Archive for the ‘Retail Close to the Customer’ Category

Dell Sets Up Shop In SecondLife

Dell SL Main Island OK, I lied!!! I said I wouldn’t post anything else about SecondLife this week, but the news keeps coming. Dell announced yesterday that they have set up shop in SecondLife making virtual computers for avatars. They made the announcement in Secondlife, a trend that is becoming pretty common and generally annoying realworld business journalists. From Dell’s press release:

“Innovation has always been at the core of Dell. Innovation coupled with the idea of working directly with its customers has now led Dell to participate in Second Life, one of the hottest, most popular 3-D virtual worlds.”

“Tuesday, November 14, Ro Parra, Dell senior vice president and general manager, Home and Small Business Group, and Philip Rosedale, Linden Lab founder and CEO, gave an exclusive preview of Dell Island in Second Life. Following this invitation-only event the island was open for the public to visit.”

Why is Dell going here? It certainly isn’t to make money from virtual computer sales, but you can buy a real PC on their island and have it shipped to your realworld address. In light of the other announcements this week regarding IBM and Amazon, this is beginning to validate the belief of many (including me) that the future of commerce on the internet is 3D.

More pictures of Dell’s virtual facilities are here.

Second Life Residents Build Stores Around Amazon.com

OK, I promise this is the last post about Second Life  for this week, but since I blogged about this way back in June, I just gotta tell you the news.  Several Second Life residents have set up shops on the world’s most popular retail shopping site, Amazon.com.  They want to use its virtual environment to actually sell physical goods via Amazon.com.

Linden Lab of San Francisco, creator and operator of Second Life, doesn’t track the Amazon goods sold, since Linden doesn’t make money from the sales.  Nevertheless, the extension of Amazon.com’s reach into a place with more than 1.3 million residents has potential for big sales over time, given Second Life’s growth rate.  Since September, the population of the online world has jumped from 735,000 subscribers to more than 1.3 million.  Second Life residents do a total of about $6 million worth of business a month, up from about $2 million a few months ago.

This is an unprecedented linkage between one of the largest online virtual worlds and the world’s largest (physical) online retailer.  Inhabitants of the Second Life online universe will now be looking for real-world money by setting up stores powered by Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).

I have to imagine that anyone savvy enough to reside virtually in Second Life and build a community in that environment probably already knows about Amazon.com’s role as a real-life provider of goods.  But that’s not what’s at stake here.

Turning a “browser” into a “buyer” requires the right combination of mood and environment — and Second Life inhabitants are by nature more tuned in to this than most.

As for Amazon, the 1.3 million citizens participating in Second Life ain’t no small potatos. That a demographic ripe for mining.  Now whether it becomes a fixture in Second Life will be left up to its members, as they are the ones who will continue to build the revenue-sharing virtual stores and write the scripts needed to integrate with Amazon’s web services for third-party retailers.

Second Life Residents Build Stores Around Amazon.com – News by InformationWeek

Customer Experience at the Apple Store

Mark Kingdon over at Three Minds relates a recent experience at the new Apple store in Manhattan.

“I looked at the long lines at the registers and thought twice about buying one. Just as I was about to bail out, a sales associate asked if he could help me. I asked to see a Shuffle. He took one from a passing colleague, showed it to me and said if you want to buy it, I can check you out here. I said, “great!” He then pulled out a small credit card authorization device, swiped my credit card and offered to email me the receipt. A moment later, he pulled a bag out of the bag he had slung over his shoulder, put the Shuffle in and I was on my way. All in less than 5 minutes. Now, that is an exceptional retail experience.”

“Line Busting” with wireless technology is not new, but most retailers don’t use it.  When the store is busy, like during the most critical time for retailers (November/December), most retailers the make the customer stand in line for the register.  People are busy and having to wait to pay is a big source of dissatisfaction.   Apple is once again showing others how to put the customer first by enabling everyone on the floor to be “the register”.

