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Whitney Hardy

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Self-Serve Car Shopping?

Last week at the Denver airport, ready to board a four-hour flight to Boston and excited to watch a freshly downloaded movie, I had a horrible realization. The right side speaker on my headphones wasn't working and it was going to drive me nuts. The headphones that failed me weren't fancy, but the horror had more to do with the bad timing.  Pre-boarding for the flight had started, and I was a few moving sidewalks away from a store that would have a replacement. It's a long flight and I was looking forward to watching Eclipse (don't judge). Given the dire situation, I ended up buying headphones from a Best Buy vending machine. Maybe I just haven't been paying attention, but I don't remember ever seeing anyone buying something from one before (and I don't think that I'm alone, because I actually drew a crowd of on-lookers), but it was an intuitive and pleasant shopping experience. And, besides being quick and easy, there were a host of tools available for me to research and evaluate the purchase that I was about to make. With a non-traditional vending purchase now under my belt, I've been thinking about it ' are self-serve machines the super-convenient Jetson-esque future of shopping suited perfectly for the tech-savvy and time-starved? Or, just another way for retailers to extend their brands, create word-of-mouth, and cost-effectively sample their products? Theoretically, the consumer shopping experience is not all that different than online shopping (while you can't touch/try the product, you can research it), but with the benefit of seeing it and enjoying the instant gratification of having the product upon purchase. Besides Best Buy, other retailers and brands in the self-serve vending game at airports and malls include The Body Shop, Sephora, and ProActive, but the one that I found particularly interesting is the uber-luxury vending machine called the Semi-Automatic that can be found at the Mondrian South Beach. Said machine offers the intuitive travel staples like a toothbrush (albeit, designer brand) for hotel guests, along with Bentley convertibles and condos (say what?), with prices ranging from $10 to $1 million+. Whether these vending machines become the preferred retail channel of the future or remain more of a marketing tool, I think they're going to pick up steam, catering to consumers' desire for ease and convenience.  What is your take on where they go and what they sell?

Self-Serve Car Shopping?

Last week at the Denver airport, ready to board a four-hour flight to Boston and excited to watch a freshly downloaded movie, I had a horrible realization. The right side speaker on my headphones wasn't working and it was going to drive me nuts. The headphones that failed me weren't fancy, but the horror had more to do with the bad timing.  Pre-boarding for the flight had started, and I was a few moving sidewalks away from a store that would have a replacement. It's a long flight and I was looking forward to watching Eclipse (don't judge). Given the dire situation, I ended up buying headphones from a Best Buy vending machine. Maybe I just haven't been paying attention, but I don't remember ever seeing anyone buying something from one before (and I don't think that I'm alone, because I actually drew a crowd of on-lookers), but it was an intuitive and pleasant shopping experience. And, besides being quick and easy, there were a host of tools available for me to research and evaluate the purchase that I was about to make. With a non-traditional vending purchase now under my belt, I've been thinking about it ' are self-serve machines the super-convenient Jetson-esque future of shopping suited perfectly for the tech-savvy and time-starved? Or, just another way for retailers to extend their brands, create word-of-mouth, and cost-effectively sample their products? Theoretically, the consumer shopping experience is not all that different than online shopping (while you can't touch/try the product, you can research it), but with the benefit of seeing it and enjoying the instant gratification of having the product upon purchase. Besides Best Buy, other retailers and brands in the self-serve vending game at airports and malls include The Body Shop, Sephora, and ProActive, but the one that I found particularly interesting is the uber-luxury vending machine called the Semi-Automatic that can be found at the Mondrian South Beach. Said machine offers the intuitive travel staples like a toothbrush (albeit, designer brand) for hotel guests, along with Bentley convertibles and condos (say what?), with prices ranging from $10 to $1 million+. Whether these vending machines become the preferred retail channel of the future or remain more of a marketing tool, I think they're going to pick up steam, catering to consumers' desire for ease and convenience.  What is your take on where they go and what they sell?

Am I a Greedy Consumer?

Retailers have very effectively trained me when and how to shop and I sometimes wonder whether I will I ever pay full-price again. I live very close to the Natick Collection and go there often. I shop like I'm a woman on a mission ' when I'm at the mall, I know when to go and where to go to get the best deals and savings . You've seen it and probably have been trained, too ' every store has their discount on display in their window and their e-marketing teams are working overtime. When I logged into my Yahoo account yesterday, I counted 20+ emails from retailers begging for my business that day. Subject lines included: '30% off all Outerwear ,'? 'Take 20% off a single item ' 1 Day Only!,'? and 'Whitney, Only two Days Left! 20% OFF Ends Tomorrow!'? By keeping an eagle-eye on my email box, scouring sale racks, and faithfully perusing off-price department stores, I walk away with clothes and labels that I've spotted on celebrities in some of my favorite magazines. I honestly don't remember the last time that I bought something full-price. I know that my expectation for buying quality goods at discounted prices has been a gradual development ' the economy (of course), greater financial responsibility with a growing family, and maturity were probably all nails in the full-price retail coffin in my life. I wonder if this will ever change. Will there be a day that I comfortably and confidently walk out of the mall with a big, glossy, luxury department store shopping bag full of full-price stuff? Is that ten years down the road? Twenty years? Ever? For a believer in the power of building a strong, aspirational brand, I struggle with what retailers and brands will need to do to stop the cycle and train us to be full-price shoppers again? How will they deliver value that is as meaningful to consumers as 'dollars off'?? Convenience? Service? Quality? But what if we've been trained to expect it all?

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