PSFK Founder & President Piers Fawkes was joined by Val Vacante, Strategy and Product Innovation Director at Merkle, for a session during Retail Innovation Week 2022 in January to spotlight how Merkle approaches technology innovation for retailers. Below is their conversation about Merkle’s ShopNXT™ technology.
Q: What is Merkle’s philosophy when it creates technology for clients in retail?
A: At Merkle, we’ve designed a suite of products called ShopNXT and they’re retail innovations bringing customer joy. I talked with the team and others as we started getting our ideas out into the world and it’s also about bringing retailers joy, too. All the products are super lightweight, future-focused. They’re compatible with major ecommerce platforms, and they’re really designed around every step of the customer experience. From in-store exploration to contactless payment to, ‘hey what happens when you open the box in your home?’
Q: Can you share more about the products that are part of your suite?
A: Our first product we’re very excited to share – we just announced at CES – and it’s called Scan & Know™. It’s all about “know more in store.” It’s the world’s first app-free product recognition technology from Merkle. What’s great about it is that it’s an extension of a retailer’s existing website and integrates into existing customer profiles and loyalty programs. So, really empowering customers to find out things like prices. If you think about wedding and baby shower registries where we have to go around with the RF gun, retailers don’t need that kind of hardware anymore. And the other great part about this is you can ship items directly to your door or add it to your wish list.
Q: All types of retailers can use this and all types of customers can use this on different occasions as well. Is that correct?
A: Absolutely. Whether you’re a small retailer or large. For example, we work with a small business called White Rock Soap Gallery that sells a lot of vegan soap products, so their customers can scan the product and know exactly what ingredients are in it.
Q: That’s very interesting. Can you tell us about the second product in the suite and how it differs?
The second product is a VIP checkout-free experience, and you’re absolutely right, it is leveraging the same technology. However, it enables you to have the contactless payment experience in store. For example, if you scan a bar of soap in the store, pay with your mobile phone and then you will be served up with a digital receipt. The brilliant part that our team worked through was instead of a regular barcode receipt, where a retailer might need an RF gun, the digital receipt is also a QR code. So, an employee can use their own phone to check a customer’s receipt on the way out. Again, it integrates into the retailer’s commerce website, customer profiles, and loyalty programs.
Q: That seems like it’s something really easy to implement. What is your third product, then?
A: In contrast to the checkout-free experience, with the third product UnboxIt™, we’re taking it to the home with on-delivery experience. UnboxIt is our app-free smart packaging content platform. When a customer receives their package, they scan their note in the package and are immediately launched into content designed around key pillars.
The first one is Getting Started. So, that’s your tips, tricks, tools, and instructions to get you onboarded. The second pillar is Join the Club, which is everything from those exclusive experiences you may want to offer customers to loyalty programs, subscriptions, product reminders. And the third one that rounds it out is Share the Love. So, getting customers connected with your brand through your social media community, customer reviews, or any kind of brand ambassadorships. It’s to get them excited and rallied around your brand, while also giving them that immediate customer support upon delivery.
The last thing that’s really great for retailers and marketers is that the content platform is no-code technology. So if you’re a marketer and you have a flash sale coming up, you can swiftly go in there and drag and drop your content and enhance your message right away.
Q: Would you say that all three of these platforms you mentioned are made for retailers to plug and play?
A: That’s exactly right. All three of the ShopNXT products are designed for retailers to jump in and test and learn in a matter of weeks. If retailers try one product out and they want to see if another works, we really encourage that. As technology moves and changes fast, we want to make it as quick and easy as possible for retailers.