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Startups Spotlight: Technologies On the Rise

BY Anne Marie Stephen

If you think the gifting industry is a needs some re-invention, you’ll want to learn more about what two of this month’s crop of startups are doing to revolutionize the space. Plus, read on to discover a wearable tech platform that caught DNKY’s eye; a new way to experience stores; and a payments platform that claims to be as simple as soundwaves.

eyeQ
Retailers have a new tool to improve shoppers’ in-store experience. Instead of leaving consumers to endlessly wander store aisles, eyeQ of Austin, Texas, leverages interactive touchscreen displays that engage users and offer dynamic, personalized, contextualized information. Content can be tailored to what a particular user prefers, whether it’s product ratings and reviews, customer recommendations, or videos, photos and other rich media about the product itself.

Billed as a “shopper aware digital display system,” eyeQ detects many characteristics about the shopper engaged with the touchscreen, such as gender, age and expression. What’s more, eyeQ can monitor a shopper’s journey throughout the store as well a customer’s return visits to further personalize the retail experience by drawing on past interactions and purchases.

Raise
Gift cards continue to grow in popularity among consumers, and Chicago-based Raise aims to capitalize on this market, projected to reach $140 billion this year, with its marketplace to connect gift card buyers with sellers. Raise enables consumers with unused or unwanted gift cards to sell them, at an average discount of 16% (a figure from 2014), to interested buyers. The startup, which offers gift cards from several thousand brands on its marketplace, helps to foster retail brand loyalty and to drive shoppers into store. Whereas finding the right gift card on its e-commerce site required some advance planning, Raise upped the ante with the rollout around holiday 2014 of its mobile app, which enables shoppers to purchase gift cards on the fly and redeem them immediately in store. By putting sellers in a position to drum up some cash and giving buyers the opportunity to get a discount on a desired gift card, Raise is delivering on its mission to help people feel like they’re giving themselves a raise.

Soundpays
Can making a payment be as simple as soundwaves? That’s what Toronto-based Soundpays is hoping. Its mobile payments platform revolves around little more than a mobile device with a speaker/microphone and an Internet connection. Eschewing NFC, upon which Android Pay and Apple Pay are built, Soundpays instead leverages inaudible ultrasonic soundwaves to enable devices to be able to communicate and complete transactions. Soundpays, which has been called “the Shazam of mobile payment,” is platform agnostic and is designed for both Android and Apple mobile devices (though only an Apple app is available at the moment), which makes it easier for consumers who switch from one OS to another.

Soundpays wants to leverage the many soundwaves currently being underutilized, such as TV and radio broadcasts, myriad video platforms and digital billboards. The startup imagines a world in which Soundpays users, with the app downloaded to their devices, could see an interesting product on TV, open the app, and instantly purchase the item.

The company believes its security can also be a differentiator. The app doesn’t store user payment details locally on the device. Instead, the information is sent through a secure website that essentially tracks IP addresses to pair up individuals with credit cards, and this system resets every 30 seconds in order to thwart potential hackers.

The value proposition for physical retailers is that they don’t need any special hardware, just basic off-the-shelf technology, to begin using Soundpays. For e-commerce companies, the payoff could be even better. Soundpays believes its one-click buy button, integrated with participating companies, can help to reduce cart abandonment, which averages 67.91% and can reach as high as 80% for web merchants.

Soundpays seems to be easy to use and a natural evolution in a mobile-centric world in which most people have their phones on or near them constantly. Since no significant integration is needed, the platform works for businesses of all sizes and may be especially attractive to retailers that don’t want to buy yet another expensive piece of hardware to support yet another new mobile payment technology.

Jifiti
It’s high time someone innovated in the gifting industry. Jifiti, based in Columbus, Ohio, claims that with just a single line of code, any website can enable visitors to send a gift to anyone, even if they don’t know the recipient’s address or other relevant details.

The zero-integration approach certainly is attractive, as evidenced by retailers such as Sears and Staples that have already signed on. Jifiti for e-commerce works like this: when an online shopper places an item in her cart, at checkout she has the option to click one button to continue as usual and buy for herself, or choose the “gift it” button to send to someone else. After selecting “gift it,” she’s then prompted to submit the recipient’s contact details (such as email address or phone number) and a gift message. The recipient is notified of the gift and can see the suggested gift product, as well as its cost, in the form of an e-gift card, and can either complete the gift transaction as the gifter intended, or select another product based on the value of the e-gift card.

Jifiti believes this flexibility eliminates the hesitation that prevents many consumers from springing on a gift. The platform allows the recipients to choose the appropriate size and color, taking the guesswork out of the gifting process.

