Tag Archives: innovation

Convergence is Redefining Retail.

Innovation is disrupting and redefining retail as never before.

A convergent media landscape, created by fast-changing technologies, has increasingly blurred the boundaries between media, social networks and retail.

The combination of advances in technology and shifting consumer’ expectations has resulted in e-commerce increasingly meaning “everywhere-commerce”.

Tech innovation has led to the emergence of the always-on consumer, who expects goods to be just a single tap away, and to be able to effortlessly shop across a multitude of channels, at the right time and in the most convenient place – a phenomenon accelerated by the rise of mobile commerce, which is set to exceed £15bn in the UK this year.

To address this consumer need, tech and social media companies are looking into new methods of shortening the path to purchase, laying the foundations for the creation of an everywhere commerce ecosystem.

In recent weeks several media / tech companies have made a foray into this space, evolving from pure media players into digital commerce game changers. For example, YouTube has recently launched click-and-buy video adverts, allowing consumers to buy products directly from the video ads they are watching.

As part of its attempt to take on Amazon and eBay, Google has revealed plans to embed a “buy button” to its search results, enabling consumers to make purchases without needing to visit an alternative site.

Pinterest is planning to introduce a “buy button” on its platform too, whilst Twitter and Facebook have been testing one since last year.

For brands existing in the retail space, it’s clear that e-commerce, mobile commerce or ‘everywhere commerce’ is critical to the successful growth of their business. Take Mondelez, Diageo, and AB InBev, for example, which as businesses generally don’t sell directly to consumers, but they are now looking into how all forms of digital commerce can deliver growth, and it’s here that the role of media has never been clearer in driving direct business value.

Mondelez has recently embedded a ‘buy it now’ button into the brand’s online media, allowing customers to buy their favourite snacks directly from online video advertising, online promotions and social media.

Retailers looking to harness the power of convergent commerce need to follow five principles:

Brilliant basics: retailers must focus on accessibility. Search, marketing and addressing any failings in mobile optimisation are crucial. This has become even more important since the introduction of the new Google’s search algorithm, which will show only ‘mobile friendly’ websites on its search results.

Smarter media: retailers must deploy data to ensure effective targeting strategies. These will help retailers engage with the right people with the right message, and then create the opportunity for consumers to buy within media rather than just driving them to point-of-sale. Mobile technology has added a shoppable layer to most media channels, such as digital out-of-home or television, allowing us to add a shopping basket within ad units, tweet to purchase, support micropayments, pre-ordering, group purchases, and many other forms of sale. With technologies like Sky AdSmart, programmatic buying and second-screening, we’re reaching a point where we can personalise TV advertising as never before, enabling consumers to purchase the products they are watching on the screen without even entering credit card details, and have them in their hands within the hour.

Constant innovation: retailers must constantly test and learn, experimenting with new channels, technologies, distribution models, partnerships, content and creative thinking. Insights from testing new approaches are always valuable.

Holistic evaluation: in an everywhere-commerce environment, retailers need to have a strong understanding of which touch-points within their ecosystem are delivering against which KPIs, and how the network is performing holistically. A data-led evaluation framework enables retailers to optimise the entire operation around channels that truly work.

Internal collaboration: existing barriers between internal departments need to be broken down. There is a lot of crossover between product, trading, commerce and marketing, and integrated thinking and shared objectives have become a must for retailers wanting to meet expectations and needs of a consumer with an on-demand mindset.

Opinion originally posted on http://www.retailgazette.co.uk/blog/2015/06/how-retailers-can-harness-the-power-of-media

Retail

Facebook Buy – frictionless innovation

Facebook’s recent introduction of a ‘buy’ button, allowing users on desktop and mobile to buy advertised products with just one click, and without leaving the social network, is yet another demonstration of social platforms looking towards monetization beyond display advertising.

The new feature, which so far has only been tested by a few small and medium-sized businesses in the US, is Facebook’s most recent innovation in the realm of frictionless commerce and will help the social network be less reliant on advertising.

It isn’t just Facebook exploring direct and affiliate revenue. Twitter has just announced the acquisition of CardSpring, a payment infrastructure, that enables retailers to connect to publishers to create online-to-offline promotions; Pinterest, meanwhile, has teamed up with Shopify, an e-commerce platform for more than 100,000 merchants, which ensures that all pins of their products include valuable information such as pricing and stock availability.

These approaches enable platforms to become more insular experiences, almost like shopping malls – allowing users to socialise with their friends, grab a coffee, find and share new content, search and purchase products, all without leaving their space. Whilst Amazon has huge capabilities in commerce and fulfillment, they lack the social dynamic – and social platforms integrating commerce means you can have a more enjoyable ‘browsing’ experience, without having to leave the space.

The rise of media convergence, driven not least by the unprecedented growth of mobile device usage, is increasingly bringing commerce and content closer together. The constant assault of new technologies, whether Facebook’s ‘buy’ button, Amazon’s FireFly or examples like PowaTag, which allows consumers to instantly purchase products via QR codes, are continuing to break down the old models of what, where and how retail is defined – e-commerce is now becoming ‘everywhere’ commerce.

The biggest threat to retailers now comes from standing still.

Not exploring and experimenting with new distribution channels will open up opportunities for new forms of competitors, enabling them to steal ‘share of time’ and even poach customers – a dangerous scenario that retailers can no longer ignore. Now is the time for retailers and brands who exist in retail spaces to work with their partners, and understand how they can use these technologies to redefine their retail experience, and redefine how media can deliver business value.

(Originally posted on Retail Week)

Pixar’s rules of storytelling…

… are useful beyond storytelling.

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

This is simply powerful in life and work.

