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5 Theses on IT and the (near) Future of Retail May 2, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in mobile, social computing, theory.

Together with my friend Ilaria Forte, CEO from RadicalFuture, I prepared a short talk on how technology will have an impact in retail, especially for large multi-channel retailers. We developed the following 5 thesis on that subject:

FUTURE WAVE 1: technology –> access to information –> give power and control to the customers

NOW: new technologies provide to the customers fast and easy access to tremendous amounts of information upon which to base their buying decisions.  The tech-empowered consumer “knows everything already“ and is often more informed about a given product than most of the staff within the store. Above all, knowledge means power and control (e.g. negotiate purchase at the lowest price in the market).


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  • Instant information on products as e.g. price check App by Amazon or the goodguide App, which give instant information on the sustainble aspects of a product
  • Support in the entire context of the product as e.g. “Project Help” by Lowes.com, with tools to help archieving complex tasks in your home with amongst others a project “Calculator” or a “How-To” or a buying guide.

TOMORROW: consumers are getting wiser, access to information will be easier and faster. Consumers will demand higher service standards, offline and online.

IMPLICATIONS: consumers will expect staff excellence, superlative service and proved expertise. Retailer will need to get smarter, transparent and trustworthy. Upgrade store staff skills through training might be too expensive and not enough.
By using innovative technologies that integrate information assets and business processes, retailer will improve service levels at relatively low cost.

FUTURE WAVE 2: technology –> automation + simplification –> make easier everyday life tasks

NOW: new technologies and improvements make the overall shopping experience faster, more simple and more flexible for the customer. Consumers are looking to connect with retailers anytime, anyplace & anywhere. They can decide where (virtual or physical space), how (mobile, online, in-store), when (24/7).


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  • Shopping experience seamlessly integrated between online, mobile and offline as e.g. “Buy Online – Pick Up at Store” by HomeDepot or Apple EasyPay (“While in an Apple Store, quickly purchase accessories on your own with EasyPay (requires iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S)”)

TOMORROW: the whole purchasing and buying process will become simplified and faster thanks to integrated applications (online, mobile and in-store).

IMPLICATIONS: consumers will expect easy shopping experience, 1-click shopping especially for low involvement, low price and frequent purchase product categories.

FUTURE WAVE 3: technology –> access to real-time data –> make consumption a truly personal experience

NOW: personalized-shopping thanks to real-time data is mainly used by online retailers. Personalized tools include public profile, community settings, registries, gift and shopping lists, product reviews, personalized content and shopping lists.


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  • Audience detection for more personalized shopping experience as e.g. .g Intel AIM Suite, which “is able to discern a person’s gender, race, approximate age and, based on the contours of the person’s face and positioning, just how long he actually looks at the screen.” (White Paper: “Video Analytics for Digital Signage Deployments”)
  • Strong integration of store staff for personalized retail experience as e.g. concept “Identitymine Store”, presented by Microsoft: “Customers Create Preferences On App For Tailored In-Store Experience” und “The shopper can use their app to create a profile, browse products and make a shopping list. When they arrive at the physical store they can check in using the app and contact the store assistant, who views the customer’s profile, shopping list and purchase history using the app on a Windows tablet. The assistant can identify the customer in-store from their profile picture.” (source)

TOMORROW: address the needs and preferences of individual consumer online and in-store

IMPLICATIONS: access to data will be more and more the lifeblood of any retail marketing operation. Real-time interactive analysis of customer‘s preferences will deliver rapid customer insights. It is important to personalize a customer’s experience in the store.

FUTURE WAVE 4: technology –> network supported social exchange and interaction–> make shopping more social

NOW:  social shopping is a pervasive trend. Consumers share products, purchases, and deals with friends and family.  Recommendations mainly based on purchases and searches, reviews from other customers and friends.


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  • Social Shopping goes beyond recommendations as e.g. Ticketmaster’s feature of seeing where you friend are seating when purchasing a ticket

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  • The fun part of shopping is to be social as e.g. the TweedMirror by Nedap – even though the implementation of this concept is too nerdy from my point of view, but the direction is right!
  • Social Experience must be enabled as e.g. wiht Triptrotting, “who will help you feel like a local when you travel.”

TOMORROW: social commerce is expected to grow (forecasted $30 billion in 2015). The role of social media will continue to grow in the world of online shopping and beyond. From online to offline: the social aspects of the web will improve shopping experience in-store.

 IMPLICATIONS: put together all forms of commerce and channels (mobile, social networking, e-commerce, email, and in-store) into one “syndicated” experience. Customer deals, offers, promotions, and experiences must be one with the brand and the brand experience.

FUTURE WAVE 5: technology –> participative tools –> enable customers participation and co-creation

NOW: creating is a global trend: the active consumer, develops solutions and shares them with the community, which then again can learn and improve. Crowd-sourcing, liquid democracy and open-source are hints toward this trend.


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Consumers like to create and share  as e.g. in the DIY-scene, but also in recipes as e.g. Food52, the „the first crowd-sourced cookbook“

TOMORROW: customers will become more active. we will see more and more co-production, involving consumers in the whole process. consumers will want to have support in their active approach to consumption and they might even want to share the revenue, which is generated through their activities.

IMPLICATIONS: retailers will need to clearly identify the key areas for active consumption. Enabling the consumer to create needs to be applied both, online and offline, from design to selling.



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