Digital Signage Assistants - Providing Useful information, Taking Wayfinding to the Next Level

by tensator-usa 22. May 2015 18:55

Blog reposted from WhatTheyThink?

By Richard Romano

Published: May 20, 2015

We’re seeing digital signage turn up more and more places, but increasingly it’s not just about creating eye-catching displays. It’s also about providing useful information, taking wayfinding to the next level. Case in point: the digital signage assistants that have begun to appear in airports:

the original Tensator Virtual Assistants, which create the illusion of a real person, have been seen by 16.2 million departing passengers, all of which have been given the opportunity to hear and see the airport's message about items not allowed in hand luggage. This, combined with a host of other security measures, has helped to reduce the number of bags rejected by security by 12 percent, speeding up the security process, the company said.

These Virtual Assistants debuted in 2011 at London’s Luton Airport, and have gradually been deployed at airports from Boston to Madrid.

Two new units, the “Ultra” model, have been installed at Luton. One advises passengers on what is prohibited in carry-on luggage (liquids, e.g.) and how to prepare those items that are permitted. The second, further along in the security area, reminds passengers to remove their coats and belts and empty their pockets.

“We’re firm believers that technology shouldn't be used just for the sake of it. It needs to produce tangible benefits for both staff and passengers alike," Tensator Group CEO Ben Gale said.

Lilly Pulitzer for Target, Another Retail Lesson to be Learned

by tensator-usa 29. April 2015 23:00

When big box retailer Target announced it would be offering Lilly Pulitzer merchandise months ago, the company knew the collection would draw huge demand. Social media was all abuzz since the collection was announced in January.  However with all the advance promotion, buildup and preparation in place, somehow the company failed to meet demand in-store and online, taking a media event that promised delight and turning it into a shopping debacle.  

According to The New York Times “… that which generated brand love also generated brand ire. Since Sunday, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have trembled with the frustration of shut-out shoppers, and pictures surfaced of racks picked clean, bare white hangers scattered like carrion bones on the veld.”

It would seem that the various marketing, forecasting, online retail group and product fulfillment teams never made it to the same meetings. The front end created the awareness while the back end remained in the dark. In today’s world where there is such effort put into making sure there is buzz around products months in advance – planning on the back end needs to mirror that effort and steps need to be put in place to meet the demand driven  need.  This means a buttoned up omnichannel plan to handle all of it – online and in-store. 

If we look at this event as another retail lesson to be learned, one in which existing technology options could have alleviated the backlash Target is facing – then we can see that the company could have used online ordering and Click and Collect systems in advance to queue up orders ahead of the big day (like does) to better estimate/forecast and fulfill orders.  Customers could have also been assigned virtual queuing appointments to pick up their coveted merchandise.  The result would have been bragging rights on social media how they had their exclusive appointment to get their Lilly Pulitzer products (a la Apple Watch) and ultimately happy and loyal customers. 

Retailers must think outside the big box – and start thinking about how their promotional efforts impact their clients when demand can’t be met.  Getting excited about products and then not being able to get them as promised is a stress inducing social media rant producing occurrence that is definitely not in keeping with Lilly Pulitzer’s “Palm Beach is a state of mind” mentality. 

Get in line online - Apple busts the traditional queue

by tensator-usa 24. April 2015 14:41

It's no secret that Apple has been a long-standing customer journey champion. With an in-store experience that many can only aspire to, the tech specialist’s approach to new product launches always seemed to contradict the rest of its operations. 

Granted, winding queues of tech-hungry consumers stretching around the block made for great column inches in the press and fuelled demand, but was it the best solution for the consumer and the in-store team? Given recent developments, it seems we all agree the simple answer is no. 

So, what's the new approach? Online orders and scheduled 15-minute appointments for an opportunity to try on different models with specially trained employees on hand to explain all the features. 

This shift according to media reports, is as of the direct result of a new policy under Angela Ahrendts, who left the helm of British luxury giant Burberry last year to run Apple's retail stores.  A leaked memo acquired by Business Insider shows Apple's retail chief Ahrendts instructing staff members to encourage customers to order online instead of visiting their local Apple Store on launch day:

"The days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over for our customers. The Apple Store app and our online store make it much easier to purchase an Apple Watch and the new MacBook. Customers will know exactly when and where their product arrives. This is a significant change in mindset, and we need your help to make it happen. Tell your customers we have more availability online, and show them how easy it is to order. You'll make their day."

