HEB Posts

@HEB: Punching a PIN becomes punitive

I find POS (Point of Sale) fascinating. It’s the moment of truth. The shopper has purposefully, or sometimes mindlessly, selected items for purchase and is ready to make ‘checkout’ happen.

Retailers typically try to encourage last minute add-ons (soda, gum, candy bar). Despite their push for the impulse buy, retailers also need to ensure a hasty exit point. One of the last impressions that retailers DON’T want are long lines, irritable customers.

I am so fascinated by POS that I noticed a technology change at Texas’ leading grocer, HEB. The credit/debit scanning system by Hypercom was brand new.

When it's time to checkout, frustration is the last emotion you want.

Being a curious shopper, I asked the harried, overworked check-out lady,

“I see you have a new system here. How’s it going?”

The lady responded: “Oh, alright, I guess. A number of people are complaining that they can’t reach the keys.”

Hmm. I now took a more informed view of the new device.

The design of the keypad is slightly awkward. Obscuring the keys on the left and right sides is a rubber barrier/bumper, designed to ‘supposedly’ prevent rogue identity thieves from stealing personal identification, such as PIN numbers.

I think the barriers make the keyboard unusable. Whatever happened to the old-fashioned, yet effective security protector of: one hand blocking view of key pad as the other hand types.

It’s a little sad that technology has introduced this ‘supposed’ impediment. I believe, however, that our paranoia over identify theft and personal data has caused us to make questionable design choices.

I want my checkout at HEB, or any retailer, to be swift, efficient, hassle-free. Let’s not introduce confusion points that would damage the delicate check-out dance. Identify theft and personal privacy is a BIG deal, yet a little common sense would keep our privacy intact while making it easier for consumers to complete their transactions.

Retailers must make ‘transaction time’ a swift, painless step. They must not lose sight of the goal: sell groceries while creating a satisfying experience for consumers from the time the shopping cart enters the store until the cart leaves full of the week’s necessities.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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Randall’s brings reason to a 3-ring grocery shopping circus

Have you seen this before?

The scene is your local grocer. Mom or Dad scrambles for the groceries while their son or daughter tries to incite mayhem. Dad stretches for the wheat bread on the top shelf; while his son sneakily reaches for that 32 ounce ‘breakable’ glass jar of jelly. Meanwhile, your daughter has fled to Aisle 3, the home of the various trail mix snacks and candies, and she’s ready to sample.

Personally, I know how difficult it is to grocery shop with children. Young brains don’t mesh with methodically checking things off the grocery list and planning meals on the fly. To a child, the grocery store is not a place to purchase necessities for the week, but a place of wonderment, creativity, imagination.

Grocery store mayhem

Make wise selections amidst an abundance of choice

To avoid madness and a plodding headache, I play along with the kids. Every trip down HEB’s aisle 3 becomes ketchup and mustard fun and games. I am the walking hot dog while my children pretend to cover me in ketchup and mustard – unbreakable bottles with the lids-on, of course.

Any busy, child-toting parent knows that reading labels or prices becomes challenging amidst the chaos. To survive, I’ve becomes a speed-scanner of labels and prices.

I saw a recent TV spot from Randall’s, an HEB competitor; Randall’s may have found a better way. The noise you just heard was parents breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Randall’s is now promoting recognizable, consistent signage throughout the store, stressing benefits near many different products: Gluten Free, Organic, Sugar Free, Good Source of Fiber, Fat Free.

We all want to eat healthier.

We all want to make sure our children are getting proper nutrition as their minds and bodies grow, but who has the time to scan the microscopic type of many food labels?

Now, I am not expecting that the nation’s grossly obscene obesity rates plummet because of Randall’s simple, clear signage, but it could help us down the path of smarter nutritional choices.

Randall’s is clearly relying on the manufacturers to truthfully share the nutritional information; let’s hope these manufacturers hold up their end of the deal. As consumers, we are confident and thankful that we can quickly make smart, reasoned decisions ‘on the fly’ while our children may have mischief on their minds.

Thanks Randall’s for helping to make Aisle 3 an intelligent menu not a war zone. Don’t fret; you’ll still find me doing the Aisle 3 hot dog dance – no matter what the sign says.

Want more on grocery stores and retailing? Check it.
(reminder: this was written before the ubiquity of mobile devices.)

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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What my gas receipt will NEVER tell me

It’s hardly paradise.

The smell of ethanol permeates your pores.

The odor of exhaust clogs your senses.

The line seems to grow inextricably long ‘right’ as you arrive.

Gas pumps are probably far from ‘destination nirvana’, but they are a necessary stop to keep us mobile.

gas pump

Gas pumps: the source of inspiration

Some of my best ideas have zoomed by at this stinky, smelly, rancid place. Couldn’t my mind have chosen the spa or the park? Inspiration just happens; you can’t place an order. (Note: I wrote about a gas pump-fueled idea earlier this year.)

I THINK at gas pumps. I am not really sure why? Maybe it’s because it’s singular in purpose: car is empty; car must be filled with gas. My quest is simple and clear. It’s not quite tranquility with the smell of gas and the constant din of cars, but I find some solace in the two minutes of think time with just me and the gas pump.

This time of year the gas pump living is somewhat easier (in Texas at least); I am relishing the outside breeze as summer’s march has lessened to a crawl.

Sure, I’ll sometimes mindlessly watch the numbers grow on the digital readout, but I am usually scanning the landscape for an idea, a concept, a campaign, something to run with….

