Monday, March 1, 2010

In Response to Sam

Do you think organic foods are worth spending the extra money for? Will the industry remain sustainable? Those were the questions that Sam asked at the end of his post on organic foods and my answer is yes to both of those questions. Organic food is so much healthier for you than a bag of candy. Yes, the candy might taste better, but if you're worried about staying healthy then you should go for the healthier brand of food. Organic food has come a long way in the past five years, customers can buy everything they want and most stores have a whole organic section that's all in a row, so customers don't have to wander all over the store looking for the food that they want to buy. Some of the snacks foods they offer are chocolate covered raisins, chips or peanuts...they aren't your typical junk food snack but they're still tasty and put the nutrients that your body needs into it. People that have health problems such as celiac disease can only really shop in the organic food section because most of the food is gluten free, unlike the rest of the unhealthier food in the store. Organic food offers an option for these people that have to be very careful of what they eat, and they can have a variety of things just because of the advancements that organic food has made in the supermarket industry, and the customers don't have to just keep eating the same foods over and over because now they actually have a choice on what they want.

I definitely think the organic food industry will last because more people than you think shop in that section. Even if they aren't buying a while cart full of stuff, they are still picking up things from the section here and there. I used to work at Shaws and most people had stuff from the organic section, whether it was for them or for their kids that they're trying to have eat right. Protein bars that a lot of athletes eat are in the organic section and we sold a lot of those in one day to people who were looking for the nutrients that they needs. I don't see the organic food industry going away any time soon, I think they will shock us all and make advancements that we haven't even seen yet.

Where do you think the industry is going?

Cellular Phones to Let Shoppers Point, Click and Purchase

Shoppers will soon be able to stand outside the designer boutique called Norma Kamali's, which is located in Manhattan, and they will be able to point a phone at merchandise in the window and buy it. They can even do this late at night when the store is closed. Ms. Kamali, the owner, is one of the leaders in the industry with the technological transformations which will be coming to many of the nation's retailers in no time at all. The retailers want to strengthen the link between their physical stores and the Web. They want to take an advantage of how tech savvy this nation is and make shopping easier to consumers and more profitable for themselves.

They plan on turning people's mobile phones into information displays and ordering devices. Even grocery stores are considering this form of technology. They think that if you can use a GPS on your phone to find your destination, then you should be able to find the flour in the store if you are having a hard time locating it. Supermarkets are also going to offer real-time coupons while people shop. They may have a promotion on milk and the moment you're in the dairy aisle; a coupon could be sent to your phone. If the department store is out of your size jeans, then the retailers are trying to make it simple by having you press a couple buttons on your phone and the correct size jeans you wanted will be shipped to your house.

The question is how will consumers react to this? They will have to download applications onto their phones and consent to being tracked electronically while in a store. Many stores are hoping consumers will go along with it. They are backing it up by the fact that people wander city streets guided by maps on their mobile phones, so why shouldn't technology lead them to the flour or jeans they're looking for. Some chains are reluctant to discuss their plans because they want to use it as a competitive advantage. Some retailers that are in the process of testing out mobile technology are Wal-Mart and Disney. Technology companies behind the products are telling consumers to expect introductions to this new world this year and wider deployments in 2011 or even 2012.

Ms. Kamali is using technology called ScanLife and it was installed in her boutique a few weeks ago. It allows people to scan bar codes on merchandise and obtain details about the clothes through videos. The part about buying items day or night will come in another week or two when they get used to the new system. Other retailers have started testing a product called Presence. The shoppers that sign up for it can be detected as soon as they set foot in a store, which enables Presence to offer real-time mobile coupons. Presence can also track the shoppers spending habits and browsing time in various department, and it will help the system figure out what customer might be moved to suddenly buy a discounted item. Presence can also make product recommendations. If a shopper was buying cake mix, Presence might suggest frosting and sprinkles to go along with that.

The retailers have some privacy worries and other potential pitfalls. If the phone applications freeze or give bad information it will most likely frustrate the consumers, so reliability is a big priority among retailers, which is why retailers have already started testing the system. Another reason why the Presence won't be released in a lot of stores until 2011 or 2012 is the fact that most stores cannot afford that kind of technology right now. The daring retailers are viewing it by the potential benefits outweighing the risks. More aggressive profiling of shoppers could help increase sales in stores that are in drastic need of some help. The technology could also save stores money by cutting workers, by substituting electronic guidance for store clerks.

If you had the chance to download one of these applications would you and why?