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At first glance Microsoft, Sleep Number and Caliburger don’t seem to have much in common except for their individual success in three separate retail segments.

But the three retailers do share a big characteristic: all are deploying interactive technologies (from facial detection and robotics to augmented reality and mobile) focused on driving a stellar customer experience.

At Sleep Number, the interactive experience is aimed at telling the brand’s story and tapping the “power of experiential storytelling,” said Angela Gearhart, vice president, brand experience.

Sleep Number, founded in 1987, opened its first brick-and-mortar store in 1992 and launched online storefront in 2000. Its proprietary mattress technology promises users the highest quality sleep experience as it tracks and monitors sleep activity. The brand has 550 stores, with a presence in each U.S. state. It employs more than 4,000 team members and fiscal 2017 revenues were $1.4 billion.

Technology, explained Gearhart, is about “creating a life-long relationship [with the customer].”

At Microsoft, technology at its 100 physical stores and 473 digital storefronts (which reach consumers in 190 countries), is “in everything we do,” said Tori Peterson, senior program manager, visuals and experiences for Microsoft Stores.

As Retail Customer Experience reported customers at the NorthPark Center store in Dallas, Texas are not just interacting with one robotic technology but two. One is the robot Pepper, a big favorite with the young and old, and Beam, a telepresence robot providing real-time live-person video interaction.

The store’s Pepper is a humanoid robot developed by SoftBank Robotics and can read human emotions. It is programmed to provide Microsoft product information and eager to share product insight as well as encouraging social media engagement via selfies. Pepper even dances with shoppers.

While in the store customers can also get a hands-on demonstration of Microsoft latest Surface Hub — a collaborative workspace, thanks to web cam capability and a slew of apps, boasting a 55-inch touchscreen display.

At Caliburger robotics is also in full swing thanks to Flippy which took over the grill at the Pasadena location this past March. Flippy’s first day, however, was also it’s last for a few months as the innovative robotic required some tweaking and adjustment. Flippy went back to work flipping burgers as of May.

The chain hopes to have a “Flippy” in 50 locations by year’s end. In a release Caliburger views the technology as a “key stepping stone toward replacing credit card swipes with face-based payments, which is our goal for 2018.”

But robotics is just the latest tech in play for the fast casual brand which relies on lots of cameras and sensors to help track everything to table clearing to POS customer activity, said John Miller, CEO of Cali Group. It’s also using facial recognition on its kiosks. Other in-store technologies include charging stations, an app for pre-ordering and a video wall made up of nine 47-inch televisions.

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Making interactive technology a winning proposition

The three brand leaders offered up insight on their respective interactive technology deployments and strategy during a panel session at the recent annual Interactive Customer Experience (ICX) Summit held in Dallas. For highlights of the event click here.

The summit featured almost three days of education, networking and tours. Keynote speakers included John Padgett of Carnival Corporation and Rafik Hanna of Taco Bell. Next year’s event will take place June 4-6, 2019 in Dallas.

During the panel discussion each leader noted that the various technologies are boosting the retail customer experience, sales and brand loyalty.

At Microsoft the goal is using technology with a human quality, and each and every technology is monitored, providing Microsoft insight on customer engagement.

“Everything is about the customer and we do whatever is right by the customer. We want to make sure we’re a partner, we’re authentic,” said Peterson. Microsoft, she added, is striving the capture the voice of the customer. “The more touch points the better. The more data the better.”

At Caliburger, interactive technology is not only enhancing the customer’s in-store customer experience but allows the brand “to see the customer on a digital level,” said Miller.

For Sleep Number, which sells mattresses that is chockful of technology to help users get the best sleep possible, it’s all about the intersection of technology and wellness, said Gearhart. It uses technology to demonstrate the efficacy of quality sleep, providing a full sensory individual experience.

Gearhart also noted that implementing deep interactive technology, whether within a brand’s product or the retail customer experience, requires some best practices.
“You need to clearly define the objective,” she said, “and then define the goals and clearly define the measurements.”

Caliburger’s Miller added that every technology requires a very clear return on investment: “There is still a lot that can be done to make the brick and mortar a digital world. We are at the very beginning. There is a long way to go.”

Microsoft’s Tori agreed with that view and expects more IoT innovations and things working together to come down the pike.

“It’s an exciting time,” she said.

Posted with permission from
Photo courtesy of ICX Summit.

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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