It’s prototyping.
It’s ambition.
It’s destiny.

It connects to the brilliant thinking (or rather doing) that I see in businesses which inspire me like Undercurrent who turn strategy on its head, and start with execution and ideas.

Ideas are brilliant because they’re intuitive, and humans are intuitive. And if you play enough with ideas, you’ll find brilliant strategic connections without even looking.

So starting at the end or the outcome isn’t such a crazy thing to do.

Obsolesce is more.

Google by Michael Mandiberg
Google by Michael Mandiberg, used under CC License

I’ve been thinking recently about obsolescence, and whether we sometimes throw the baby out with the bathwater when jumping from one platform to another.

The Yellow Pages, for instance, has been practically destroyed and made irrelevant by Google, yet Google doesn’t allow you to browse in categories, as the Yellow Pages did, nor see an unrated/unfiltered/uneditorialised list of everyone in your local area – just those who have good page rank (and how many plumbers do you know that understand the importance of semantically structured content?).

The newspaper, although far from dead, is a snapshot of moment in time, and not just a single article but a massive slice through a single day, curating news, opinion, advertising, economics, literary style, design influence, and many other socially and culturally interesting aspects beyond just a specific piece of copy. Yes, the Wayback Machine exists, but it gives you little context.

Are there unique elements we lose, which still have value, as we progress to the next stage of an object or medium? How can they be amplified and either pivoted around or reborn to maintain relevance, rather than simply nostalgia?

Perhaps looking backwards is a good way of spotting valuable things we’ve lost and deserve to be remembered, or at the very least explored.

Unnovations.

shopping-cart-2010-10-15-600
(Image courtesy of the US Patent Office. Thanks guys, you’re legends)

Unnovation – the digitisation of a non-digital experience without additional thought around whether simple transfer from physical to digital really works. Using new technology either for the sake of technology or not using the technology to any potential..

Digital fridges are unnovation. Putting a screen on the fridge to display a to-do list, digitally replicating the photos, magnets and notes.

Digital signage is unnovation. Being able to replace paper with screens that do nothing more than being able to swap the bit of paper slightly faster.

It sits within the ‘Adjacent Possible’ concept that Steven B Johnson eloquently describes, where ideas are only possible by taking the next logical step from the current behaviours and technologies we have.

Unnovation, however, is fascinating for me.

In a recent research project for a client, I was exploring current and upcoming techniques in retail (offline and online) especially around new technology and emergent behaviours. What was striking was the amount of duplication and replication of ideas. Square, for instance, has inspired a dozen other mobile POS devices, and I lost count of the number of Shopping List applications for smart phones.

The shopping list apps are generally unnovation – digital versions of scraps of paper. Sure, you might be able share your list (although who cares that I need a can of tomatoes and a new bra?), you might want to find them for the cheapest price, but they’re all the same model: find a scrap of paper, itemise your list, purchase your items. Disconnected, and not smart.

Yet, the vast number of apps which display Shopping List functionality is encouraging.
We still need to remember stuff to purchase, and purchase it.

Innovation can often focus too much on external directions, moving from your passion centre and exploring new spaces for your business, when sometimes it can be far better to look inwards and identify the problems and opportunities right in front of you or that people are demanding. Asking people what they want can lead to a recommendation of a faster horse, but as Russell Davies puts it:

“Imagine what horses might be like now if science/industry had devoted as much attention to improving them as we’ve devoted to the internal combustion engine and industrial production. Horses would be INCREDIBLE.”

That there are many many many clones and examples of unnovation suggests there is an itch which is not being adequately scratched. It suggests no-one has provided a strong enough solution to address the process. When looking at a busy area of supposed innovation, such as retail, disregarding ideas like Shopping Apps simply because there are already 100 in the app store is not always a good idea. Sure, you need to do more to stand out, but that’s the opportunity, asking why a shopping list on a digital device needs to replicate its physical counterpart.

Understanding users’ demands, existing behaviours and looking at popular areas of development are massively valuable to innovation.
You might not start with a radically different product, but if there is a demand for something, it could help you fund the more visionary work you hope to continue investing in.

Update: There’s a really great article at Fast Co which expands upon the idea of spotting the value in popular suggestions.

Second Stage Use

I’ve been thinking alot over the past few years about when implementations of new technology become interesting.
There is often a pattern of:

– creation: someone very clever or opportunistically creates a new technique or technology, often an engineer with specific purpose in mind.
– beautiful implementation: someone also very clever uses the new technology, often slightly subverting the original use, and in a very striking way.
– saturation/mainstream: many many many other people use the technique again and again, but generally in the same way, just variation on a theme.
– hibernation: the technique often loses its main appeal, or the excitement of its original use lessens.
– blended use: someone, very clever or opportunistically, then blends the original technique with something else, a mashup, to create something better than the sum of its parts.

Whilst I love the creation and beautiful implementation phases, what really excites me is the second stage of use, the new subtle application of the technology, often combined with another technique or technology to create better effect. Location aware technology has been through the creation and beautiful implementation phases, and probably is coming through the saturation phase, and we’re starting to see some interesting blended location based ideas.

It is not the ‘I am here’ which is the cool thing about Foursquare, its the ‘I am here, and two of my friends have been here, and suggested not to try the coffee’ which is interesting. It is not the oyster card which is interesting, it is the email which I received about Farringdon being closed next week, initiated through my regular use of the station, rather than any explicit instruction for alerts.

This second stage use is what creates interesting ideas.

We’re not far from walking into Starbucks having already ordered our coffee whilst on the train, and it being hot and ready for you when you walk into the store, because it knew when you were 90 seconds away from picking it up.

The interesting comes from the result of an action, not from the action itself.