This past week I was catching up on my reading and found two articles about how computing will change the face of retail the first in IEEE Computer and the second was in Bloomberg BusinessWeek titled: Virtual Shopping in 3D.
Both articles show how consumerization is entering into the retail space in a big way, with the Microsoft Kinects spurring the imagination far outside the gaming community. There is a great example from FaceCake which virtualizes the “dressing room” experience in a way that speeds up the shopping process. What I found interesting is that most of the technology shown in the video is actually more likely to be found at home than at a retailer – possibly changing the definition of what shopping means.
In a similar vein there was a demonstration by Tissot at Harrods of using virtual reality techniques to supplement even the window shopping experience.
One of the technologies I was able to embrace last week when I was at the HP labswas a wall size display – the one I saw was probably 15 feet long but there are installations much larger. It was running at mutliples of high def resolution. This comes from the team researching the mobile and immersive experience of the future.
This technology was applied at the CES earlier this year to have a full size 3D display of earth wind and fire. I had a chance to see that video in the lab and it was strange to walk right up and almost step into a life-size 3D display.
It is clear that the 3D sensing and display technologies can change retail going forward.
There have been a number of announcements recently about companies using their IT capabilities to change the interaction with people on a daily and dynamic basis.
One recent example is PepsiCo’s launch of a “social vending machine”. It’s half vending and half bank machine, allowing "random acts of refreshment," or the ability to buy a drink for a stranger, in situations such as sending "a symbol of encouragement to a city that's experienced some challenging weather or a congratulatory beverage to a university that just won a championship," PepsiCo said. I can see it now when a city wins a championship – drinks all around.
Coke had done some other interesting things with interactive vending machines and custom flavors. The Pei-Wei near my home recently put one of these in. Unfortunately, I just wanted a drink and having millions of combinations was a bit too much to deal with.
All of these machines have one thing in common. They collect information about the tastes of those who use them and send that information back for analysis. They provide flexibility and increased functionality. It does make you wander what new business models are possible and what information can be gained, especially if they are linked to our mobile devices to enable the transactions.
We’ve seen it from banks for a while, and in some parts of the world (like Kenya) with phones. Based on some of the videos it looks like we’ve just started to see these capabilities come to fruition. What will happen to retail when the Internet is assimilated to the same extent it is in the entertainment space?
In response to the series of instant-on posts this week, I was asked if this is just a technical foundation that enables all industries or is there an industry specific flavor (if so what would it look like?). Since we live in an “and not or” world, anyone who reads my posts would know the answer was: both. Here is an example of a possible instant-on retail scenario:
Since coffee consumption seems to be an experience that is familiar to almost everyone, imagine a customer walks into their local favorite java joint (naturally one that has thousands of stores worldwide). In a nanosecond, a sensor in the store recognizes this customer’s smart phone ID and finds her previous purchase history in the company’s CRM system. The CRM system understands that this customer’s favorite drink is a double latte with an amaretto shot and that she tried the egg sandwich on her last visit. The system sorts through available offers for cross-sell opportunities and can recognize the context of the situation. Based on the time of day and previous purchase behavior, it predicts an 85 percent chance that this customer would order an egg sandwich if it were half-price but only 10% otherwise. If she has expressed interest in these types of offers, her smart phone now displays the store’s own ordering app and asks her if she’d like “the usual.” It also displays a coupon for the half-off breakfast sandwich. With the press of a button, she orders the coffee and the sandwich, and authorizes payment—without ever having to wait in line or talk to the cashier. The smart phone app shows a countdown of when her order will be ready.
These are the kinds of implementations that are possible when a business moves beyond data into behavior. When you can sense patterns and likely actions and make it easy for the consumer to want to extend the relationship. When business can take advantage of the sensors and relationships that already exist around us.
In many cases the computing, networking, sensing and information is out there, we just need to take advantage of the opportunities before us.
I just noticed that Tom Hogan has a video about the instant-on enterprise that some may find helpful:
Somehow I've not really heard about Cyber Monday before this year, or maybe I just forgot since last year's retail holiday season was so dismal. Cyber Monday is the term for the Monday immediately following Black Friday. It's been around since 2005 and appears to be more of a marketing term than a reality -- as the busiest shopping day of the year. Some people say that Cyber Monday will catch up with Black Friday, but I doubt it, since Black Friday is as much a sport as it is shopping - sometimes a full contact sport at that. There is some difference of opinion about when it is though, since in the UK it is the first Monday of December.
With the recovery starting it will be interesting to see how the numbers pan out this year, since expectations are high. Retail organization's IT systems will be put to the test so it hopefully we'll not see too many IT system meltdowns, like they have in the past.