Microsoft to offer movies, TV shows on game service | Reuters.com

Looks like the predictionfrom fellow WordPress blogger Shsibae was right on the mark as Microsoft announced today that it would rent movies and sell television shows through Internet downloads to its Xbox Live video game service.  

“Microsoft will begin on Nov. 22 to offer standard and high-definition films such as Warner Bros.’  “Superman Returns” and “Jackass: The Movie” from Paramount Pictures through its Xbox Live Marketplace.   Television shows will include Viacom Inc’s  “South Park” and “CSI: NY” from CBS Corp.  Viewers will need the current-generation Xbox 360 console with a hard drive to take advantage of the service.”

Under the rental model, which is reminiscent of the now defunct DivX Disk technology launched by Circuit City Stores back in 1997,  Microsoft customers have a two week window from when they download a movie to watch it, but once they begin watching it they have only 24 hours to keep it. 

With Netflix planning a download service,  Apple’s upcoming iTV,  Amazon’s movie store, On Demand services from cable providers, and Sony’s PS3 video download function (I’ll believe it when I see it), the customer really has a lot of choices.  Which models will survive this tech war?  What will this mean to businesses who sell or rent DVDs?  I can’t say, but it will be fun to watch.

Here are the specifics:

  • Microsoft has not yet disclosed pricing for downloads, but it will be in Microsoft points.
  • Movies will be “rental” only, TV for “purchase” only.
  • At launch there will be over 800 hours of SDTV, and 200 hours of HDTV.
  • Neither TV nor movies are streamed; they are only downloaded, although you can stream short preview clips from the Live interface.
  • You can only download content to your Xbox 360 drive — not to an external drive.
  • Your “purchased” TV programs can be downloaded an infinite amount of times to an infinite amount of consoles; you may also play them back on friends’ 360s with your removable drive.
  • Deleted TV shows can be re-downloaded later; HDTV shows can be re-downloaded in either HDTV or SD.
  • Movies can be watched an unlimited number of times the first 24 hours. Plays after that period will cost the same as the initial download, although the movie data isn’t necessarily deleted. You can keep the movie data on your drive up to 14 days without re-downloading it.
  • Downloads are in VC-1 (aka WMVHD) at 720p, 6.8Mbps video with 5.1 surround.
    An average HD movie download should be between 4-5GB, and a two hour SD movie would be 1.6GB.
  • An average 1 hour (44 min) HDTV download should be about 2.2GB, and an average 1/2 hour (22 min) HDTV download should be about 1GB. A 1 hour SDTV download should be about 600MB, and a 1/2 hour SDTV download should be about 300MB.
  • This service will not be available for MSN TV users, Vongo subscribers, or any other Microsoft partners. It is Xbox Live only.
  • You cannot download programs through the Xbox Live web interface — they can only be transported to your 360’s removable drive.
  • There aren’t any drive announcements being made, but there is a rumor of a 80GB drive coming.  Of course, Microsoft rumors are never true, right?

Launch titles

Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Batman Forever
Breaking Bonaduce
Carpocalypse
Chappelle’s Show
CSI
Hogan Knows Best
Jackass: The Movie
Jericho
The Matrix
M:i:III
Nacho Libre
Nicktoons Network Animation Festival
Numb3rs
Pimp My Ride
Race Rewind (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races)
Raising the Roofs
The Real World
Robot Chicken
Skyland
South Park
SpongeBob SquarePants
Star Trek (original)
Superman Returns
50 fights from Ultimate Fighting Championship, and some episodes from The Ultimate Fighter
Microsoft to offer movies, TV shows on game service | Reuters.com

Motorola Cell Phone Vending Machines

<via thedailyjournal.com

Motorola is installing “Instantmoto” vending machines in nearly two dozen malls and airports nationwide.  According to Bob Many, Motorola’s director of automated retailing, the machines will sell 12 kinds of phones and 18 accessories. 

