Retail Tech Innovation or Consumer Change: Which Came First?

retail tech innovation or shopper behavior

THE EXPANSION of omnichannel retailing presents our industry with a chicken-and-egg problem: Does consumer behavior drive changes in retail tech innovation or does retail tech drive changes in consumer behavior?

This is much more than a philosophical musing. It’s a question that matters greatly to retailers. Retailing becomes more intricate over time at a pace that exceeds growth in consumption.

This means the next incremental dollar you add to your top line will be a little bit harder to obtain than the last one. Omnichannel requires retailers to maintain, optimize and adjust to keep pace with shopper expectations and behaviors. Those expectations change fast. They are elevated by shopper experiences and shaped by forces outside the retailer’s control.

I call this the Law of Equivalent Experience: The best service standard experienced anywhere is instantly expected everywhere.

Read moreRetail Tech Innovation or Consumer Change: Which Came First?

Millennials: The Next ‘Pig in the Python’

FOR GRAYING BABY BOOMERS like me, the awesome power of demographics has in many ways defined our lives. There are a lot of us. We clogged our kindergartens, our universities, our workplaces, our media, our politics and our communities with sheer numerical might; and the retail marketing universe seemed to revolve around our needs and our sense of entitlement.

In his 1980 book, Great Expectations, author Landon Y. Jones called this phenomenon “a pig in a python” – a rather visceral visualization of how the boomers’ demographic bulge has traveled through America’s culture, distorting as it goes.

Along the way we also had a lot of kids. So many, in fact that we engendered an echo boom that is numerically larger than our own. In case you haven’t noticed, those 75 million “millennials,” as the demographers like to call them, now largely dominate cultural, political and marketing discourse. Not to mention our consumer economy – the 18-34 cohort wields $2 trillion in purchasing power.

Read moreMillennials: The Next ‘Pig in the Python’

Contactless Payments — What’s Taking So Long?

Mywallet in PolandIT’S BEEN A HALF-DECADE since I first got religion about the potential for “contactless payments” using NFC-enabled wallets in mobile phones. A very bright entrepreneur brought the concept to my attention and asked me to help advise his new firm. I agreed and got myself launched up the learning curve.

Most readers probably know that NFC (near-field communications) is a form of wireless radio that works only across a few centimeters. It’s perfect for enabling a mobile phone to communicate securely with a point of sale terminal. If the phone has an NFC chip and wallet app installed, a tap can function as a substitute for a card-swipe to enable payments and even frequent-shopper redemptions in a few milliseconds.

Mobile wallets are gaining traction throughout the developed world. The image reproduced here documents Eurobank’s version in Poland. Here in the U.S. we observe a slower pace of development, although the recent launch of Apple Pay seems to have kicked up the interest. Then again, yesterday’s disclosure of a data breech affecting the competing CurrentC service from Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) has a lot of heads shaking.

Read moreContactless Payments — What’s Taking So Long?

Invoking Relevance

RelevanceBEST PRACTICE IN MOBILE ADVERTISING remains an oxymoron, as marketers grapple with the natural tension between intrusiveness and usefulness. There is a strong drive to justify ad spending and validate the business premise behind personalized promotions. Relevance seems to be the key, we are told, and the unique data-capturing and consumer-tracking capabilities of mobile devices should materialize a marketer’s nirvana in which every message is on-target and welcomed.

Recent consumer research from PriceWaterhouseCoopers suggests that this formula may need to be applied with greater subtlty, however.  In Mobile advertising: What do US consumers want?, PwC researchers find, “There is an overall aversion to the prevalence of mobile advertising. Even ads that are relevant to personal interests do not directly translate to ad interest or engagement.”

This poses a challenge indeed, since according to PwC, “The biggest challenge is to leverage the knowledge of how consumers are using mobile to improve monetization from ad delivery.”

Read moreInvoking Relevance