It would seem that the overinflated buzz created by people waiting hours, sometimes days, to purchase a device and the shortages that may have made the products seem more desirable, may finally be over. There’s change afoot, and now, tangible evidence that increased efficiency in queue management is paramount to the Apple brand.

According to the Business Insider article, the key takeaway here is that Apple doesn’t want to be unable to fulfill demand or leave its customers frustrated. And while the line may look like a fun activity to do with friends, introducing new smart technology by making people wait for it in rain, cold temperatures, sitting up overnight curbside is well, not smart. 

Apple stands to vastly benefit from this new approach to queue management by: 

  • Matching skill staff to customer needs  
  • Creating a more personalized experience 
  • Having the ability to forecast resources
  • Increased efficiencies/revenues
  • Customer satisfaction and reduced walkaways
  • Delivering a truly seamless omnichannel online/in-store experience 

We here at Tensator applaud Apple for taking the next step in the evolution of the customer journey.  It only makes sense to introduce amazing cutting edge wearable tech by embracing a new generation of queue management: virtual queuing and appointment-based product introductions and services. Introducing amazing new technology deserves better.

The Apple Watch is a smartwatch – that marks time and increases your ability to leverage the benefits of mobility right from your wrist. Waiting in line for a smartwatch, that promises the benefits that mobility extends – of being connected and able to do more faster would be ironic.


Convenience Store News - Paying Attention to Checkout Pays Dividends

by tensator-usa 9. April 2015 13:42

Tensator’s Business Development Manager Louis Ruiz shines a spotlight on the details in his exclusive article in Convenience Store News, on why “Paying Attention to Checkout Pays Dividends.”

With so many convenient options for customers to shop, it’s hard to believe there are still checkout lines (single, multi-lane, manned or self-serve) that have customers abandoning loaded shopping baskets/carts. For some, it is a one-time abandonment; for others, it’s a forever thing. And along with the abandoned basket/cart comes passionate rants on Twitter and Facebook. 

In a recent survey conducted by Tensator for a U.S. convenience store retailer, there were more than 164 walkaways in the span of one week due to lines that were just not moving fast enough for customers to justify their wait time. Can convenience store retailers really afford to leave money on the table for a problem that is readily addressable?

Let’s take a look at the checkout landscape for 2015, fix those wait times and maximize every square inch of retail space with an eye on increasing profits at the checkout line.  Read the entire article here:


Top 10 Things Our Customers Love about the Tensator Virtual Assistant

by tensator-usa 24. March 2015 15:03

Across just about every vertical industry market from retail, transportation, healthcare to event venues  – delivering branding, guidance, information, and “stop you in your tracks Wow Factor,”  Tensator Virtual Assistants are hard at work every day, round the clock, all around the globe.  

Here is a quick snapshot of the Top 10 reasons why our clients love them: 

1) "Passengers pay attention and listen, and intuitively follow-though with what Tensator Virtual Assistant ‘Carla’ says about the checkpoint security procedure and the divesting process. Carla was set up in less than a couple hours, and can run 24-7. The unit is mobile and can be moved to other parts of the terminal.  Carla is saying everything that is on the six or seven signs in the security checkpoint area; she is also fluent in Spanish." Brad Martin, Airport Deputy Director of Aviation Customer Service at Boston Logan International

2) "Wow, this is an amazing item, I call it the virtual sales assistant because products situated near it are blowing off the shelves." Fran Boller, Executive Vice President, Nike brands at Haddad Brand

3) "The Tensator Virtual Assistant virtual shopping consultants cut through the noise and distractions, capturing people’s attention and holding it. Not only are they seeing and hearing about specific retail, service and dining options in English and Spanish, but they are provided with real-time friendly guidance with real directional cues and offered suggestions on what they can buy and advice on currency exchange and duty free that enable them to make the best use and get the most out of the time they spend in the Terminal." Adrian Songer, Chief of Airport Concessions Business Development at Miami International Airport 

4) "The installations definitely caused a wow factor and the sites really drew a crowd. It is vital for us to be creative innovators and as this was the first time a head-to-toe projection has been executed in retail design, I'm proud of the result we achieved." Vicky Barrett, Design and Merchandising Manager for Clarins Fragrance Group commenting on the new virtual assistants designed to promote"Alien Eau Extraordinaire," a perfume from its Thierry Mugler brand.