The products are delivered to consumers by a robotic arm and are run from a central location, similar to the way automated teller machines are operated.  Shoppers will be able to use credit cards to purchase mid- to high-end models, including the Razr and the Q, and can buy with or without a service plan for T-Mobile, Verizon and Cingular service. Using a touch-screen, customers can pick a phone’s style, color and accessories, such as car adapters and chargers.  Shoppers starting a new service plan must go online to sign up for service with their carrier.

Motorola is trying to bring retail closer to the customer through what they call “convenience purchasing” and this is clearly an innovation test that could be rolled out if successful. 

The stores are operated by San Francisco-based Zoom Systems.  You may remember them as the developer of the innovation vending model for iPods, digi-cams, and other CE products.

The Music Store in Your Pocket

Seems that I am on a Zune kick lately, but I am not alone. Wired has an insightful story on the new content models that are emerging from Microsoft and the satellite radio guys. The big deal is that these models allow you to bypass the centralized store to get content wirelessly from other users (in the case of Zune) and from hundreds of channels of programming over satellite. The article discusses the Sirius Stiletto model, but XM has a similar offering. Regarding Zune, the article points out that it…

gives you another way to discover music without hunting and pecking through a multimillion-song, computer-based catalog on your lonesome. Users can beam songs directly to each other using the devices’ ad hoc wireless connections, significantly reducing the friction between a friend recommending something to you and you acquiring it. The beamed song will play three times before asking you to buy it — or, if you’re a Zune subscriber, you can keep it without paying an extra dime.

All of these new approaches are attempting to gain traction in the Apple-dominated digital music market through simplicity. An MP3 player with a music store and hundreds of music channels built-in could make the iPod seem unconnected, which is rarely a good thing to be.

Because avatars need phones, too

<via Springwise>

In what seems like a weekly occurence, another brand has popped up in Second Life. This time it’s Telus, Canada’s second largest telco, who opened a virtual store last week.  Telus is both the first major Canadian corporation, and the first major telecommunications company to enter SL. Unlike Aloft Hotel and American Apparel‘s store, which are both located on privately owned islands, Telus set up shop in a downtown area on SL’s mainland (visit location).

According to 3pointD, the telco’s foray into Second Life was initiated by a Telus advertising manager. Sparkle Dale, as she’s known in Second Life, has a personal passion for gaming and metaverses and saw an opportunity to extend her employer’s brand into a new realm.

The store was designed along the lines of flagship stores in Toronto and Montreal and features phones that are modelled and named after actual Samsung and Motorola models. While integration with Skype, other voice over IP systems and real life mobile phones would of course be an exciting way to merge virtual and real worlds, Telus’s SL phones currently only let users shoot off busy messages to other citizens. The phones are on sale for a few hundred Linden Dollars, which is the equivalent of a few US dollars.

Website: http://www.telus.ca and http://secondlife.com

The End of the Music Store

Chris Anderson (author of “The Long Tail” and Wired bigwig) highlights news that Tower Records is on the way out.

Chris writes,

The once-proud Tower Records is now edging closer to the rocks, according to continued reports. The chain has been struggling with mounting debt, and major labels were recently forced to freeze shipments following various non-payments.

This is symptomatic of the failure of the entire music industry, from labels to retailers, to sense and respond to the disruptive shift that was Digital Music. 

Several months back, Piers Fawlkes over at PSFK commented on the closing of several large chains in Britain saying,

The concept of the mega-music store in its current form comes from a pre-digital era: pile it high, twist the arms of record companies to pay for placement, limit stock. The digital music revolution came and went and HMVs and Virgin Megastores remained largely unchanged.

The Long Tail: The end of the mass-market record store?

(Screencap taken from the Day of the Longtail video)

Follow-up to LATimes study…

Lots of bloggers blogging about this today.  Seth Godin points to the story  of Nathaniel Johnson, a 17-year-old senior at Claremont High School who took part in the survey.  Nathaniel spoke for the 62% of boys in his age group who like to multi-task. He’s a big fan of what the computer allows him to do: “You can open five or six programs simultaneously: work on a project, type a report, watch YouTube, check e-mail and watch a movie.”

