or omnichannel strategy should certainly start investigating the challenges and benefits releasing apps for wearable devices like Google Glass will likely present. Some retailers should go ahead and start actual development. Is your organization one of them? Compare your situation to three specific aspects of Sherwin-Williams’ situation that made releasing a Google Glass app a wise decision.

Selective Customers
Not many customers idly browse a paint shop. They visit a paint retailer for a specific purpose, expecting to spend some money. Many of them are homeowners. All these factors add up to Sherwin-Williams having a customer base that is more affluent and selective about the products they purchase than the general population. This is the type of base most likely to appreciate and have use for a leading-edge shopping aid like a Google Glass app.

Visual Product
Obviously Google Glass is a visually oriented device. Not every type of product will naturally translate to Google Glass or provide an effective return on s Google Glass app to showcase it in a lifelike manner. Giving customers the opportunity to view a realistic virtual representation of paint samples is a huge convenience that pays off in several ways.

In addition to reducing the need for store associates to review samples with shoppers, the app also lets customers realistically browse paint colors without even leaving home, further easing the process of reviewing and selecting colors in the store. Thus beyond presumably increasing sales conversions, the app also lightens the workload of sales associates. A less visual product would not offer this type of return in omni-channel effectiveness and efficiency.

Mobile Experience
Wearable devices like Google Glass are essentially an extension of existing mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. There are key differences between a computing device you carry and one you wear, but there are also many similarities in terms of form and function. Thus before seriously investigating apps for Google Glass, retailers need to already have a well-established, robust mobile app offering and supporting expertise.

For example, Sherwin-Williams has had a mobile version of the ColorSnap app in place since 2009. Google Glass and other wearable computing devices may represent the future of omnichannel commerce, but it is hard to prepare for the future unless you are already well-prepared in the present.


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Best Buy jams with Gibson in Canada

BY CSA STAFF

Best Buy Canada is now offering Gibson’s guitars and basses from Gibson USA and Epiphone, both online and in select stores across Canada. This launch adds to the ever-growing selection of more than 300 musical instruments available online at bestbuy.ca.

Best Buy also offers a full musical instruments section in six stores in Kelowna, Kitchener, Barrie, Brossard, Halifax and St. John’s, complete with in-store certified music specialists to provide lessons and assist customers in choosing the right instrument.

"Musical instruments represent an exciting and growing category for us, and one that will certainly be popular during the upcoming holiday season," said Phil Johnston, director of musical instruments for Best Buy Canada. "Adding Gibson USA and Epiphone guitars and basses to our lineup lends considerable credibility to our musical instruments department. We’re thrilled to be able to bring these exciting, innovative brands to our customers."

Anyone who purchases a Gibson or Epiphone instrument at any of the six specialized stores is entitled to a free, 30-minute lesson packed with tips and tricks to help musicians — and would-be musicians — get the most out of these premium instruments. Gibson guitars come with a lifetime limited warranty.

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