Friday, August 10, 2012 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||Why Shopping Will Never Be the Same
Nola Donato has seen the future of retail, and it is in a Magic Mirror.
The Intel scientist has designed a high-tech mirror that shows how clothes look on a consumer who simply stands in front of an LCD monitor. Parametric technology simulates body type and how fabrics fit -- based on weight, height and measurements.
Think of it as a digital fitting room. The concept is three to five years from fruition but could open the door for Intel in the retail market.
The convergence of smartphone technology, social-media data and futuristic technology such as 3-D printers is changing the face of retail in a way that experts across the industry say will upend the bricks-and-mortar model in a matter of a few years.
"The next five years will bring more change to retail than the last 100 years," says Cyriac Roeding, CEO of Shopkick, a location-based shopping app available at Macy's, Target and other top retailers.
Within 10 years, retail as we know it will be unrecognizable, says Kevin Sterneckert, a Gartner analyst who follows retail technology. Big-box stores such as Office Depot, Old Navy and Best Buy will shrink to become test centers for online purchases. Retail stores will be there for a "touch and feel" experience only, with no actual sales. Stores won't stock any merchandise; it'll be shipped to you. This will help them stay competitive with online-only retailers, Sterneckert says.
Branding strategist Adam Hanft says this all might sound futuristic, but much of it is rooted in reality. He says satellite stores will open in apartment buildings and office centers. FedEx and UPS will delve deeper into refrigerated home delivery. Google trucks will deliver local services. Clothing -- even pharmaceuticals -- will be produced in the home via affordable 3-D printers.
"Every waking moment is a shopping moment," says Steve Yankovich, head of eBay's mobile business, which expects to handle $10 billion in transactions this year. "Anytime, anywhere."
Game-shifting tech -- such as smartphones, location-based services, augmented reality and big data, which makes sense of all the data on mobile devices and social networks -- will most assuredly upend several multibillion-dollar retail markets, forcing retailers to adapt or die, say venture capitalists and analysts.
Eventually, 3-D printers will let consumers produce their own towels, utensils and clothes. While in their infancy, the devices have been used to print hearing aids, iPad cases and model rockets, says Andy Filo, an expert on 3-D printers. The technology is several years away, however, from being widely available and affordable, he says.
And almost all of it will be paid with...your phone.
"Cash will still exist, but no one will use it," says Jim Belosic, CEO of ShortStack, a self-service, social-media platform that lets users create custom Facebook tabs. "Carrier payments and the swipe of a smartphone will do the trick."
Technology advances won't just change the physical appearance of stores for consumers, but should transform the retail workforce into more of a customer-friendly field, too. Retailers who don't adapt quickly and successfully risk losing out, Sterneckert says.
What might this evolution mean for the nation's malls and shopping centers and people whose paychecks depend on today's retail model? Experts aren't predicting the end of the in-store experience, but it stands to reason that as with other industries, technology might improve efficiency while setting retailers on a path toward a leaner workforce.
Just as online retailers led a revolution in retail shopping in the 1990s, bricks-and-mortar retailers are ready to use technology to fight back.
By the time you walk into a store in the near future, the employees there will probably know what you want to buy, based on information on your trusty phone or tablet. Merchants will know your gender, age, race and income, analyst Sterneckert and others say.
Once you're inside, imagine waving your smartphone over products and seeing what's inside. Holding the phone over a DVD's bar code might activate a movie trailer on the phone's screen, for example.
All of this will be made possible with so much personal data on smartphones, and the ability of merchants to parse it to gauge who is just browsing and who's on a mission to buy. The clerk greeting you at the door will be able to make targeted suggestions. Sound Orwellian? All of this is done online today through search engines and cookie technology. Putting a personal touch on one's in-store experience could mean big bucks for bricks-and-mortar retailers, according to John McAteer, head of retail at Google.
There might be less merchandise inside, as bricks-and-mortar stores offer only special products that distinguish them from Web competitors.