Seth’s word of warning to Marketers:   “If you’re busy marketing like you’ve got my attention, you’ve already made a huge mistake.”

 To that, Douglas Karr at “On Influence and Automation” compares the average LA teenager with what his Indiana 17-year old is doing on any given day.  If you have a teenager, does Douglas’ list look familiar:

  • Instant Messaging
  • Updating his MySpace
  • Updating his Blog
  • Recording his own music (Check out BillKarr.com)
  • Writing music with his friends
  • Mixing music using Acid Music Studio
  • Going to shows (small concerts)
  • Commenting on other MySpaces
  • Listening to music
  • Talking on the phone
  • Dating
  • Trying to Date
  • Learning to Drive
  • Church Youth Group
  • Reading (I make him read… but he’s starting to come around)

Buy in SecondLife, Receive in FirstLife

According to Erick Schonfeld over at Business 2.0's blog, some engineers at Amazon are informally working on linking Amazon's APIs to the virtual world Second Life.  If that were to happen, it would mean that Second Lifers could then open up virtual shops selling real-world goods (via Amazon).  Avatars in Second Life could select from the huge catalog of products that spans from books to electronics and music and the product will be delivered to their first life door.  Robert Hof at Bizweek reports:

In response to an audience question at the Supernova conference, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels revealed that a group of Amazon engineers is looking at ways to use Amazon Web services to bridge Amazon with Second Life. According to a comment by Vogels at the virtual-worlds blog 3pointD.com, it's not an official project. But it's no secret that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is an investor in Second Life creator Linden Lab.

SecondLife: It’s Not a Game, The Ultimate Co-Creative Business

While brands like Coca-Cola and MTV have dabbled with establishing a presence in the virtual world, I have been curious to see which retailers make the first move and which ones get it right.    Looks like American Apparel gets the retailer prize.  More importantly , real world businesses are starting to discover the opportunity of SecondLife on it’s 3 year anniversary.  Some actually understand how to use this medium.  Others are simply playing with “Advergaming” (…stupid little forgettable advertising-led online games). Karl Long has written an insightful piece on Second Life titled, “It’s not a game; the ultimate co-creative business”

“June 23rd will be SecondLife’s 3rd birthday, and it finally seems to be gaining traction in the marketplace of ideas, and more importantly for its financial viability it’s starting to gain the attention of businesses. Micropersuasion noted yesterday that American Apparel has opened a store there, and in September last year, Wells Fargo bought and island, and created an educational game.”

Give it a read…but more importantly, get into Second Life and then decide for yourself where your opportunity lies.

Charge Lockers

Charge lockers

June 13, 2006

[vis Springwise.com

A ChargeBox is a set of lockers designed to charge batteries of phones and other mobile devices.

Created by British Boxbrands, ChargeBoxes have six lockers with each locker containing four different chargers. The user picks the appropriate locker for their device, opens the door and attaches the device to a charger inside. Payment is then made either with a GBP 1 coin or by sending an SMS to a specific code. Once payment has been received, the door can be locked and charging begins. The device is charged for 40 minutes, or less if a user is in a hurry and doesn’t need a fully charged battery.

The system offers a charging solution that covers 90 percent of handsets on the market, and also replenishes batteries of Blackberries, PDAs, iPods and PSPs. The first machines will be placed in easyInternetcafes, Novotel hotels, Vodafone stores, and various airports. One hundred ChargeBoxes are being launched this month and BoxBrands has ambitions to have over 1000 in the UK by the end of 2006.

In a world that’s addicted to communication, and where mobile devices have reached almost universal adult penetration, drained batteries are a definite chokepoint. While we’ve seen similar examples of public charging points, they’re far from commonplace, and would be a welcome addition to hotels, gyms, airports, train stations, hospitals, coffee shops, cinemas, festivals, shopping malls, etc.

If you’re an vending machine enthusiast, this should be right up your alley. And if you work for a mobile phone network, why not sponsor ChargeBoxes in high footfall locations? Good for your brand, and you’ll benefit directly if consumers are able to spend more time on their phones. ;-)

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