Time Won’t Stand Still Nor Will Technology
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
Changing Technology. Some form of that term has been used since the dawn of time, though in the old days, new “technology” meant the introduction of early stone tools, the use of fire, cooking and clothes. While it might seem that many of today’s innovations aren’t as monumental as the first use of those early develoments, some sure seem pretty close!
Everyone knows that one of my favorite companies is Apple. The innovations brought into our lives by the iPhone and iPad alone have been amazing. How many silly questions can you ask Siri? Likewise, Amazon has revolutionized the way we buy things (and that’s just the beginning), putting pressure on brick and mortar retailers along with the many other online sellers. Amazon’s “personal assistant,” the Echo, has about 70% of the voice-controlled speaker market and they just introduced the Echo Show (basically the unit with a screen). Alphabet Inc., or Google as we know it, has also jumped into the PA device market with Google Home; Microsoft has its Cortana. These are amazing devices that can get you answers, play music, help you communicate and see other people, and become a part of your life. They can increase your productivity, amuse and entertain you, help educate your children and perhaps even babysit them.
We also hear about Tesla and just about every other auto maker working on self-driving cars and trucks, threatening the jobs of bus and delivery drivers. Even Uber drivers can be replaced by autonomous driving vehicles.
The shifting world of technology will eliminate many jobs while creating many more. How does some of this effect your life, your business and our industry?
People still want to go outside of the home for many things. Retailers who struggle getting people into their stores have long relied on sales events. Today, the better retailers are switching to more “customer experience”-type events. The basic truth remains: You can’t sample perfume, feel fabric, walk in new shoes or look in a mirror when a tailor is altering a new suit online. All of that and more has to be done in person.
As a result, the practice of “showrooming” has taken hold. This refers people going to brick-and-mortar stores to view and sample products, then leaving the store to buy online (quite often from Amazon.com) using their mobile device or computer. Buying diapers or other repeat/replenish-type items is so easy with Amazon. Some items can be ordered this morning and received this afternoon or evening. Who needs to lug diapers home from a store when they can be delivered to you at a great price?
Delivering what we do as an industry is a bit different. We have FECs that are, for the most part, “event based,” the event most often being a birthday party or some other celebration. Those, along with celebrity meet-and-greets, concerts, corporate events, business seminars, team building conclaves, project graduations and so on get people into our amusement centers. Similarly, last month I wrote about the emergence of bar locations with arcade and pinball games that new generations are discovering for the first time.
Technology in payment and collecting data about our customers/players has evolved, too. For a long time, we only had coin changers and argued about why we needed a new dollar coin or why we needed to keep the quarter.
Today, seeing bill acceptors, credit and debit card swipers and other cashless systems like PayRange is common. Several of those usually wind up on the same game. My saying “If it can’t take money, it can’t make money” has always been on my mind along with the corresponding effort of making as many payment options available to players as possible.
As an added plus, harvesting the data from these payment systems and accounting software adds a lot of value to the technology. It can be used to reward and market to your players, building repeat business and loyalty. It can be used to evaluate game performance, help decide what prizes to use, and what prices to charge to get the optimum play value and ROI.
This evolving technology is something operators should pay close attention to as it will be the difference between thinner and larger profits, unhappy customers and positive, repeat business. The attention you pay to this is certain to pay you back.
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at [email protected] jerseyjackpinball.com.