A Sneak Peek at Hudson’s Self-Service Technology Redesign

The Self-Service Innovation Summit got off to a good start as Ruth crowley, a seasoned retail tech veteran, offered insight into how a global retail organization is reorganizing its footprint to meet rapidly changing customer needs.

Crowley, vice president of merchandise and branding strategy at Hudson Group, who operates convenience stores at airports, was quick to describe the complex and often difficult processes his organization implements to take advantage of solutions like cashierless checkouts.

The main session, “The Customer Journey, How Has It Changed and What the Future Holds,” set the stage for the two-and-a-half-day summit held this month at Seaside resort of diplomats in Hollywood, florida.

Crowley has made no secret of the fact that consumers are more demanding and not yet satisfied with the options offered by retailers.

According to surveys, she said 80% of CEOs think they do a good job providing services to clients, compared to 18% of clients.


Hudson’s automated retail concept was installed at that of New York JFK Airport. Image courtesy of Hudson Group.


How customers have changed

“You have to keep changing and evolving because the world has changed and we cannot stand still,” she said. “One of the things that we have really seen is that the customer journey has changed.”

The proliferation of options, driven in large part by COVID, has driven this shift by familiarizing people with how to use technology. As a result, customers have become less patient.

As a company specializing in the travel industry, Hudson had no choice but to revise its offerings and develop new concepts when airport travel was completely paralyzed at some of its sites.

“Not innovation for innovation, but innovation for purpose,” she said.

Hudson’s innovations

One innovation was the Hudson Non-stop using that of Amazon “Just Walk Out” technology, where customers insert or tap a payment card to enter the store, collect their products and exit. The store includes global and local brands including snacks, drinks, health and beauty products, electronics and accessories.

These technologies are expensive, she says, and their deployment has not been easy.

“The key here is behind the scenes and the work that we need to do to integrate the effort and integrate the components so that the system works and operates continuously,” she said. “It’s not easy, it’s not for the faint of heart, but we’re absolutely delighted to be able to work with this.”

The need for smaller retail spaces has resulted in another concept called ‘Evolve’, which consists of specialist ‘shop-in-shop’ brand experiences, blending travel essentials and specialty brands, allowing both self-checkout and mobile POS payment. Local brands have become the focal point, in addition to national and global brands.

“The customer can easily see around the store, and so they can quickly scan the store, make the selection and… leave. We have factored in their behavior and traffic patterns and preferences as we go along.” , she said.

Another concept was Brookstone, a 24/7 retail destination for global and local electronics brands that Hudson Group acquired and adjusted product selection.

“In some of the smaller airports, the beauty of automated retailing was that we could offer brands that might not fit that model before, but we could bring something extra to the customer,” he said. she declared.

The company recently rolled out QR codes for virtual try-on in some of its makeup concepts.

“They can attach the QR code and just try on makeup,” she said.

Team collaboration

Crowley stressed the importance of involving the entire Hudson team in the process.

“We will continue to provide enabling options not only for our clients, but also for our associates,” she said. “One of the beauties of this automated element is that our people can now go out into the field and interact more freely with customers.”

“Innovation is not prescriptive,” she said. “And the customer experience is not an initiative, it’s an imperative.

“Contactless doesn’t mean you lose touch with your customer. Contactless means he has options. Your continued connectivity with the customer is essential to ensure long-term success. “

What is “innovation”?

The word “innovation” is used a lot, but what does it mean exactly?

“Innovation has to be practical for the customer,” she said, and it has to be transparent.

“The systemic and technological elements must align with the human needs of the client,” she said. “If you do, you have a victory.”


Question from listeners Ruth crowley during its presentation.


The public weighs

Asked during the question-and-answer period about what kind of team the company has to integrate various aspects of its new solutions, Crowley stressed that team collaboration is imperative to introduce new concepts. She said the company first tests new ideas, looks at the results, and then tests the concept with some of its operational partners to see if it’s viable.

When asked if the company’s ROI has changed for new technology, Crowley said it depends on the technology. She said the company’s nonstop location is very expensive, requiring more sales volume to cover the cost.

“I think the principles of ROI are the same, but the model is changing,” she said.

When asked which fundamentals of management need to be disrupted, she said the key to management is to listen to employees so that they can continue to be effective in their roles and able to collaborate.

Asked if stores using Amazon “Just Walk Out” technology has improved sales, Crowley said, said most of the stores offering the new technology are new stores. However, they discovered that customers have different needs and that people like to go to these stores because they feel they are in control.

Asked how Hudson Group determines the right mix of technologies to deploy, Crowley said they are studying a store’s customer demographics and wait times, which can vary widely from store to store.

“We are working to make sure the technology applies to customer demographics,” she said. “One size doesn’t fit all. But what we do is try to balance the mix so the customer has options.”

When asked why some kiosks don’t accept the latest payment capabilities, Crowley said this reflects the fact that technology is always evolving in retail. She said elements of the payment system need to synchronize, which is not always the case with existing kiosks.

“It’s coming, for sure,” she said.

She encouraged her listeners to spend time with the Summit exhibitors to see how their solutions can be applied.

Zebra sponsored the main session.

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