"The first 15 years of online shopping was about making it easier for people to find and purchase items they were looking for," says David Fisch, director of platform partnerships at Facebook, which is working closely with retailers. "Now, it's about helping you find what you may not know about, based on your social (media profile)."
With computer chips seemingly embedded in everything -- goods, smartphones and the like -- merchants will not only know what's in your shopping basket, but what you plan to buy next.
Target, for example, already combs shopping data via purchases, e-mail, activity on Target.com accounts and more to determine which customers are pregnant, so it can sell goods popular to them such as orange juice, according to journalist Charles Duhigg, who outlined the practice in his book, The Power of Habit.
"There is a trade-off between privacy and convenience, which I think will only accelerate," Duhigg says. "People always choose convenience and don't realize the cost of privacy."
Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder acknowledges it uses "research tools that help us understand guest shopping trends...(but) we take our responsibility to protect our guests' trust in us very seriously."
Increasingly, where one shops will be irrelevant. Phones and bar codes will let consumers shop from their kitchens -- a digital screen on a refrigerator, for example, will allow orders from home, with a delivery service dropping off the produce. "A screen is a screen is a screen," says Jill Puleri, of IBM's Global Business Services retail-consulting practice.
At the CeBit computer trade show in March in Hanover, Germany, an exhibit of a futuristic airport gave new meaning to duty-free shopping. Within a few years, travelers will be able to touch a store window containing a digital menu to order goods for shipping.
Subways in South Korea, the United Kingdom and elsewhere already contain virtual stores in which consumers wave their smartphones at bar codes to order. The goods are delivered before the commuter arrives home.
"Retailers are asking the question,'How do we address the demand for now?'" Gartner's Sterneckert says. "Customers want their goods by the time they get home from work."
Driving the future
All of this will be possible within several years because of:
Smartphones. Location-based services and the growing adoption of Near Field Communication -- a wireless technology standard for one-tap payment -- will turn consumers' phones into stand-ins for credit, debit and loyalty cards, says Bill Gajda, head of mobile at Visa. Meanwhile, Nordstrom, among many, is phasing out cash registers this year in favor of smartphones with store-designed apps for purchases and inventory.
The death of cash. If credit cards diminished use of cash in the 1950s, powerful smartphones and tablets will hasten its demise. Both are reshaping the relationship between merchant and customer as newfangled wallets, and each is edging toward becoming credit card readers and (cash) registers.
"Cash has dug in its heels for small-value transactions, but with the arrival of each new tech offering (providing) an alternative way to pay for little stuff -- text your parking payment, Starbucks mobile app, Square, etc. -- cash is being further and further marginalized," says David Wolman, author of the book The End of Money.
Augmented reality. The increasingly popular technology adds a visual layer of information on top of surfaces such as a mirror. One breakthrough might come at the mall, with AR mirrors that let consumers shop based on data projected on glass, say social-media experts such as Brian Solis.
Another intriguing option is Google Glass, which puts computer-processing power, a camera, a microphone, wireless communications and a tiny screen into a pair of lightweight eyeglasses. Ultimately, Google hopes the "smart" glasses -- which are a few years away -- will be able to access information in real time, including the ability to identify locations and provide additional information about your whereabouts.
Harnessing social media
As smartphones and tablets grow in popularity, retailers are trying to get their hands around Facebook, Twitter and social media, and cater to consumers, says Niraj Shah, CEO of Wayfair, an e-commerce company that recently passed Crate & Barrel to become the No. 2 Internet retailer of home products. It racked up a record $500 million in revenue last year.
Only 8% to 13% of retail shopping in the USA is done online. Impressive as future retail technology might look, it will take good old-fashioned customer service to boost those figures, says Will Young, who heads Zappos Labs.
Some of that will come because of original editorial content from commerce sites such as Zappos, Fab.com and Etsy that offer shoppers advice on products and services. Zappos has beefed up its content with advice on fashion, trends, outfits and lifestyles.