5) "The Tensator Virtual Assistant is a novel way to improve messaging and communication to patients, assisting their access to the hospital. It is an innovative way to convey key messages and it complements our reception team, signage and wayfinding as part of the whole new development." Wendy Farrington Chadd, Trust Chief Executive, Oswestry Hospital

6) "The Virtual Assistant is a massive hit with our visitors.  From the young to the old, everyone is amazed when watching the image. This is an excellent way to get information across because it is so unusual that everyone is engrossed in it. Using the Virtual Assistant at the beginning of the tour has been a huge success as it gets the tour off to a perfect start." Gill Hillary Stadium Tours Controller at Newcastle Football Club

7) "There is literally no other form of signage that could have achieved the amazing boost in sales that the Tensator Virtual Assistant delivered. Not only did shoppers stop, look and listen -- they bought TY KU Sake -- providing us with an amazing 600% lift in sales in the first weeks of deployment. We are delighted with the results of our Virtual Sommelier. Its ability to captivate shoppers is unparalleled." Adrian Molina, Brand Communications Manager, TY KU

8) "After the success of the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign last year, we were keen to ensure our customers understand how the campaign can benefit them and how they can get involved. Digital shopping marketing innovation, such as ‘Isabelle’, is a creative and fun way to reach our customers with the campaign and is a piece of genuine digital innovation that we’re excited to bring to the market to build on the success of last year’s campaign." Simon Miles, Digital Director at Coca-Cola Enterprises 

9) "We were looking for something different that could clearly communicate messages to customers in an innovative way. I had experienced the Virtual Assistant as a consumer and it really caught my eye. It is clear and concise in its delivery and you have the flexibility to make it really stand out from other marketing tools as it can be completely tailored to your requirements." Kelly Hailou, Head of Promotions & Merchandising for Grosvenor Casinos

10) "Retailers travel from all around the world to learn about the latest developments in retail technology at Retail’s BIG Show. The Tensator Virtual Assistant is exemplary of the kind of innovation our attendees expect to see. The projected imaging grabs your attention and the surround sound speaker system ensures you hear the messages above the show noise. Welcoming, always on and never tired, the Virtual Assistant communicates consistent, precise and essential show info to a multitude of people at the same time continuously." Susan Newman, Senior Vice President, Conferences, National Retail Federation.  

Theory vs Practice and the Realities of Waiting in Line

by tensator-usa 27. February 2015 16:45

We recently came across a topical article that is near and dear to Tensator’s queue management and customer journey heart. It was an Economic View piece in The New York Times, entitled: “The Upside of Waiting in Line.” Written by Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University, the article points out the benefits to waiting in line – with everything ranging from urban usefulness, its ability to offset lower incomes, a trigger for sellers to use lines to better segment their markets, the ability to generate buzz and garner positive social media by the excitement of waiting alongside those of like mind.

The article goes on to point out that events that require waiting can attract and inform people who otherwise may not have found out about the event otherwise. Evidence of a crowd waiting in line by default means it’s something worth waiting for. Cowen goes on to say that choosing lines wisely will become a necessary skill set that Americans will need to master and “on the plus side,” waiting is not as painful as it used to be, thanks to our smart devices and WiFi. Lines in fact, are drivers of publicity, and waiting increases anticipation and excitement. 

What is interesting about this article -- are the ensuing 97+ comments from around the world. The majority of the comments focus on how to and why to avoid lines, how lines alienate people (especially the elderly), the limits of how long people would wait for anything, the wasting of precious time, the value of time, and how forcing people to wait (especially in 12 degree weather) is disrespectful of customers.  

