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Reports: Big Y bids farewell to self checkout

BY Allison Cerra

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Big Y is saying "so long," to its self-service checkout lanes at its stores, according to published reports.

The New England-based retailer is slated to phase out self-serve lanes at all 61 locations.

"After extensive research, Big Y has concluded that these self checkout lanes not only do not save their customers time but usually take them even more time to check out than customers in standard checkout lanes," the company said in a statement. “Self-checkout lines get clogged as the customers needed to wait for store staff to assist with problems with bar codes, coupons, payment problems and other issues that invariably arise with many transactions."

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Kansas City, Mo., coalition saves nearly $11 million in healthcare costs

BY Alaric DeArment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A value-based benefits project saved a group of employers in Kansas City, Mo., nearly $11 million in direct healthcare costs.

The Kansas City Collaborative, or KC2, launched a project focused on giving employees and their dependents access to better health information, reducing barriers to preventive care, engaging them in reducing health risks and accessing earlier treatment of chronic disease. Led by the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care, the project included 15 local employers and about 400,000 area employees and their dependents.

"The Kansas City Collaborative employers are to be commended for recognizing the importance of investing in the health and wellbeing of their employees and making benefit design decisions based on data," MACHC president and CEO Christine Wilson said. "By implementing a value-based approach to health benefit design, this group of employers has been able to better address worker health and productivity while also lowering overall healthcare costs."

Employers participating in KC2 include H&R Block, Hallmark Cards, Spring, the University of Kansas Hospital Authority, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and others.

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OneRiot joins @WalmartLabs experiment

BY Gail Hoffer

BRISBANE, Calif. — Wal-Mart Stores marked a major investment in social media and marketing with the announcement Wednesday that its technology unit @WalmartLabs has acquired mobile and social advertising firm OneRiot.

Befitting its interest in social media, @WalmartLabs shared the news via blog post, noting that the Boulder, Colo.-based OneRiot "has developed some pretty nifty technology that analyzes social media signals from popular networks like Twitter and Facebook to deliver ads that are relevant to consumers’ interests. As our teams debated the finer points of Big Data, Fast Data, and machine learning technologies, it became clear to us that we could find no better colleagues than the guys at OneRiot."

Under the terms of the agreement, OneRiot will relocate and become part of the @WalmartLabs team this month.

"The technology at the core of what we do is the social genome, which enables us to connect millions of consumers with the best products based on their interests at any given moment. The OneRiot technology will enrich the social genome, and the OneRiot team adds to the already deep expertise we have around social data analysis," the blog stated.

Wal-Mart Stores has been heavily investing in social and mobile commerce since April when it acquired the services of Kosmix a Mountain View, Calif.-based company to grow its multichannel strategy. Kosmix’s founders Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman were tapped to lead the newly formed @WalmartLabs that was created to support Walmart’s global multichannel strategy, which integrates the shopping experience between brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce. Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman are early pioneers of online shopping, whose first company, Junglee, was acquired by Amazon.com in 1998.

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