Software giant SAP's "clienteling" application, for instance, lets Burberry track and analyze customers' buying and browsing patterns, giving sales reps the information they need to instantly make specific recommendations tailored to that person's taste. For the first time, retailers can offer consumers the same personalized experience in the store that they're used to when shopping online.
In the physical world, the same rules apply. Consumers won't need a smartphone to get an interactive glimpse of what they want. Digital billboards on every conceivable surface will do the trick.
Thin, energy-efficient LED displays are being tested to show video on everything from a curved wall at the NASCAR Museum in Charlotte to subways and airports. China, home to some of the world's largest buildings, is a prime candidate for even larger displays.
"The pace of change has never been faster," says Google's McAteer. "The big question is (turning) physical stores into a showplace, distribution center and place for consumers to have fun."
(Source: USA Today, 08/09/12)
||Aggregators Help Radio Reach Online Audiences
For the radio industry, there may be no better symbol for the challenges of adapting to the digital age than two candy-colored mobile apps.
The apps, iHeartRadio and TuneIn, are aggregators -- conduits for thousands of online radio streams. With a few taps on a smartphone, a listener can dart among a pop station in New York, gospel in Atlanta and talk almost anywhere.
Both have quickly amassed big audiences. TuneIn, which offers 70,000 streams from around the world, announced on Monday that it has 40 million monthly users. IHeartRadio, owned by the broadcasting giant Clear Channel Communications, has been downloaded 95 million times and has attracted more than 12 million registered users.
For broadcasters, these aggregators can help reach audiences in the growing but increasingly fragmented world of online radio, which can mean anything from a customized playlist on Pandora or Spotify to an iTunes stream.
"Our mission is about getting our content to as wide an audience as possible," said Anil Dewan, the director of interactive media at KCRW, a public station in Santa Monica, Calif., whose digital outlets include TuneIn, iHeartRadio, iTunes, Spotify and an app of its own.
At the same time, many broadcasters say they worry about the rising costs of online royalties; the plans of the companies behind the apps; and the possibility of being lost within the aggregators, like needles in enormous digital haystacks.
Both aggregators let users find stations by typing a city, genre or station name into their search bars. TuneIn also points listeners to any station currently playing a given artist or song; iHeartRadio has an extensive custom-radio function, modeled after Pandora.
But as businesses they represent two poles of media. TuneIn, in Palo Alto, Calif., which started as a simple directory, transformed itself into an app purveyor two years ago, with streams that include not only radio and podcasts, but also emergency scanner signals. Recently the company raised $16 million in new investment, bringing its total financing to $22 million.
Clear Channel, which owns 850 stations, added a custom radio feature to iHeartRadio last September, making it a Pandora competitor as well as a platform for almost 2,000 stations. Hundreds of those belong to direct competitors, a few of which, including Cumulus Media and Univision, have made exclusive deals.
The apps are going head-to-head in the marketplace as consumers grow accustomed to tapping on one app for all their radio needs, and manufacturers of everything from televisions to cars begin to incorporate suites of streaming apps.
"They are both competing to be one-stop shopping in the Wild West of Internet radio," said Paul Heine, a senior editor at the trade publication Inside Radio. "They both want to be a destination that helps consumers navigate radio’s infinite dial online."
For now only a fraction of the radio audience is online; John Hogan, chief executive of Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, the company's radio and online division, said that 98 percent of listening to his company's stations is still on its terrestrial signals. But it is growing quickly. According to Triton Media, a company that measures Internet radio audiences, Clear Channel's online audience has risen 117 percent in the last year.
"What will end up happening is that every radio station stream is going to become a secondary station, if not a primary one," said Jackie Paulus, director of marketing and digital innovation for WGN, a news and talk station in Chicago owned by the Tribune Company.
But making money through online radio remains a puzzle, largely because of its royalty structure.
While terrestrial broadcasters pay music publishers negotiated rates, no matter how many people are listening, online and satellite radio operators pay publishers -- as well as labels and artists -- for each new listener. Pandora, while enjoying rapid growth, still pays more than half its revenue in music royalties.