What may indeed be sound in theory and contain elements of truth, just doesn’t ring true in practice. Readers of Cowen’s article found little upside to waiting in lines – there were few, if any, folks advocating for more lines or exclaiming its benefits.  

Having managed queues for over 130 years, we’d like to put this article and the ensuing comments into perspective. Retailers, restauranteurs, event managers that aren’t aware of the emotional impact or frustration they are causing their customers by making them wait too long in line are jeopardizing future sales and customer loyalty -- regardless of how it’s sugarcoated.  Studies like the one in BizReport, where British shoppers’ patience for standing in line runs out after six minutes or less, while Americans leave the line after eight minutes, serve to underscore the negative and economic impact of waiting in lines.  

Cowen’s static view of waiting in line also doesn’t take into account advancements in technology. We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that queue management technology makes it virtually unnecessary for people to wait in long lines, and suffer discomfort – like really,really long lines in zero degree weather! There’s a huge economic upside to retaining customers who would otherwise walk away – perhaps for forever -- if they are frustrated enough – who will go on social media to have a good rant – and go elsewhere (especially if they are in urban setting where they have other choices).  

It’s time to move beyond theory, take a hard look at reality, and put into practice queue management technology. Real and measurable advancements have been made in this field to ensure all customer experiences – from young to old – value people’s time and money while earning businesses customer and brand loyalty for great service. A better future is here and now – trying to sell the upside of waiting in long lines is an archaic idea well past its prime.

Click and Collect Lines Are Missed Opportunities

by tensator-usa 29. January 2015 16:40

In a recent eMarketer article entitled, “Retailers Must Make Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store Worth It,” it was found that consumers spent more time waiting in line when they buy online, and pick up in-store. With consumers looking to save costs and avoid shipping charges, Click and Collect holds tremendous promise to entice consumers into brick-and-mortar stores and increase shoppers’ ticket value at the cash register. 

In getting shoppers past the physical store doors, the article goes on to say that retailers leave a lot to be desired when it comes to handling the "Collect" part of their Click and Collect initiatives -- with a number of customers surveyed spending 58% of their time in the store at the checkout desk. Shoppers who started in-store and checked out in-store spent just 15% of their in-store time at the checkout desk, by contrast.


Retailers need to examine the purpose of  their program to make Click and Collect worthwhile for their customers and for their bottom line.  There's no point to having shoppers spend their trip to the store at the register. By leveraging virtual queuing, customers can take a virtual ticket via their smartphones or take a physical ticket with the time stamp that lets them know exactly when their item is ready for pickup and payment -- leaving them free to browse, and to shop.  A call forward queuing system coupled with in-queue merchandising can further turn wait time into shopping time by engaging  and delighting shoppers as they are attended to in an efficient, intelligent manner -- while being provided with additional information or exposed to new and exciting products as they wait their turn.

We all know that that a two minute wait can feel like nothing at all, or can feel like forever. Click and Collect is a great idea for getting customers into your store and providing additional customer value -- but once that customer is in your store  -- make sure you positively influence how your customer feels about their wait  time. Rather than just standing in line -- maximize each moment for a better customer experience and a chance to improve your bottom line.


Announcing Our New Website

by tensator-usa 20. January 2015 13:49

Tensator is proud to announce our new website.  Our goal is to create a web presence that tells the story of our growth, our innovative queue management solutions and shares our groundbreaking work in different sectors with meaningful real world use cases.

We invite you to tour the new site, enjoy our case studies and read our blog, which shares our perspective as well as our clients’ and partners’ perspectives on the evolving customer journey.  

Our case studies highlight the measurable ways we help businesses improve their bottom line, delight and inform customers, and value their time. Here are a few you don’t want to miss:

You can learn about our history, and our customer experience management consultancy, join our partner program and read the latest coverage from around the world, in our news section.

Finally, you can learn about how we can provide you with guaranteed ROI with our innovative Pilot to Rollout Program and about the people behind the work – our global dedicated resources and engineers who help our customers compete on the basis of value instead of price.


