ALTOONA, Pa. -- Retailer Sheetz Inc. recently launched voice-ordering capabilities for Sheetz customers with Amazon's Alexa-enabled devices.
The chain already offers delivery through OrderUp from Groupon from its Morgantown, W.Va., and State College, Pa., stores, both located near universities. For now, voice ordering is available only for pickup orders. Even so, the move marks a new level of convenience for the Altoona, Pa.-based convenience-store chain.
Meanwhile, other separate technology advancements have sprung up that could directly affect retail. Visa is using technology to make the act of swiping a credit card more enjoyable, Target has launched its own mobile wallet and more.
Click through for details on voice ordering from Sheetz and four more retail tech updates …
1. 'Alexa, order my favorite from Sheetz'
To place a Sheetz order through an Alexa-enabled device, customers must log into their account on the Sheetz website and select a favorite order for store pickup. Once that order is saved with Sheetz, customers say to their Alexa-enabled device, “Alexa, order my favorite from Sheetz.” Alexa takes it from there.
"We could not be more excited to bring this next generation of innovation to our customers and industry," said Ryan Sheetz, assistant vice president of brand strategies for Sheetz, in a press release. "From the inception of our MTO menu more than 30 years ago to the introduction of touchscreen ordering in 1993 to the launch of the voice activated ordering today, our goal has always been to continue to innovate and reinvent ourselves in order to provide the ultimate convenience to our customers."
Ordering through the Sheetz skill for Alexa is now available at all of Sheetz’s 564 locations.
2. The Visa touch
Visa is introducing a suite of sensory branding aimed at making swiping a credit card a more exciting experience.
As part of the credit-card company’s advertising campaign for the Olympic Winter Games, sound, animation and haptic cues—such as the vibration of a phone when it receives a message—will let customers know when a transaction is complete.
According to online news source Digital Trends, this feature is something consumers are looking for. Digital Trends cites a survey showing 81% of respondents would have a “more positive perception of merchants who used either sound or animation cues.”
3. Target's digital wallet
Target has introduced a wallet function in the Target app.
The new feature allows in-store shoppers to both check out using a smartphone and use Cartwheel digital coupons and discounts with one scan of a mobile barcode.
“Wallet in the Target app makes checkout easier and faster than ever,” said Mike McNamara, Target’s chief information and digital officer, in a statement. “Guests are going to love the convenience of having payment, Cartwheel offers, weekly ad coupons and GiftCards all in one place with Wallet.”
4. Walmart gifts
Walmart is adding more items to its online list of "free pickup today" items on the company’s website. In other words, if dad forgets one of the Christmas presents he was supposed to pick up, he can order it from Walmart online in the morning and pick it up on his way home from work as if nothing ever happened.
The retailer is also offering last-minute gift pickup. If an order is placed online before 4 p.m. Dec. 23, the order can be picked up in-store until 6 p.m. local time on Christmas Eve.
5. Order from the dashboard
GM is rolling out what it calls “the automotive industry’s first commerce platform for on-demand reservations and purchases of goods and services.”
The smart dashboard GM has dubbed Marketplace allows drivers to order and pay for coffee, find the closest gas station and more without leaving the car or using a smartphone.
The automaker has already partnered with some petroleum brands for deals. The closest Shell gas station will be identified with station amenities, and the ability to pay in-car for Shell products is coming soon. Similarly, the system will locate Exxon and Mobil fuel stations with details on what the station offers.