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?

At Shoptalk: Fulfillment’s Faster, Freer Finale

IN THE FRICTION-FREE WORLD of online retailing, getting the order is easy. Delivering on the promise is hard.

At the Las Vegas Shoptalk conference last week retail thought-leaders shared insights about the fulfillment challenge. Their consensus: it’s not going to get any easier.

“My bet on shipping is faster and freer,” said Jason Goldberger, president, Target.com and Mobile Target, in a panel on The Changing Role of Stores in Ecommerce Fulfillment.

“It used to be that our guests just wanted free shipping,” he added. Now they demand overnight delivery and same-day store pickup.

logo_484x72

Michael Tobin, SVP Strategy & Innovation at Macy’s, explained that successful and cost-effective fulfillment now requires a sophisticated algorithm that considers multiple factors, including the ship-to address, units on hand, units to ship, location capacity, combinability of items in an order, and more. “We’re on the 3rd or fourth version of that algorithm,” he said.

Read moreAt Shoptalk: Fulfillment’s Faster, Freer Finale

The Store is Dead! Long Live the Store!

Margo Georgiadis, GoogleTHE DISTINCTION between online and off-line retail sales grows blurrier by the minute, as shoppers meld their consideration and purchasing behaviors into an “all-line” shopping continuum that spans brick, web and mobile.

“The war for store traffic will be won or lost on digital,” said Margo Georgiades, President of Americas, Google, who spoke in Tucson, AZ last week at the 19th Global Retailing Conference sponsored by the Terry J. Lundgren Center for retailing at the University of Arizona.

In 2010, U.S. retail stores recorded 39 billion “footsteps” in November-December, she reported. By the same period in 2014 that number had declined to 18 billion. Despite that huge drop-off in store traffic, store revenues grew for the same periods from $641B in 2010 to $737B in 2014.

“Those footsteps didn’t go away,” she said. They just went online.”

Read moreThe Store is Dead! Long Live the Store!

Call It Mobile Yellow

Scan these tags

I SPIED THE WHOLE grocery universe in a single bunch of fruit. This transcendental experience occurred just last week in West Des Moines, IA. (Quite rightly.)

It all happened in a bright, spacious HyVee supermarket in an upscale, verdant neighborhood that a decade ago was pretty much a cornfield. I entered the store thinking, “They built this, so I have come.”

But my Field of Dreams reverie dissolved when I stepped up to the produce department. My first view was an abundant display of bananas – the largest selling produce item in most supermarkets.

I pulled out my smartphone and snapped this picture, with the classic lyric by Donovan resonating in my brain like a prophetic soundtrack:

Electrical banana is gonna be a sudden craze
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase

You see, what really blew my mind were the two little stickers on this hand of bananas. On the left, a stacked UPC bar code and on the right a QR (quick response) 2D code. Each of these artifacts tells a little story about the impact of digital technology on our business. (Quite rightly)

The UPC bar code is of format known as RSS_14 designed to convey more information than old-style 9-digit codes. When I scan it with a gadget on my smart phone it correctly identifies the product as Dole bananas. Presumably the POS scanners in this HyVee supermarket are just as smart. The advantage: it saves the checker a few keystrokes and accurately enters the PLU (price look up) code for this variety of produce which is sold by weight.

The QR code on the right is used to direct shoppers to a web site called yonanas.com . When I scanned it with the same smart phone app, it led me to a page pitching a simple kitchen appliance that lets consumers make a soft-serve dessert from frozen ripe bananas and other fruit.

The Dole brand is featured prominently on the target Web page. Presumably there’s a deal behind it all. The Yonana appliance is marketed by Healthy Foods LLC, itself a division of Winston Products LLC in Cleveland, Ohio.

Peering at my smartphone screen under the fluorescent lights in that immaculate HyVee store in one of the greenest places in America, I found myself thinking, “It really has come to this: agricultural and digital have converged in America’s heartland.”

Then the digital banana concept set off a minor cascade of linguistic play: Bananas come in hands… Digit is Latin for finger… Smart phones are made with gorilla glass… (Quite rightly)

So in tribute to Donovan, the iconic Sunshine Superman inducted this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’d like to offer this (somewhat less lilting) variation on his theme:

Digital banana is gonna be a sudden craze
Digital banana is bound to be the very next phase
I call it mobile yellow (Quite rightly)
© Copyright 2012 James Tenser