Innovation wins out for Argos

Read time 2min 50sec

Innovation, though it is one of the most abused words in the 'biz-speak` of our day, is still possibly the most important contributor to successful business operations. There`s a great sense of satisfaction to be had when consumer-focused companies introduce new services whose benefits are immediately apparent, and to which customers take like ducks to water.

It`s even more effective when innovations are introduced frequently enough so that customers begin to expect something new and interesting on a regular basis.

I wrote about Argos` innovative ordering system about this time last year (Mail order madness), and it`s no real surprise to see that the company has been introducing new innovations on a fairly regular basis since then.

As an exercise in lightning-fast turnaround, it was truly breathtaking.

Basheera Khan, editor,

Just before Christmas last year, it unveiled its Text & Take Home service, targeted at the reluctant shopper. It allowed consumers to check the latest prices and stock availability, and reserve products at the Argos store of choice, by sending an SMS.

Customers using the service would receive return messages carrying the pricing and availability information requested; those choosing to reserve products like this would receive a confirmation, and information as to how long Argos would be able to hold the product.

A more recently introduced innovation, in-store kiosks which automate the transaction process, has even won Argos an industry accolade - the Retail Technology Solution award, as part of this year`s Retail Week awards.

I had the experience of using an Argos in-store kiosk this weekend, and as an avowed consumer, all I can say is, 'Mazel tov!`.

As an exercise in lightning-fast turnaround, it was truly breathtaking. I walked into the store with an idea of what I wanted. Using the touch-screen of the in-store kiosk, I entered the product codes of the items I wanted to purchase.

The system checked for availability, allowed me to add more items to my shopping basket, and when I was ready, accepted payment via credit card (which was facilitated by a built-in card reader).

By the time I`d strolled to the rear of the store to take delivery, the products were already zipping down the conveyor belt. The only hiccup in the process was the human element; the Argos staff employed as the final link in the product delivery chain were somewhat less than efficient, and slow-moving to boot.

If they`d been brainwashed into becoming customer service automatons, I could have been in and out of the store within five minutes. As it was, it took twice as long - which, considering what I might have had to endure at a similar store without such cool technology in place, is still quite impressive.

As cool as it is, though, I can`t see this sort of application working for anything other than a catalogue-based shopping experience. All other consumer experiences are totally dependent on the customer`s freedom to browse their way off the shopping list, and into the territory of impulse buying. Nevertheless, I can`t wait to see what Argos will come up with next.

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