Payment is All in the Wrist at Austin City Limits 2014

The Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival in Texas always brings with it plenty of fanfare for the bands, the food, and the atmosphere, but this year’s festival brought a new experience into the mix, using my wrist as a wallet. The wrist band is commonplace for multi-day music festivals — my husband Brent and I have been going to ACL since 2005, when they still used flimsy paper wrist bands (that could be easily removed, passed around people for attending different days). Last year, the festival broke into a 2 weekend format and also introduced the registered wristband, which you used to get into ACL and could check-in at places throughout the festival.

This year, the fob on your wristband not only identified you as the ticket holder, but you could also designate a credit card for purchases. In all my years of going to ACL, this little improvement was one I couldn’t have been more thrilled about because it meant 3 things: 1. Not having to rely on the piddly 2 ATMs they drag out to the park for cash in case you run out, 2. The lines for food and beverages should fly by since you aren’t having to wait on folks to dig their cards or their cash out of whatever bookbag, purse or pocket, and 3. You couldn’t lose your money because it’d be attached to your wrist. (Though it’s never happened to me, I have no doubt in the sea of people, it’s easy for a wallet to get misplaced or for it to meet an unfortunate end during a porta-potty visit.)

The skeptic in me couldn’t help but be hesitant about the actual execution, but was thrilled with the prospects. Before we left, we registered our wristbands online, linked a credit card and created a PIN number. Easy peasy. (There was also a tent at the festival with dedicated helpers that could get your credit card linked on site)

Sure enough, at Weekend 1 (October 3—5), the wristbands worked like a charm. We used them to buy t-shirts, beverages, food and other souvenirs throughout the festival grounds — watch the video above to see just how simple the process was. The cashier selects your items ordered on a touch screen, you hold your wrist fob over a designated area until it’s read, the cashier flips the screen over so you can enter your PIN, add a tip if so desired, and that’s it; a receipt of purchase is emailed to the address on your account. Done and done.

This particular system is powered by Best Ring POS, which is a web-based mobile POS company based out of Austin, TX. Though the interface is designed for bar and food, it worked perfectly for purchasing non-food items. However, it does not include a method for returning items; luckily, the ACL staff had an easy solve for it for the time being, cash. While not ideal for tracking inventory levels and all that, for a 3-Day festival, the inventory levels are going to be what they are until you sell out of an item. Only once did the wristband system fail while we were purchasing food and that seemed to be a rarity among our friends who used the system, too.

Overall, I absolutely loved using just the tap of my wrist to make purchases and this particular method is just one of many in the emerging field of virtual wallets. From Apple’s iPay Mobile (mobile device via cloud as wallet) to Coin and Plastc (one card to contain all your cards) and everything in between. The overall benefits to brands and retailers are huge because it’s so easy to forget that you are spending real money, your money, making that hurdle of building the basket not quite so high.

However, I do have concerns. Given that now when I accidentally leave my phone on the nightstand instead of putting it in my purse or pocket, I feel like an appendage is missing, I can only imagine what kind of convulsions I might have if it were my only wallet and I left it at home, or even worse, lost it. So, I have mixed feelings about my wallet solely living on my mobile device, however I think it would be great to have in the mix of options. As smart technologies for watches become smarter and smarter, I have no doubt we’ll see a full day-to-day integrated wrist wearables and the possibilities of what they could encompass are endless. Think corporate key cards, car keys and even house keys, giving the old metal ones a heave ho! Public transportation paid with a flick of the wrist. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s all around the corner and I can’t wait.

 

 

Shopping just got easier.

As I scroll through the many Greek yogurt options on Walmart’s snazzy new online grocery list, walmart.com/grocery, adding several quickly to my cart, I realize this is a jackpot. And, its free. I hear other retailers like Peapod, Stop & Shop and Giant offer similar services at a cost. Looks like I just found another reason to shop at Walmart!

For now, Walmart’s new online ordering and drive-thru pick-up is (for now) is only being tested where I am, in the retail giant’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. The whole process is based on the French company Chrono Drive, which pioneered the model Walmart is using for its grocery drive-through and pick-up program. After several visits and tours of Chrono Drive locations in France, Walmart’s executives brought the idea to Bentonville. It has been a huge hit with everyone in town.

Walmart’s online ordering and drive-thru pick-up (formally called Walmart Pickup-Grocery) has been one of the most exciting and talked-about launches for our local community. Social media is abuzz, and everyone is trying it.

My husband and I both work, and between after-school activities and social commitments, grocery shopping barely fits into our “to-do” list whenever we can spare the time. But now, this new service allows my husband and I to create a grocery list online, where we both add items to the list, which will save us a ton of time. The entire process is so incredibly simple to use. I can populate my list during a break while still at work. Then I just choose a pick-up time. Either of us can easily drive through the pick-up store—which resembles a large gas station—then enter our phone number on the touchscreen kiosk at one of the parking bays. In minutes, our groceries are brought straight to the car and loaded without us having to park, navigate a cart through a busy Supercenter or stand in line at checkout!

Eureka, not sure this could be any simpler or make my grocery shopping experience any easier! The concept is now in testing in Bentonville, Arkansas and if successful you can count on seeing a new location pop up near you!

The State of Social Media: Shifting the Conversation

When brands first started activating via social media, we knew so little about what we were getting into and what we’d get out of it. Metrics such as number of views, likes and/or followers seemed to make sense. A brand could post whatever they wanted on Facebook and then track the percentage of followers and comments. They were able to push out as much content as they liked, as frequently as they liked. Newsfeeds were cluttered with content pushing products, sharing ads, promoting coupons and talking for the sake of talking.

Unfortunately, when reach was the primary metric of success, something important was lost in the process… content.

When we shift our measurement for success from reach to engagement, we can start analyzing trends and create themes for high quality content.

As marketers, we can’t forget that social media is inherently social. It’s a two-way conversation. People don’t want brands talking at them, they want brands to talk with them. We can now measure engagement across all of our social platforms, whether that is clicking a heart-shaped button on Instagram, sharing content on Facebook, clicking through to read an article on Twitter or repinning on Pinterest. We can use metrics and insights to determine the types of content people want to engage with.

Reach is still, of course, important. A person can read a post and not click to engage with it. However, when people do take an action with content, messages become more viral.

With Facebook’s organic reach approaching zero, we have to create relevant, engaging content. We need to remain relevant to our followers and show them that we understand who they are as people and what type of content they are looking for.

People visit their social sites to interact with friends, to be inspired, to find breaking news or to just take a break from their workday. Brands can’t interrupt that space with irrelevant content. Without engagement, social becomes another form of advertising. When brands create high quality, on trend, relevant content, everybody wins. Brands are able to communicate their message in an engaging way, resulting in their message reaching a bigger audience. Fans and followers are able to truly connect with the brands they love on a meaningful, personal level, and become brand advocates.