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  • Clément Fages

10 retail and customer experience ideas (25 - 29 September)

On the menu of this week's 10 ideas: American retailers are concerned about your health and that of your pets, while robots are invading Chipotle, mystery boxes are taking over Miniso and McDonald's is making its kiosks more accessible to the visually impaired.

Retailers increasingly interested in their customers' health

In search of new sources of growth or out of a desire to increase their customers' 'life time value' in innovative ways, retailers are taking an increasing interest in the health sector, which is worth almost 4,000 billion dollars in the USA according to Yahoo. As well as setting up demonstration areas for hearing aids and intelligent fridges in some forty shops, Best Buy has acquired companies such as Current Health, a supplier of home monitoring and care devices, and GreatCall, an emergency response service for the elderly. This strategy has been copied by Walmart and Amazon, who are going even further by providing care directly in their shops.

Walmart opens its first Pet Center

Walmart is set to open its first pet services centre in the Atlanta suburbs (in Dallas, Georgia). The Pet Services Centre, located next to one of the company's shops, will offer veterinary care and grooming services. So Walmart wants to go beyond simply selling pet food, toys, and other products, and focus on services, which account for 40% of the sector's turnover. However, Walmart is also offering a subscription to pet owners, who will benefit from discounts on these products. Employees of PetIQ, a veterinary care, and pet products company, will manage this Walmart-branded centre. Since 2016, PetIQ has been leasing space for veterinary clinics in more than 65 Walmart shops.


Target launches its first kitchen private label

As the price war between retailers continues to rage, Target last week launched a private label dedicated to the kitchen. Called Figmint, it offers a range of 250 items, more than half of which cost less than $10. The brand offers products such as bowls, kitchen utensils, storage boxes, a cutting board, a cast-iron casserole dish, pots and pans. Prices start at $3. Fingmint is Target's 49th own-brand launch, following the launch of Good & Gather, an infant food brand, a few weeks ago.


Chipotle unveils its burrito bowls robots

As part of its rapid expansion strategy to pass the 7,000 restaurant mark, Chipotle is counting on the opening of Chipotlanes, restaurants dedicated to online ordering, but also to robots! The restaurant chain is teaming up with Hyphen, a food technology start-up, to test an automated production line capable of producing up to 180 burrito bowls per hour, thereby increasing the efficiency of its digital orders, which accounted for more than $3 billion in sales last year. While one person can manually prepare 20 to 30 bowls an hour, the Hyphen system is both faster and more accurate. Chipotle plans to roll out this technology in its restaurants within the next year and a half.

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McDonald's improves accessibility for the visually impaired in Korea

Replicating an initiative carried out in the United States, McDonald's Korea announced last week that it had upgraded its self-service kiosks to make them more accessible to visually impaired customers. 15 shops in Seoul are involved, selected for their proximity to social institutions, educational establishments and employment agencies for the visually impaired. The fast-food chain has equipped its kiosks with new keyboards, as well as headsets so that visually impaired users can plug in their headphones and browse the menu.

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Miniso opens a shop dedicated to surprise boxes in London

Chinese retailer Miniso is to open its first UK "Blind Box" shop on London's Shaftesbury Avenue on 29 September. More than 50 mystery boxes will be on sale, in partnership with licenses such as Disney, Pixar, Tokidoki, We Bare Bears, the Minions and Winnie the Pooh. The 40m2 shop is entirely dedicated to this concept, which Miniso is capitalising on to drive its expansion worldwide. The company has around 5,800 outlets worldwide, including more than 20 in the UK, in London, Manchester, Nottingham, Belfast and elsewhere.


Uber enhances the Uber Eats experience with AI

Uber is preparing to introduce a series of new features to its Uber Eats food delivery platform. As well as extending payment options, with the addition of support programmes for households with low purchasing power and a section dedicated to promotional offers called "Sales Aisle", it is the addition of AI-based features that has caught the attention of Reuters. AI will make it easier for users to find certain dishes and get recommendations in the same way as competitors such as DoorDash and Instacart.

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Waitrose uses AI to create its Japan Menyu range

While launching a product innovation is always a risky bet for a food superstore, UK retailer Waitrose has collaborated on the launch of Japan Menyu, its new Japanese-inspired range, with Tastewise, an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that analyses menus, social networks and online recipes to identify food trends. Rather than working with an expensive agency analysing trends and conducting market research, Waitrose hopes to save time and money by analysing weak signals online using AI to meet changing consumer expectations.

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Could the city of Chicago be a new player in the convenience store sector?

Following the closure of at least six grocery shops, including four Walmart shops, in Chicago's south and west sides over the past two years, Mayor Brandon Johnson is conducting a feasibility study to determine whether the city could open municipal grocery shops in its most underserved neighbourhoods. This is a new strategy adopted by the city, which last year awarded a $13.5 million grant to Yellow Banana to renovate and open grocery shops in these same neighbourhoods.


H&M imposes return charges on online purchases

Just a year ago, free returns were considered an essential part of a modern customer experience, but environmental considerations - or rather inflation - are now prompting some retailers to do away with free returns. This is particularly the case at H & M, which is tightening up its returns policy in new markets by now charging for the return of items ordered online, except for members of its free loyalty programme. American customers will be charged $5.99, while British customers will pay £1.99.


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