Solutions & Innovations: Can Apps ‘Fundamentally Change’ Shopping?

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02/01/2022
A roundup of technology-driven tools that drive consumer understanding, engagement and conversion on every step of the path to purchase.
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klarna p2pi

Klarna, the Swedish global payments provider and shopping platform, unveiled an all-in-one shopping app in November that the company says “will fundamentally change” the end-to-end shopping experience. The app, available in the U.S., U.K. and 11 other Eurozone countries, will enable shoppers to perform multiple actions without having to switch between apps, such as: Shopping at all stores online, unlocking deals and price-drop alerts, and tracking delivery and returns on all Klarna and non-Klarna-bought items. It also adds a “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL) tool that sets up interest-free flexible payments at all online retailers — regardless of whether they’ve partnered with Klarna or not. This financing option is delivered through “virtual one-time cards” that Klarna says are free to use. Future features may include a collective loyalty card space and visibility into price histories, reviews and store availability. Klarna, which has its U.S. headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, says that 18 million consumers already shop through the app every month.

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brickseek p2pi

In December, Tempe, Arizona-based BrickSeek, a 6-year-old service that checks inventory both online and in-store at some of the nation’s largest retailers, launched its first app. The app is being made available to all membership levels — Basic (free), Premium ($9.99/month) and Extreme Deal Hunter ($29.99/month) — on both the iOS and Android platforms. BrickSeek says it has inventory checkers operating with a number of major chains, including Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, Office Depot, Home Depot, CVS and Dollar General. The BrickSeek app’s barcode scanner lists available online offers for a specific product, as well as info that can be used for price comparisons across retailers and availability in-store nearby. All membership levels let users do basic things like create and manage alerts, but those with higher levels get to see key deals first, access nationwide trends data and greatly expand their personalized search areas.

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zerowastestore

In November, Los Angeles-based ZeroWasteStore (ZWS) extended its online sustainable marketplace through an app it claims will be a “first-of-its-kind” sustainable shopping experience. The company says that all orders handled through the app will be carbon neutral and packaged with zero waste, using only materials that are backyard compostable or recyclable. The new app, available on Apple and Android devices, offers enhanced search functions through categories such as “low-waste swaps” and “zero-waste items,” while letting users discover brands such as Stasher, No Tox Life, Elate Cosmetics and Suds & Co.

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niantic p2pi

Niantic, the company that created Pokemon Go, announced in November that it was working with Fold, a crypto firm with a bitcoin rewards app, to create Fold AR, dubbed the first-ever augmented reality bitcoin-earning feature “in the metaverse.” Atlanta-based Fold’s gift-card platform enables shoppers to earn Satoshis (sats) through its Visa rewards debit card or by buying prepaid gift cards for top retailers. Shoppers can then purchase clothes and be rewarded with up to 100% back on every purchase, or even a whole bitcoin that’s transmitted straight to their bitcoin wallets. Once Fold AR is fully deployed in 2022, instead of hunting for Pokemons named Bulbasaur, Fold users will be hunting bitcoin and other prizes that are “placed” in their physical surroundings by Niantic’s “planet-scale” AR technology. Fold says it currently has 250,000 users.

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instacart caper p2pi

In October, San Francisco-based Instacart acquired Caper AI, an artificial intelligence-powered “Smart Cart/Checkout” tech platform. New York-based Caper uses an object recognition system that enables shoppers to place bulk items (i.e., fruits and vegetables) into a cart without having to scan or weigh them, and then check out from the cart. The system features touch-enabled screens with maps that aid in-store navigation and suggest other purchases based on what is already in the shopper’s cart. Caper’s smart checkout counters use cameras and a weight sensor to auto-detect items placed on its counter. Eventually, Instacart says it plans to integrate these technologies into its own app and websites, as well as those of its 600 national, regional and local retail partners. Caper’s smart carts, which already are deployed at some Kroger and Wakefern stores, were the first approved under the National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP), certifying that it can accurately sell items priced by weight and measures.

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neuroflash p2pi

Hamburg, Germany-based online service Neuroflash can write, test and validate marketing copy for you in English and German. Using artificial intelligence, Neuroflash is said to “learn your writing style” and then produce copy for everything from product descriptions for Amazon and other e-commerce sites to direct-marketing emails, Facebook and Google ads, and social media posts. Basically, after you enter your first draft into the service, the AI produces variations and then tests them. If, for example, you entered an email subject line, the AI will cough up alternatives and then predict the open rates for the different versions. The magic is in GPT-3, an “autoregressive language model” launched by OpenAI in 2020. GPT-3 is based on a neural network with 175 million synapses that developers claim can generate its “own thoughts” and texts that the rest of us can’t distinguish from those produced by actual humans.

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wayfair p2pi

In November, Boston-based home decorating site Wayfair launched “Wayfair On Air,” a video-commerce experience that brings entertainment and design inspiration into a “seamless” mobile shopping experience. The content lineup includes studio show formats as well as segments shot inside the homes of various “creators,” such as celebrity chef Danny Boome, family blogger Amiyrah Martin and shopping expert Albany Irvin. New episodes are slated to appear daily throughout the week. Consumers can access Wayfair On Air through Wayfair’s app (iOS only for now), and browse every product featured on the episode while they watch, adding items to their own lists or to the shopping cart.

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