Jifiti also has a product for gift registry creation that it claims can boost sales by 27%.

Moondial, Moonlab + SoftSpot
Serial innovator Dr. Sabine Seymour has been in the wearables game since the 1990s, long before wearable tech became a household phrase. Interested in the intersection of fashion, science and technology, Seymour has partnered with major corporations from Intel and DuPont to Nike and General Electric to develop future-forward projects with her consulting company, Moondial. Recently, she launched Moonlab, which participates in the NewInc incubator, to create SoftSpot, a wearable system of fabric-printed sensors that monitors the wearer’s biometric and environmental data.

Last fall, SoftSpot was one of five startups that competed in the DKNY Challenge at the Decoded Fashion New York Summit. Billed as a “competition for startups pushing the boundaries of retail and product,” the challenge looked for an emerging technology that DKNY could functionally partner with to deliver something unique and progressive to its customer base. A different company, LISNR, ultimately was dubbed the winner, but co-creative directors and founders of fashion label Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne were so intrigued by the idea of SoftSpot and its conceptual bra that can detect such granular detail as when its wearer is ovulating, that they said they hope to work with Seymour’s startup on something in the near future.

In a world where wearables are potentially the next big thing that can prop up a retail industry on life support, SoftSpot’s market-ready wearable platform seems primed for partnerships with apparel companies, from athletic brands to high-end fashion labels.


Anne Marie Stephen is the CEO and founder of KWOLIA [email protected] (@AnneMarie_ams).

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CVS Pharmacy debuts across Utah Targets

BY Michael Johnsen

CVS Health on Thursday announced that the first CVS Pharmacy locations in Target stores are now open in Utah. The 13 pharmacies are being operated through a store-within-a-store format and are branded CVS Pharmacy.

"We're excited to introduce our integrated pharmacy services and health care expertise to Target guests in Utah," stated Hanley Wheeler, Ssenior VP retail field operations, for CVS Pharmacy. "Our pharmacy care and clinic offerings, along with our innovative digital tools, will offer consumers expanded wellness options and increased access to care. We look forward to welcoming Target guests as our pharmacy patients. "

In addition to the 13 CVS Pharmacy locations in Target, CVS Pharmacy operates 11 free-standing stores in Utah.

"As we roll out the new CVS Pharmacy in Target stores, we are working closely with patients to make their transition to our services and programs as simple and seamless as possible," Wheeler added.

Pharmacy Advisor, a program in which CVS Caremark plan members diagnosed with chronic conditions receive face-to-face counseling when they choose to fill prescriptions at CVS Pharmacy or by phone when they choose mail service pharmacy, will be available by the end of 2016.

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Local supermarket retailer stays with the time — and keeps expenses in check

BY CSA STAFF

PSK Supermarkets, a 14-unit Mount Vernon, New York-based grocer that operates stores under the Foodtown banner, needs to run at maximum efficiency in order to compete with national rivals and keep food prices low for shoppers

Controlling expenses is a big part of PSK’s efforts to ensure optimal operations. To stay on top of finances. the retailer leverages cloud-based Dayforce Human Capital Management (HCM) technology from Ceridian.

“We wanted a solution that could tell us in real time how much we’re spending on payroll,” said Noah Katz, co-president of PSK Supermarkets, during an interview with Chain Store Age. “Dayforce is connected to every time clock in every store. Employees punch in and punch out all day long. We wanted to be able to log on and see how much we’re spending on payroll, by day and week in real time.”

The payroll tracking of its 1,200 employees allows PSK department and store managers to perform real-time checks on whether their payroll spending is on track with advance figures turned in before the start of the work week.

In addition, it eliminates employees clocking in before their shift begins, “buddy punching” for absent or tardy coworkers, and other forms of time clock fraud. PSK can also quickly identify and remediate legitimate employee errors, such as a worker who forgets to punch in or out.

The grocer also uses Dayforce to streamline and automate other aspects of its financial management. Using hosted Ceridian services, PSK issues direct payments and paper paychecks, makes payroll tax payments, and issues W-2 tax forms to employees.

Furthermore, the solution assists the company with HR process management.

“It serves as a repository for all HR records in the entire company,” said Katz. “When we onboard new employees, Dayforce automates the forms they fill out when they join. Employees can also see the pay they’re earning and request time off.”

Another critical HR process PSK has been able to automate is compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Every company with more than 50 workers had to send out a 1035c form for each full time worker, along with the w2 form at the year end. The 1035C is a complicated health benefit summary by month for each employee. We filled out the forms, more or less in 24 hours,” Katz said. “A lot of companies struggled; it’s a complicated form. But we were able to review and sign off on all 1035c forms in one day.”

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