Retail to E-tail

There are a lot of pros and cons to doing online shopping as opposed to in-store shopping. Online shopping seems like it only affects consumers by giving them a different medium to make their purchases but we fail to realize that it affects the sellers as well. Through online purchases, businesses gather a lot of data about consumers. Sellers can track which sections of items are the most popular, which products are the most viewed and for how long, and which products are most browsed at but not bought. This gives online sellers a competitive advantage over in-store sellers as they know more about their customers. And everyone knows that the understanding your customer is one of the most important factors in having a successful business. This is empowering in-store sellers to seek e-commerce level data.

The article talks about one company that brings customer tracking data to in-store businesses. This is in hopes of slowly bridging the competitive gap between in-store purchases and online purchases. How can they possibly get consumer data without changing the in-store purchase process? By simply observing the customers! Prism Skylabs specializes in in-store surveillance equipment that tracks customer movement. Prism installs special cameras that captures everything in the store and then is sent to the store’s computers where it is processed by Prism’s special software. The images of the actual shoppers are cut out to respect their privacy.

What is so different about Prism’s techniques than regular surveillance cameras? Prism’s software allows them to “look at which products are hot, which are being moved around and touched, and all kinds of data that allow merchandise teams to understand what is going on across a wide range of stores”. This allows the sellers to get information that the type of information that online sellers use to enhance their systems to get more purchases.

Who is using Prism? Right now, Prism has partnered up with 30 retailers. Retailers that Prism is working with include T-Mobile and Famous Footwear. Does it actually work?  A candy store in Oklahoma City was using Prism in their stores and after close observation they changed their premium display to low-selling seasonal candy rather than their famous candies that buyers usually take the time to look through the store to buy. This allowed the store to quantify the customer’s thoughts and make an effective decision in their operations.

Moreover, Prism is not the only data providing company that is emerging. Other companies are picking up on the importance and building unique strategies and techniques to sell to businesses. For example, Shopkick is an app which personalizes deals for a customer in real time as they walk through the store.

Is it worth it to sellers to invest in these data gathering companies?

How do you feel as a consumer towards this type of innovation? Do you feel that you will be making more beneficial purchases or do you feel manipulated by the sellers to buy their preferred products?


Follow LeanPath: Way to reduce food waste

Among 150 hotels, hospitals and universities, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is utilizing an innovative method to reduce food waste conjured by a company called LeanPath.

According to LeanPath, the issue of food waste is getting to be tremendously harmful for energy and water resources. Being the biggest source of waste in the United States, food waste accounts for $8 billion to $20 billion worth of waste annually. This is because about 4% to 10% of food bought is wasted rather than consumed.

What exactly is this waste? What LeanPath tracks is not exactly what we think of when we think of the term “food waste”. It is not the food our moms tell us to “finish because kids in Africa are starving”. The food waste that LeanPath targets is focused to tackle the root of the problem. It is the food that is wasted even before it reaches the plate. This can be anything from meat to vegetable trimmings. Imagine you are making mashed potatoes. How much of the potato are you really peeling? How much potato skin are you discarding? Leanpath can measure and put a dollar amount to all of these questions.

How does LeanPath help and what does it do exactly? Quite simply, LeanPath provides the means for establishments to track the food they are wasting. Employees can do this by weighing their waste on the scales provided by LeanPath.  The employees enter in the type of food, size of container, type of meal and the reason it is being discarded in to the LeanPath machines. The machine then calculates the waste into a dollar amount using their special software. All of this would cost the establishment about 5,000 dollars. Though the software doesn’t provide the employees with solutions to reduce food waste, it provides them with useful charts and graphs that help the employees make these decisions. The employees and their managers then meet up once a month and brainstorm best practices to reduce the waste they are calculating on the LeanPath scales.
How effective has this been? Specifically, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has saved $300,000 dollars after it has started using LeanPath’s methods. I think that this is a great start to saving a lot of waste in the food industry. I do think LeanPath would be more effective if they gave practical solutions to reuse food that is intended to waste rather than giving facts and charts. With LeanPath’s program now, it looks like only the institutions that are most dedicated to sustainability will benefit from LeanPath’s products. This is why more commercial institutions like restaurants and food courts are not using LeanPath. Anyone can weigh the food waste but there needs to be an active desire to come up with solutions to reduce food waste in order to make this program more effective.

Can LeanPath eventually reach more commercial industries? Do you think it needs to alter its program to do so? If so, how?