Macy’s: Putting the ‘AI’ Into Retail

The Washington Post: “Macy’s … has teamed up with IBM Watson to use artificial intelligence as a customer service tool in 10 of its stores. The retailer dubbed the pilot program ‘Macy’s On Call,’ and it will allow customers to type in questions on their phones and receive answers. Unlike some chatbots that can only regurgitate pre-programmed responses based on keywords, IBM Watson will learn over time to give better answers that are customized to individual stores.”

“Macy’s move is an acknowledgment of what a habit it has become for consumers to swipe and tap on their smartphones while they’re on the go. And it’s a bid to figure out how to channel that behavior into an advantage — not a threat — to in-store shopping.”

“Macy’s is not the only retailer that is experimenting with some use of artificial intelligence. IBM Watson has already dabbled in using its tools to power other shopping experiences such as a collaboration with outdoor apparel brand North Face on a website that helps shoppers find the right jacket.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Baseball: These Are The Good Old Days

The Wall Street Journal: “Baseball’s nostalgia is often seen as a virtue when it’s more accurately a disease. Baseball is the one business—outside of perhaps politics—that considers it good strategy to tell you its product is less than what it used to be. Baseball is currently watched by more people than at any other time in human history, and played at a higher level that we have ever seen before.”

“If Mickey Mantle ever saw a Noah Syndergaard fastball, he would never stop crying. If Babe Ruth faced Clayton Kershaw, he would call the Dodgers lefty a witch and want him burned for black magic. There were no good old days. The good old days are now.” – Will Leitch, reviewing The Baseball Whisperer by Michael Tackett.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Luxury: It’s Not What It Used To Be

USA Today: “People around the world who usually flock to luxury goods are worried about events that threaten global stability including terrorism fears, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union and China’s slowdown. At the same time, luxury retailers are losing share to online sellers, the same issue bedeviling mainstream store chains. They’re also suffering at the hands of discounters and fast-fashion luxury lookalikes.”

Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, comments: “The story with luxury is it’s just not as a exclusive and it doesn’t justify the price like it used to. Too many of them are discounting and there’s not enough consumer demand.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Cultural Evolution: Nintendo Goes With Partnerships

The New York Times: “Nintendo — which took an early lead in mobile gaming and then proceeded to blow it — offers a lesson in how corporate cultures can make or break a company, especially those that are pioneers in a field … If Nintendo is easily likened to Apple for its autocratic insistence on groundbreaking innovation, it is also like Xerox in that it has failed to take advantage of ideas as valuable as the mouse.”

“Pokémon Go, this month’s gaming phenomenon, came about only because Nintendo has gone years without a hit and was forced to find partners … Pokémon Go demonstrates that Nintendo’s stable of characters … can form the basis for others to develop lucrative mobile games. But that would turn Nintendo into a different kind of company — one … that is content to hit singles and doubles rather than swing for the fences.”

“Nintendo has shown before that it can adapt. It got its start making playing cards in 1889. By the 1970s it was designing video games, leading to the release of the Donkey Kong video game machine in 1981 … In 1983, it added a modem port to the home video game console that would eventually become the popular Nintendo Entertainment System, decades ahead of a time when Xbox and PlayStation gamers connect with one another around the world.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Theater as Retail: El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Boredpanda: “Tucked away in Barrio Norte, Buenos Aires is a beautiful bookshop called El Ateneo Grand Splendid … which currently welcomes over one million visitors each year … It is built within the almost 100-year-old Grand Splendid Theater, which opened in 1919.”

buenos-aires-bookstore-theatre-el-ateneo-grand-splendid-9

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Strand: A Culture of Quizzes

The New York Times: “The Strand is the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores, a giant in an ever-shrinking field … The Strand employees are known for being ‘curmudgeonly’ but also clever, even cool: Former employees include Patti Smith … For about four decades, however, applicants have confronted a final hurdle to enter its ranks: the literary matching quiz.”

“Over time, the reputation of the Strand’s quiz has grown … The legend has become larger, in fact, than the quiz itself, which is only 10 lines long, covering a few inches of the photocopied application … Fred Bass, who with his daughter, Nancy Bass Wyden, owns the Strand, called the quiz ‘a very good way to find good employees,’ regardless of their duties.”

Carson Moss of The Strand says the quiz is not a make or break for applicants: “In a sense we feel it’s a reward for passionate readers, after they’ve slogged through an application,” he said. The Strand’s Constance Fox comments: “What I find most interesting is when people don’t answer, but then write: ‘I’m an artist. I know all about Picasso,’ or ‘Here’s what I know about children’s books.’”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Cadillac House: Not Your Father’s Dealership

The Verge: “The next stage in transforming Cadillac is to bring its 925 dealers up to snuff. That’s where the Cadillac House comes into play, a chic public space where anyone can drop by and steep in the brand’s past, present, and future. Each detail of the facility has been carefully considered — it sells Joe Coffee (a local favorite), offers free Wi-Fi, stages art installations … it hosted a block party bash featuring a short set by My Morning Jacket. The Cadillac House has a few cars on view, but it’s not a car dealership. Discreet product specialists are trained to answer questions about features on new models like the CT6.”

Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen comments: “Our office, the Cadillac House, this is what our dealer experience should be like. Our focus here must be on increasing the overall quality of the business. It must be about increasing transaction prices. It must be about brand positioning and upgrading quality of the dealer and doing so in a way that we continue to build the relationship between Cadillac the manufacturer and our dealer network. We have to navigate a very difficult path.”

He adds: “It’s really those small dealers that we want to turn into powerhouses. We want to create a boutique experience, separate from the rest of the GM brand, and we want to help our dealers.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

50 Ways to Kill ‘Pokémon Go’

The Wall Street Journal: “Already some local businesses lucky enough to be near a key location have latched on to Pokémon Go … one New York pizzeria manager who dropped a ‘lure’ in the game for $10 to attract trainers to its proximity—and business spiked 75%. A Brooklyn bar noted that the Pokémon inside were for paying customers only … ‘sponsored locations,’ where companies would pay to become locations in the virtual world in order to drive foot traffic, will be coming to the game.”

“For example, a brand could pay for Wi-Fi at a popular Pokémon location. Or hand out samples … Or put up real world signs or video screens touting their message.”

“Dario Raciti, U.S. director of Zero Code, the gaming and virtual reality division of OMD … noted that one of the worst things the creators of the app could do would be to overload the game with ads, turning every Pokémon adventure into a walk through the virtual version of a billboard-filled Times Square.”

Meanwhile: “Gizmodo has learned that … every McDonald’s restaurant in this country will either be a PokéStop or a gym.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail