In the first part of this post, I wrote about what it means to be cool and why retailers struggle to get there. For this blog post, I will highlight my favorite signs for 2012 and conclude on what retailers should do.
The adoption of the following technologies will reach an inflection point in 2012 wherein the "last mile" problem will be easier to address, making it imperative for retailers to compete on coolness. These check all 3 boxes of the cool quotient ICE – Innovative, Captivating, and Effective; and are signs of things to come.
- Multi Touch – With Microsoft announcing a store-friendly version of the Surface shipping in early 2012, and several other retail specific large screen touch displays entering the market at attractive price points, plan for more magic mirror moments.
- Gesture Computing – Kinect SDK for commercial usage is expected to be released in early 2012. Anticipate an explosion of minority report-esque use cases (e.g. virtual fitting rooms, interactive shopping windows)
- Tablets – With Tim Cook reporting in October that 92% of fortune 500 companies are testing/deploying iPads in less than 18 months, one can expect the tablet - the fastest ramping device category in history – to make its presence felt for retailers as well. The surge in sales/conversions on tablets this holiday season thus far reaffirms the faith several retailers had kept on the importance of a tablet strategy. Look out for an exponential increase in the number of retailers rolling out customer & associate facing tablet applications.
- Digital Voice Technology – When Wolfram Alpha introduced shopping features built around Best Buy's public APIs, it became easy to imagine how the conversation will shift from customer and phone to customer and retailer. With chatter on Apple releasing a Siri API next year, based on the apps explosion we have seen, expect an explosion in innovation & adoption here.
- Cloud – Gartner predicts that in 2012, building new applications on a cloud-computing infrastructure will be the de facto norm for enterprises. For the customer, this development will result in the "Lean Store", a vision that will finally become main stream where stores are nimble enough to adapt, so that anything in the store exists only to solve the ever changing customer need.
- Mobile – Stores’ rightly predicts mobile to be a massive transformational force in retail, for its ability to take a retailer to its omnichannel vision. Although there are excelling signs within the areas of mobile marketing and operations and NRF’s mobile blueprint helps retailers navigate the mobile landscape, it is the area of mobile commerce that excites me, specifically NFC. Forrester predicts 20% of consumers will have an NFC-enabled handset in 2012, a critical mass that will enable seamless sharing of information, payments etc.
I am not saying that there are only 6 signs to look out for in 2012; this is just a selection to get the ball rolling. I feel all the above signs are areas a retailer should focus on to become "cool", keeping in mind the target customer of course.
Another key point to note is that the bureaucratic challenge of getting the concerned teams (read marketing, IT, shadow IT, retail ops etc) within the organization to collaborate, cannot be solved by any of the technological solutions that are listed above. What will be needed is the setting up of appropriate organizational structures and governance mechanisms, which in itself is worthy of another blog post which I will attempt to publish. Only with collaboration can "cool" retail solutions/innovations be rolled out on a large scale, versus one-off marketing events.
In conclusion - I must admit that coolness may not guarantee significant economic benefits, but the possibility of transforming the customer experience is very high. And in today’s world, that decides if a retailer succeeds or not.
What are the signs you are looking for in 2012, that would make it necessary for retailers to act? Plan to be "cool" is my advice.