TECHNOLOGY

CVS commits to more in-store customer engagement

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

CVS Health is making a move to deliver more in-store digital experiences.

Through a partnership with Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, CVS Pharmacy added a new digital commerce platform that will help drive in-store customer engagement. The TCx Elevate is a thin client platform that supports consumer self-scanning experiences, associate mobile POS and visual tools that can be used across store departments, including pharmacy.

The platform will also help CVS unify and enhance its existing commerce infrastructure without having to modify the underlying business logic or process. This includes integrating disparate applications, use cases and POS-related engagement, a move that will deliver more seamless and cohesive in-store commerce experiences.

In addition, the solution will enable the retailer to gather actionable insights needed to create a frictionless checkout. The platform will also help the company to stay on pace to its “commitment to enhance the customer experience through continuous innovation,” said Ray Auger, senior VP, retail systems, CVS Health.

Overall, the solution will keep the company on track to face “increasing demands, and respond quickly to both heightened market pressures and evolving consumer expectations,” said Bill Campbell, VP, head of Americas, Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions.

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TECHNOLOGY

Kroger’s newest partnership helps to cultivate IT talent in-house

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Kroger Co. is making another move to further position itself as a digital leader.

The nation’s largest supermarket operator is partnering with the University of Cincinnati (UC) to operate an innovation lab within the school’s 1819 Innovation Hub. The company’s goal is to cultivate Kroger’s “next generation of technology and talent,” according to the company.

Kroger will staff the recently-opened state-of-the-art space with resources, including R&D engineers and software developers, who will work alongside UC faculty. The partnership will also feature a student co-op and internship program.

“Our vision is to create a talent pipeline that supports our business and positions the region as a place for digital and technology students and professionals,” said Chris Hjelm, Kroger’s executive VP and CIO.

“The 1819 Innovation Hub is a co-working community where we will build and discover the next generation of technology and talent,” added Hjelm. “This innovative collaboration is driven by Restock Kroger and provides the Kroger technology team another creative space to partner and develop solutions to redefine the grocery customer experience.”

The partnership comes on the heels of Kroger’s plan to established a separate headquarters for its digital team in downtown Cincinnati. In June, the grocer announced its new technology office will house approximately 600 existing Kroger digital associates at first, who are being relocated from another facility. The retailer said it expects to grow its digital team to more than 1,000 over the next three years.

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TECHNOLOGY

Walmart’s holiday strategy features ‘more’ toys, online influencers

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart is banking on expanded assortments, in-store events and new digital enhancements to lure former Toys “R” Us shoppers this holiday season.

The retail giant on Friday unveiled a multi-pronged holiday strategy that emphasizes more toys, in-store “play dates” and online influencers, among other benefits  — all in hopes of grabbing wallet share from customers who used to rely on Toys “R” Us for their holiday shopping. For example, Walmart is expanding its assortment by 30% in stores and by 40% online, and both offerings include “hundreds of new exclusive toys,” according to the company.

Walmart also wants shoppers to “experiment” with the merchandise before making a purchase. For the second year, the discount giant will throw in-store themed parties. Specifically, Walmart has more than 2,000 “toy play dates” planned for the next two months at its super centers across the country. Events, which will highlight specific brands or product roadshows, will feature product demonstrations where customers will be able to test top holiday items, the chance to pose for pictures and receive giveaways.

Walmart will augment the “play dates” online by adding digital content from social media influencers, a move that will help customers make better purchase decisions. The retailer will feature content from 25 toy influencers who will offer advice, reviews and recommendations. The content will pair up with curated toy collections, enabling customers to shop for toys by trending item, age, character or brand, among other categories.

To make it easier for customers to snag the season’s hottest toys, the discounter also launched its layaway program on Aug. 31 — one day earlier than last year — giving shoppers the entire season to pay off items in installments. Walmart will also be making items eligible for free two-day shipping on orders over $35, as well as available for its in-store pickup service.

“We are making even bigger investments in the category to ensure we have the widest selection of toys at the best prices and an unmatched in-store and online experience to show customers the best place to shop for toys is Walmart,” said Anne Marie Kehoe, VP of toys, Walmart U.S.

Walmart expects its holiday strategy to appeal to U.S.-based customers who would have made holiday purchases at the now defunct Toys “R” Us chain. Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy in September, struggling under a heavy debt load and several years of lackluster sales due to increased competition from online competitors and discounters. Despite efforts to restructure its business, on March 15, Toys “R” Us informed a U.S. bankruptcy court that that it would close its U.S. stores.

Following a liquidation sale, the toy retailer finally closed its doors on Friday, June 29.

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