2015 Technology’s Evolving Role in Consumer Decision Making

by tensator-usa 12. January 2015 14:36

Leslie Hand, vice president, IDC Retail Insights makes note in IDC’s Retail Insights' outlook for 2015 that there is a new fourth dimension to last year’s go-forward retail paradigm of the three Rs — Relationship, Relevance, and Reciprocity. For 2015, IDC sees another characteristic building on these three – Participation. "Relentless technology innovation underpins consumers' participatory behavior and expectations,” says Hand. 

We here at Tensator agree that the customer journey has expanded and that consumers are taking on a participatory role in their overall shopping experience – thanks to technology innovations. IDC states that the most successful retailers will find opportunities by putting mobility, analytics, cloud, and social to work in their customer and operations strategies – and recommends adopting omni-channel integration technologies and IT governance, unifying customer engagement for hyper-personalized loyalty, adopting product intelligence for marketing and competitive insight, employing location-based services via analytics-driven agile engagement and operations as well as utilizing socially networked on-demand delivery services.

In a recent MediaPost article, we see an example of the participatory role a consumer plays in their purchase decision making. A brick and mortar shopper asks a retailer to match an online price from another vendor for two products – they decline to match the online price based on a technicality. In less time than it takes for the retailer to return with the products to the counter – the shopper purchases the item on their mobile phone for the lesser price and has it shipped to their house for free.

In NRF’s “The Makings of a Mobile Holiday” Julie Ask, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research says,“One in five consumers expects to be able to pick up their mobile phone and do anything from getting store hours to price comparisons to who has what in inventory. It's all being driven by this expectation. Retailers are getting better at it, but many of them are still struggling to keep up with customer expectations.” The author goes on to say that the process wasn’t just about the ease of buying from a mobile phone; it was about the product selection, credit card information on file, shipping address stored and ease of follow-up by phone if there are any issues. They note that while shoppers obviously will continue to shop at physical retailers, the people running those stores will have to deal with the realization that purchasing while in that store is just one mobile click away.

Making it easy to for shoppers to make their purchase decision is key to retail success in 2015. Retailers need to enable shoppers to participate in how, where and when their purchases are made. To compete effectively, brick and mortars need to embrace free shipping, click and collect, price matching or matching incentives, employ mobile greeter and virtual queuing technologies to speed up the checkout and offer greater convenience/loyalty rewards. By 2015, saavy retailers will have implemented these technologies and should have the necessary intelligence at their fingertips to increase staffing when needed on the fly. The 2015 consumer is going to brick and mortar outlets for excitement and an experience – if they can have the in-store experience coupled with the convenience that mobility delivers – retailers can expect to have a banner year ahead. 


Proximity Marketing – Impacting Service, Revenue, Efficiency and Basket Size

by tensator-usa 18. December 2014 17:43

With a majority of consumers more comfortable conducting their shopping via mobile devices – getting shoppers to look up and try something new is challenging to say the least. 

To this effect, 2014 has seen a jump in technological developments in beacons, audio, visual and proximity marketing solutions – all designed to help retailers influence, sway and capture the in-store attention of time crunched and attention short shoppers. These technologies are starting to take hold – with Office Depot, Macy’s and Lord & Taylor jumping on board.  

In fact, Tensator’s clients are already realizing measurable monetary/sales improvements by reaching customers more effectively through the proximity marketing capabilities of the Tensator Virtual Assistant: 

  • TY KU Realizes 600% Uplift in Sales with Tensator Virtual Sommelier 
  • Clarins Wows Customers With Virtual Assistant 
  • Coca-Cola launches Virtual Assistant in cash and carries in London for Share a Coke campaign 
  • Grafton Shopping Centre introduces their new Tensator Virtual Assistant
  • Modell’s CEO Mitchell Modell Welcomes Super Bowl XLVIII Fans via the Tensator Virtual Assistant 

In a recent Mobile Marketing article, the benefits of proximity marketing solutions such as beacons and audio technology are debated as standalone solutions but, ultimately as the article concludes  -- these technological advances mean much more when they work in harmony with each other so that the effect “can be much greater, than the sum of its part in terms of improved customer service, new revenue streams, store efficiency and ultimately basket size.”

We can expect to see more and more integrated proximity marketing technology developments very soon – 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for retailers and shoppers alike! 

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