TECHNOLOGY

Report: Amazon’s Dash gets more muscle

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon is taking the functionality of its branded instant order devices to the next level.

The online giant has found a way to expand the capabilities of its Dash Button, a move that enables the instant-order smart devices to order multiple items, according to The Seattle Times.

These Wi-Fi-enabled, branded devices let Amazon Prime membership to order the featured product with one-click ordering, and without opening Amazon’s website. Through a new set of software development tools, the report said that appliance manufacturers and suppliers can build a “virtual” Dash button option into their own products — but orders won’t be limited to one item.

These products will have a screen that enables customers to scroll through a menu of multiple products. This could enable an Internet-connected refrigerator to order more oatmeal or coffee from Amazon when levels get low, or for a smart washing machine to choose which detergent to order, the report revealed.

Whirlpool is among the first companies to jump on the bandwagon, announcing this week that it would incorporate Amazon’s “Virtual Dash Buttons” into future touch-screen refrigerator models. The manufacturer already announced plans to integrate Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant into its appliances, according to the report.

In addition, HP and Epson are developing printers that automatically reorder ink cartridges from Amazon. Meanwhile, Sears is developing a set of Kenmore-branded smart devices — including a refrigerator, washer- dryer and dishwasher — that order supplies when they run low. 3M is also making an air-filtration system that orders its own fil-ter replacements, the Seattle Times said.

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TECHNOLOGY

Fast-food chain uses mobility to spice up training

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Taco Bell is modernizing its approach to employee training and content distribution by putting a big emphasis on mobile learning.

The quick-service chain introduces a new menu item every four-to-six weeks. Associates are expected to master how to make — and sell — the item within two weeks, then begin the process all over again just two weeks later. But inconsistent employee training was taking its toll, and it wasn’t uncommon for the chain’s customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores to drop the first week of each new release.

Taco Bell had a “blended” employee training experience that ranged from PC learning to hard-copy workbooks filled with day-to-day operational tasks and checklists. But the PCs were outdated and inconveniently located and the workbooks were cumbersome.

The chain also utilized electronic-learning, but the “courses only comprised between 30% and 50% of the total training experience,” said Michelle Kay, Taco Bells senior manager of learning and organizational development. “That meant we also only had between 30% and 50% of training that could be accurately measured.”

As Taco Bell began shifting its priority toward employee retention — and cutting operating costs — the company began reconsidering its training and content strategies.

“We needed to focus on technology enablement as a means to drive down operational costs,” Kay said “The QSR industry operates on lean margins as it is, and if there is an opportunity to use technology to simplify things, we want to consider it.”

For Taco Bell, the ideal solution would be mobile and able to track course completion and knowledge retention. It also had to store all information — in accessible formats, including text, photos and video — in a centralized location. Finally, it needed to be user-friendly.

“We needed a system that was easy to implement and maintain, and that we could quickly and easily manage ourselves,” said Ferril Onyett, director of learning and people development, Taco Bell. “Our business moves quickly and we needed a platform that also moves fast.”

Taco Bell partnered with Inkling to pilot Inkling Knowledge, a smart content system that delivers operational knowledge directly to team members and managers on any device. Now when they need to learn a new product, the restaurant’s employees simply log into the company’s intranet via tablet, laptop or PC to access training.

Inkling’s system also enabled team members to search for digitized mission-critical content. Information is now created on templates, which gives Kay’s team more speed and agility to produce information, and streamlines content editing.

The Inkling system was piloted in 250 restaurants across two markets in the summer of 2017, and expanded enterprise-wide to more than 7,000 locations in September.

Before launching the solution, Taco Bell would clock in 180,000 course competitions a month. Without sharing specific details, Onyett said completions are rising with the new system.

Meanwhile, CSAT scores have increased by 5%, and by eliminating printing and shipping workbooks, the company is on pace to save $2 million annually.

Taco Bell also began piloting a second module, called Inkling Collaboration. The solution combines communications, task management and data analytics. The company didn’t disclose how many stores are involved in the pilot.

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TECHNOLOGY

Sporting goods retailer jumps into unified commerce

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Modell’s Sporting Goods wants to be considered a relevant player in the unified commerce marketplace.

Modell’s is taking the initial steps needed to transform its stores and deliver a true omnichannel experience for customers via a partnership with Tata Consultancy Services. The retailer wanted to move from a variety of in-store touch points, including traditional point-of-sale (POS) registers, mobile devices and self-service kiosks, to a next-generation POS solution to enhance its personalized customer service and loyalty capabilities.

Armed with Tata’s OmniStore solution, Modell’s will transform its historically proprietary and closed POS solutions into a single open architecture that enables a seamless experience across channels. The solution’s scalable architecture and data model will enable stores to extend their web and mobile channels. Being hardware agnostic, the retailer eliminates the need to be tied to proprietary POS, a move that will lower its total cost of ownership, according to the company.

“The team embraced a new omni-architecture, agile-development methodology, and a 7/24 onshore-offshore delivery model along with this initiative — all ‘firsts’ for Modell’s,” said David Strobelt, senior VP, CIO and supply chain officer at Modell’s Sporting Goods. “I am absolutely thrilled to see the framework of our shared vision now being introduced in our stores.”

Modell’s also anticipates the solution will benefit associates and customers, alike, according to Rachel Dorsey, the retailer’s senior manager of omnichannel solutions.

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