After completing a recent purchase, I glanced at the credit card receipt and saw this comment just shouting at me to listen: (in ALL CAPS)


Now, I understand fully that credit card companies are in business to make money. You, however, are responsible for paying off the card’s balance and understanding what is the current interest rate. I did a little digging and found out that the Credit Card Act of 2009 requires that all credit card companies make card agreements available to the public. A good excuse just became obsolete.

It’ll NEVER happen, (and for them – it wouldn’t be good business), but wouldn’t it be charming for the credit card companies to change their receipt language to read:

“The average American household carries a credit card balance of $15,788. It will take you 35 YEARS to pay the balance in total, if you only pay the monthly minimum. Get your fiscal house in order now.” (Stats from Creditcards.com)

This effective language could have a strong impact on a consumer’s willingness to pay off his/her balance. I am big on capitalism, but even bigger on personal responsibility. We won’t see the above statement on your gas receipt, but let’s keep it embedded on your brain when that credit card statement arrives next month.

credit card receipt

Can't we do any better than this?

Which statement are you more likely to remember when you get that credit card statement each month and make a decision to pay the minimum (or nothing) vs. being more aggressive with your payment schedule?

  2. “The average American household carries a credit card balance of $15,788. It will take you 35 YEARS to pay the balance in total, if you only pay the monthly minimum. Get your fiscal house in order now.”

Consumers will think zig and you’ll zag.

The lesson:

As a business owner, product manager, or marketing lead don’t fall into the trap of reciting the same lifeless, tedious lingo when describing your product or service. Empty words like award-winning, unique, leading, innovative are attracting no attention.

Why not describe a picture of your customer having a problem (leaky sink, shoddy software, unreliable car, back pain) and you offer the answer in an experienced, confident, and memorable way?

One last thing: If you happen to see a guy staring off into space at a nearby gas pump, blissfully inhaling the stench of ethanol with ideas in his eyes – that’s me. Sometimes those two minutes of ‘pump time’ just shuttles by too fast; and I leave with a half-filled idea but a full tank of gas.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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Want an additive with that? HEB Adds Additech’s Fuel Service to its Gas Pumps.

I make it part of my weekly routine to fill up the ol’ Ford at the HEB. I stock up on groceries and then ‘fill er’ up’ at the ultra-convenient gas station – just about a touchdown pass away from the monstrous HEB.

A recent fill up had me mesmerized at the new Additech/HEB gas pumps. Yeah, I know, it takes a special kind of person to get excited about gas pumps.

HEB had recently ‘up-sized’ this gas station with a car wash. Now, they were hoping to ‘increase their share of wallet’ with a convenient ‘fuel additive’ service (right at the pump).

I’ve seen the ‘at the pump’ fuel additive service at numerous pumps around town, but it is new to the ‘very crowded’ HEB fill-up station. I’ve never personally ‘up-sized’ my car’s fill-up, but it has piqued my interest. I do have a suggestion that may convert more customers.

I have to ask:
Does a consumer really know that they need this?

If they don’t, how can HEB/Additech educate them that this is a must-have?

How can HEB/Additech push them to make this ‘impulse’ buy at the pump?

I have a suggestion for HEB. I believe this ‘hint’ would dramatically increase the ‘take rate’ on the additive service.

I would introduce a 3rd option (in between the entry-level and premium service). Currently, there are just two ‘fuel additive’ options to choose from on the screen.

By adding a 3rd option, you are establishing a middle ground that many consumers will gravitate towards. Most won’t pick the high-end option (do I really want to spend top-dollar on something I really don’t understand?) or the low-end option (will I get any benefit out of something so cheap?). The 3rd ‘middle’ option moves the ‘high-end’ down and the ‘low-end’ up, creating interest for people who probably weren’t inclined to ‘take the offer’.

This ‘theory’ is expertly presented in a book that I am reading titled: Predictably Irrational. If you are at all interested in how humans think (or sometimes don’t think!), you’ll want to give this a read. There are numerous examples cited that show how the slightest changing in pricing or pricing options can yield huge gains.

I’d love to see HEB and Additech add this option to their fuel pumps. I would think it would help drive more results in this new category for HEB. At the very least, they could ‘test and learn’ their way to better conversion rates in this new category.

Note: I am fascinated by the marketing/merchandising that is becoming commonplace on gas pumps.

In fact, I wrote about this very topic on Naden’s Corner a few years ago.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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My Grocery Cart Needs a Search Engine

It was an early weekend morning. Most people were still asleep. I had plenty to do on this particular weekend morning, so I rose exceptionally early to do some grocery shopping at the HEB. (Yes, I am an early riser.)

As I was glancing around the aisles for some olives, it struck me:
Wouldn’t it be great if your grocery cart had a search engine complete with GPS device?
Or a way to integrate the Web with your shopping experience?

Think of this scenario:
You have your full grocery list ready to go. You are ready to race through the local HEB with the ferocity of Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500. Instead of losing precious time by not knowing where the dinner rolls or exotic vinegar is located, wouldn’t it be great to be able to search for a particular item on your cart’s console? Or possibly upload your list before your visit and have a map service all ready to go to with your ‘route’ planned out for you?

The map layout (with each item marked) could be right there in front of you on your cart.
You could input your list before the grocery store visit and get a printable version to bring with you to the store. Think of the time savings!!
Only your HEB will know if it is better to get the bread and then the beer, or should you get the beer after the paper towels?

Yes, this may crimp some profits from grocery store impulse buying, but think of the benefits on a convenience, or ease of use area. There would also be a change in process around the carts. (They can no longer be thrown around in the parking lot like bumper cars because they essentially have computers now.)

I am hoping one groggy weekend morning I look down at my HEB cart and see some technology that generates excitement. Now that’s something to get me up in the morning!!

Until next time,

Dan Naden
Naden’s Corner
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