2012.42 | Tech Trends to Shape 2013

Fast Company recently released an article about the technology trends that will Shape 2013.  These 20 items cover a broad range, but almost all of them are worthy of consideration by retailers.  Check out just a few of these items.

CaptureSmartphone accessories become smarter – As the article indicates, smartphone accessories are already getting smarter. Going beyond the usual accessories like Nike Fuel, Jawbone Up, Fitbit, and Wemo, we can expect to see a whole range of accessories such as the AliveCor ECG referenced by Fast Company article.

From a retail perspective, this trend will drive a market for new devices, but for retailers and shoppers it also provides more shopping channels. Consider prescription pill bottles that can ensure you take your meds and automatically add refills to the mobile app on your smart phone when they are near the end of supply. Consider electric toothbrushes that remind your smart phone that you are due to replace your toothbrush head. These are just two examples of how devices and products in our home can talk to our smart phones.

Retailers need to be certain that they are prepared to take advantage of these sorts of small changes as they occur so that their brands are positioned to take advantage of these technologies to simplify shopping for their targeted consumers and lock them in like the Amazon Kindle Store does for eBooks or iTunes does for music.

Think how easy it would be go connect this to Amazon Subscribe & Save.  Consumers don’t even need to wait.  They could build their own with enabled devices using IFTTT to get different services to talk to each other to do this.

800px-Jurvetson_Google_driverless_car_trimmedWe lose control of our cars – Google and all of the auto manufacturers certainly seem to be pushing towards making self driving cars a reality. Autonomous vehicles are now legal in Nevada, Florida and California and have driven thousands of miles already.  Volvo is looking to have self driving cars in 2014.

This completely changes the shopping perspective when going from one destination to another doesn’t involve being part of the driving process. Imagine a new sort of shopping regimen created by the free time given to people by not having to drive. Imagine how important it will be for retailers to have inventory online by store so that our cars using our smartphones can direct us through the best possible route to get home and get all the things on our shopping lists to get on with our lives.

Once again it’s important for retailers to keep an eye on these sorts of developments and make their systems as open as possible for services to be leveraged so that consumers can interact with them from whatever channel they choose.

We embrace a new kind of patina – This idea says that what makes things ours will not be the scratches and dents on the watch we use our whole life, but the personality we bring to our profile.   That personality will be something that drives our interactions with consumer facing organizations.

Leveraging the information that consumers are willing to share with retailers along with low cost technology means that more and richer experiences can be provided using alternative interfaces within stores.    This means using their data to identify them and to provide them a customized experience based on their preferences, past purchase history and more.  These interactions could be with any sort of screen – large format, projected, or anything.

From a retailer perspective this means that touchpoints and content are more important than ever.  Thinking through the message, the brand, and what the touchpoints are meant to be are a key element of any roadmap.  Operations, marketing and technology need to be inextricably linked for any of this to work at all, let alone achive a differentiated successful solution.

CaptureHuman computer interaction gets more humanistic – Computer interaction from a retail perspective is already becoming more humanistic with tools like Siri (Book a table for 2 at 6) Google Voice Search (Where can I buy a copy of Shawshank redemption) that allow voice interactions to transact. Projected virtual assistance at stores like Duane Reade automate greetings or the sharing of information required at consumer facing place of business with a human like interaction. As the technology gets more sophisticated, we can expect a personal shopper that can discuss our shopping options in a more Siri like interactive conversation.

This provides the opportunity for retailers to provide a more curated customer specific experience in a consistent targeted manner that can be updated centrally.

Data ecology becomes more diverse – The amount of data generated is exploding.  That’s not news.  From a retailer perspective, there  are new sources to consider.  eBook readers can tell us how long it takes people to read a book.  It can tell us if they finished it or not.   It goes way deeper, allowing for a new level of understanding of clients.   New channels mean more data and more complexity.

From a retailer perspective, it will be important that all of these new channels take into account how data will be gathered and analyzed.  If you build a mobile app and only 400 people use it, that may sound like a loser if you have thousands of stores.  However, those may be your most important customers that lead the rest of  your customer base.  Without the data to understand who they are, retailers could mistakenly discontinue their most important customers’ favourite channel.

Interaction choreography goes shopping / Faces become interfaces – These are just new flavours of interactive experiences in malls.  Gesture based catalogs on large format screens is to yesterday’s gift registry kiosk as the 60″ flatscreen is to yesterday’s 23″ tube television.  The facial recognition is interesting, but will certainly bring up some issues around privacy.  Both of these fall under the comments on the patina item above.

The article has many other great items.  Read them all.  Stay open to new ideas, and consider how they will influence your business and your customers.  Most importantly ensure that anything considered brings value to the organization and the customer – however you define value.

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