"We look at products like online music lockers and playlist services, and while they have really interesting features, they're not businesses," Mr. Hogan said in an interview last week.
"The great thing about iHeartRadio," he said, "is that it is just one of a number of opportunities that we have to monetize the audience."
For radio stations, the question of joining these services is thorny.
According to several broadcasters, Clear Channel has been aggressive in pushing for exclusivity, offering in exchange greater promotion and visibility within the app. But most broadcasters have resisted. Aside from its first few big deals, none of Clear Channel's arrangements for iHeartRadio have been exclusive.
One reason for that, according to these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing business relationships, was uneasiness on the part of broadcasters about joining a platform run by the biggest player in the market. Others said their strategy was simply to be everywhere they could possibly be.
"Everybody is looking at this and saying, look, you don't know where the world is going, and you need to be in a lot of places," said Jeff Smulyan, the chief executive of Emmis Communications, whose 20-station chain has deals with both Clear Channel and TuneIn.
Mr. Hogan said Clear Channel had "pursued" deals with fewer than 10 radio companies, not counting public stations. Regardless, what exclusivity means here is unclear. While Cumulus has an exclusive deal with Clear Channel, hundreds of its stations are listed on TuneIn.
A spokesman for Cumulus said they are being streamed without authorization, but John Donham, TuneIn's chief, said that as a directory service it did not need permission to list any station, though it will remove them if asked.
Still, Mr. Donham said that TuneIn's neutrality in the radio business made it a safer choice for broadcasters.
"We are not a broadcaster, so we do not have any inherent interest for any broadcaster to succeed or fail," he said, "whereas there are other companies who are both the broadcaster and platform provider, so there is an inherent conflict of interest there."
For plenty of broadcasters, however, the critical question for any Web platform is how many new listeners it can bring in.
Mr. Dewan of KCRW said that the station had embraced numerous platforms and every kind of social media that had come its way, and that one result was that 20 to 25 percent of listening to the station is now done online, from every place imaginable. One D.J. keeps a tally of where listeners say they are each night, from East Los Angeles to Barcelona.
Mr. Dewan said: "We do get e-mails from people saying, 'I'm listening in the rain in Cambodia. By the way, how do we get a bumper sticker?'"
(Source: The New York Times, 08/06/12)
||Trend Becomes Reflex: Mobile Evolving as the Here-and-Now Medium
When it comes to culture, ritual is everything. Metrics folks and marketing analysts love to talk about "tipping points" and "critical mass" because they confuse reach with meaning.
For oh-so-many years, metrics companies touted the raw numbers of people who accessed streaming video online as a sign that TV was coming to the Internet. So many digital video studios were born on the premise that people really were going to watch original episodic shows on their desktop with the same kind of regularity and loyalty that they watched TV in their living rooms.
And how many of those programs spurted onto the scene, succeeded in getting reasonable audience for the first episode, and then trailed off into obscurity? The habit of watching series video on the desktop was just not there yet. And certainly the distribution vehicle of a YouTube and Hulu had not become commonplace.
In fact, I would argue that continuous, story-based episodic programming still has not taken hold here. The YouTube successes really are just pick-up programming that don't demand sequential viewing. Hulu is an on-demand version of TV, where I suspect most of us still are experiencing most of our beloved shows.
The major media of the last century became powerful insofar as they had ritualistic places in everyday life. They became attached to and identified with regular moments and physical activities and places. Movie theaters were mass gatherings made part of evenings out.
Radio started as an evening family ritual, but TV moved it to a drive time and office listening ritual. TV, the gold standard of ritualized media, became the centerpiece of the post-World War II nuclear family. It was part of the shared family evenings of relaxation that were critical to a fundamental reorientation of American consumer society in the last half of the 20th century.
TV was not just more dazzling a medium than anything that had come before it. In fact, in its first iterations, the TV experience was just awful compared to film, recorded music and print. It was a very low-res medium that combined the other media, but in a perfect time and place. Daytime, evening and night programming came to embody actual stages in the household life. The connection between medium and daily American cycles of activity was so deeply engrained that no other technology ever approached TV's raw power in American culture.
