Tag Archives: innovation

Aira Service at Target Stores to Help Visually-Impaired Shoppers

At this busy holiday season, consider the (seemingly) simple task of shopping done by an able-bodied consumer. Now consider the same shopping task for someone who has a visual impairment. It must be a much more complex and time-consuming process, and is likely often frustrating waiting for assistance from store employees. After all, not everything can, or should, be done online. For many purchases, shoppers want to feel materials, sniff the freshness of produce, or have more information about the item.

Enter a service from technology company Aira and combine it with Target’s retail stores. Aira connects people who are blind or have impaired vision with highly-trained professionals who help provide visual information on demand via smartphones or wearable devices. The service blends wearables and smart phones with artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Aira’s mission is to make visual information accessible to anyone, anytime, and anywhere.

Target’s accessibility team worked with Aira to deploy a pilot program to 600 Target stores in 13 different markets. Shoppers in those areas can use Aira for free on a smart phone to receive on-demand information while shopping. Shoppers sign on with the Aira app and connect with customer service agents working remotely. The agents use the phone’s camera to guide shoppers through the store and describe items in detail.

The Aira service is also available at more than 40 airports and major public transit systems and college campuses. Not only can Aira agents provide direction and information, they can also read ingredients on boxes, understand color options, and have graphics described.

Now that’s progress.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the consumer buying process.
  2. While the buying process may vary slightly for different products and target markets, the basic 5-step process remains the same: problem recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and post-purchase behavior.
  3. How does the process change for visually-impaired consumers?
  4. Show information about Aira: https://aira.io/
  5. Videos are available on the Aira video channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvTWpoo6BVrn2pOFreWQGGw
  6. Information on how to use Aira at Target: https://aira.io/target
  7. How should the Aira services be marketed?

 

 

Source:  Kumar, K. (6 December 2019). Target offers free service for visually impaired shoppers at 600 stores for holidays. Minneapolis Star Tribune.

 

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Tesla’s Cybertruck – Public Relations in Action

Students often wonder how public relations is used as a promotional tool. Compared to advertising – which is very transparent – public relations and news releases are hidden from the view of most consumers. Yet, public relations is a critical tool in the marketing toolbox. It is relatively inexpensive (compared to advertising), can be targeted to specific news outlets, can be easily focused on a specific geography and industry, is a simple way to “influence the influencers,” and it lends an aura of credibility when consumers read a story in the news.

Although public relations may look like independent news, all of the efforts are initiated by marketers in order to get attention from the media. Think of it this way: The target market is comprised of editors and writers for news releases, not the consumer. The news releases are focused on providing important information that the consumers of the media outlets want to hear about.

One company that stands above the rest when it comes to public relations is Tesla. The company is a non-stop news-making machine, headed by CEO Elon Musk.

  • Tesla uses social media extensively. It does not use traditional advertising, but instead relies on media coverage to help promote its products.
  • In November the company announced a live stream of an event in Los Angeles preceding the LA Auto Show, held at Tesla’s Design Center. This event launched the new electric Cybertruck, retailing for $39,900 – $69,900.
  • Tesla also provided information on its Web site about the new truck.
  •  In less than a week following the announcement, an estimated 150,000+ pre-orders (at $100 each) have been placed for Cybertruck, and there were millions of web hits and stories generated.
  • All this was accomplished with broken windows in the demonstration, but without a single paid advertisement!

So now tell us, where does news come from?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Start by discussing the value of public relations.
  2. A video of the news release distribution process can be seen at: https://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/
  3. Use the ‘Tesla Cybertruck’ announcement as a PR example. Have students do a search on the phrase using their phones or laptops.
  4. How many hits are there? How many videos? Does the news expand to outside of the U.S.? What is estimated the dollar value of this reach?
  5. Compare the information in several articles with the information included on Tesla’s Web site: https://www.tesla.com/cybertruck
  6. Have students select a company or product. Then, have students find business articles in the news and trace the articles back to information provided by companies.

Source:  Bloomberg; New York Times; Wall Street Journal; CNN News; Wired magazine, other news sources

 

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Amazon’s Echo Glasses Frames

Does it seem like there are more wearable devices than ever in the marketplace? Well, get used to it. Already there are headphones, ear buds, jackets – there is a lot, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. One of the latest wearable device are the new Echo Frames smart glasses from Amazon, with always-on Alexa voice control.

The glass frames gives the wearer hand-free access to the Alexa services at any time. Alexa – Amazon’s digital assistant – can answer questions, take reminders, and even operate smart home gadgets. The frames let the wearer interact with Alexa, listen to music, podcasts, and more. The frames are controlled by swiping along the earpiece and microphones can be shut off on command. The sound is subtle; only the wearer can hear the Alexa replies.

Priced at $179.99, the frames can be customized with subscription lenses at any optometrist outlet. They currently work only with Android phones; no word on connecting to iPhones at a future time.

If you remember the Google Glass, one of the criticisms was the display with cameras. These Echo frames do not have that capability and there are no cameras.

Now our glasses not only help us see better, they also can cooperate and provide additional functions. How is your vision?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the impact of wearables, including smart glasses.
  2. Show the Amazon Echo frames: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01G62GWS4/ref=sxts_snpl_1_0_cb5e5e76-63c9-4995-ba6c-9e5dc465d041?pd_rd_w=96hzn&pf_rd_p=cb5e5e76-63c9-4995-ba6c-9e5dc465d041&pf_rd_r=DVD6DZKRH8TCMHNGS97B&pd_rd_r=2515e17b-55cd-4dd3-8278-8dabcc07c7ae&pd_rd_wg=eioFb&qid=1571077129
  3. Show video: https://youtu.be/gmVgPF4ofsE
  4. What are the opinions of the students about this device?
  5. Discuss the importance of clearly defining a target market.
  6. For the Echo frames product, what is the target market?
  7. Divide students into teams and have each team develop a profile of a target market for the product. Include demographics, psychographics, behaviors, values, attitudes, etc.
  8. Based on the target market profile, what makes this product unique for these customers?
  9. How should the product be marketed to this target market segment?

Source: Amazon.com; Smith, D. (8 October 2019). Amazon Echo frames – here’s what you didn’t know about Amazon’s new smart glasses. C/NET.

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