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Technology has power to alter playing field

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Mass market retailing is no stranger to technology.

Mass market retailing is no stranger to technology.

Computer systems and related equipment have been an integral part of the business for decades, facilitating everything from distribution to collecting data at the point of sale, information that in turn plays a major role in determining which products appear on store shelves.

Mastery of technology is one of the factors that propels discount, supermarket and drug chains to prominence. Walmart’s emergence as the world’s largest retailer owes much to its prowess in logistics and distribution. Kroger uses data from its loyalty card program to accelerate the delivery of solutions that improve the customer experience. And the nation’s pharmacy chains possess information technology capabilities that are years ahead of those of other health care providers.

Up until now, most of the systems deployed by mass marketers have benefited consumers indirectly by making the stores they shop more efficient and effective at meeting their needs. The wave of technology now sweeping the industry goes a step further, putting new tools in the hands of consumers that extend and enhance the retail experience.

Recent developments at Meijer illustrate the point. The company, which operates 196 supercenters in the Midwest, is offering electronic coupons. Launched late last month, the mPerks program allows shoppers to utilize a web page to find and choose coupons. The information is stored in individuals’ mPerks accounts and redeemed at the checkout when customers key in their mobile telephone number. The digital coupons remain active in the system until they are redeemed or expire.

Meijer is capitalizing on another booming technology sector to improve the in-store experience. The Find-It mobile phone application, for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices, locates specific SKUs in the store, provides information on sale items and even identifies the location of a customer’s car in the parking lot.

"We’re excited about what the future holds for leveraging technology in our stores to improve our customers’ experience," says Elizabeth Wilson, Meijer’s online/mobile marketing specialist.

History shows that technology can be a galvanizing force, one that has the potential to alter the playing field in a big way. Retailers need to recognize that fact and act accordingly.


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