Likewise, what is important to watch about mobile technology is not how many people have done this or that on their cell phone, but what activities are occurring with great regularity in tandem with other activities.
To wit, the finding from Nielsen earlier this week that almost half of smartphone owners use shopping apps either to pre-shop before going to a store or while in the store itself. More to the point, they found that the average shopping app is opened 17 times in a given month. This is not just a trend, this is a reflex.
To me, that indicates that many Americans are coming to identify mobile devices with the shopping experience. When many of us are in the store and have a question about an item or wonder if it can be found cheaper elsewhere, we don’t have to strain to remember that we have that answer in our pocket. In the same way we learned a few years ago that our phones could answer the question "what time is it?" we are coming to know just as automatically that the Internet is here with us everywhere.
Mobile and local is another association that is evolving among users. The new Keystone survey of several thousand smartphone owners finds that accessing local information is the leading activity that owners associate with their smartphone. In fact, 88% of owners cite local look ups and 74% cite specifically looking up local services.
This is to say that on some level, smartphone owners are carving out a place for this device in their lives and in their consciousness. It is evolving as the medium of here and now. We are starting to understand it as a tool that enhances context. It is the complement to the moment.
Just as TV got its power because it was part of an extremely important ritual of American suburban life, mobile will get extraordinary power as it becomes a part of the American shopping ritual and the simple act of understanding and mastering one's immediate vicinity.
The historic importance of media devices as a part of larger rituals is also why tablets -- and to a lesser degree smartphones -- are poised to shake up TV at least as powerfully as did cable. The staggering amount of second-screen use during prime time indicates that a ritual is already taking shape in 21st century American life that directly affects the defining medium of the last century.
We are on our way to transforming the living room TV ritual of the last century into a two-screen experience in this century. We don't know what forms those two screens will take in relation to one another yet, but the reflex is there even before the forms have been set. This is going to be really interesting to watch.
This point is as obvious, perhaps, as it is powerful. The places where the mobile medium becomes automatic, ritualized, a reflex are where it takes on the contours of a real medium -- a regular, predictable, scalable part of everyday living against which media companies and marketers can target content and services.
(Source: Steve Smith, Mobile Insider, 08/09/12)
Daily Sales Tip: 5 Ways To Set Yourself Apart
It takes more than putting "Marketing Consultant" on your business card to be one. Here are 5 tried and true tips on setting yourself apart from the dozens of media reps calling on clients and prospects.
1. Know the client's business category
Read marketing articles from the general interest media (The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times...) and the business category trades (like Automotive News and J.D. Power for the auto business). Scour the web for information about the business category. Most industries have trade associations that quickly pop up in a Google search. Ask questions about the industry in general when you meet with clients. Get to know someone in the industry to help you understand the inside.
2. Prepare for client meetings
The worst question you can ask if you are trying to differentiate yourself from other media salespeople: "So, how's business?" It is an immediate signal that you are unprepared. Before entering a client meeting, check the news and prepare at least a few informed, professional questions based on something of importance going on in that industry.
3. The rule of 2:1
Typical salespeople ask clients to buy something every time they meet. Establish yourself as a consultant by taking marketing articles, research and information to your clients and prospects twice as often as you ask them to buy.
The acronym has been around a long time, but it doesn't mean it is not important. Do what you say you will do. It will set you apart as quickly as any other tip.
Giving concert tickets and movie passes is OK to say thank you to clients, but some of the worst salespeople use them as bribes to "buy" a relationship. Advertisers today are fighting for survival and need more. They need marketing consultants who watch out for their best professional interests and that means going above and beyond with marketing efforts. Give clients a little bit more than what they buy. For example, upgrade a spot to an adjacency of a popular station feature if the inventory is available, then after-the-fact, highlight the spot on the invoice and show them what you did at the end of the month. Look for ways to demonstrate you are looking out for their marketing interests.
Source: John Potter, SVP/Professional Development, RAB