Hopping on Technology
by Daniel Hopping
2005 was an interesting year. I would like to offer some thoughts on the past year and on what we might see in 2006.
Patents In 2005 IBM received 2,941 patents from the US Patent office. This achievement made IBM the leader in patents for the 13th year in a row. IBM had over 1,100 more patents than the company with the next highest number. This sustained technical vitality is incredibly important in our time of increased rate of change.
A little over 60% of these patents were for software related inventions. I think that software has become the single most important arena in technology that will allow the retailer to innovate fast enough to stay ahead of the consumer. Two examples of patents that have the potential to impact retail are:
In 2005 IBM pledged to make 500 key patents available to the open source community which allows developers to further the open systems initiative and accelerate innovation.
In 2006 patent submission is becoming more focused on critical areas. IBM believes that patents should be granted only for ideas that embody genuine scientific progress and technological innovation. High-quality patents increase certainty around intellectual property rights, reducing contention and freeing resources to focus on innovation.
Bluetooth devices were being sold at a rate of almost 10 million per week at the end of 2005. That is up from a little more than one million at the start of the year.
Bluetooth is now just part of the open consumer interface with great gadgets like the Motorola Oakley Razrwire Bluetooth sunglasses that work with your bluetooth phone.
Bluecasting is now a reality in a South African Mall. This is a new type of proximity marketing that puts rich content on consumer’s phones without going through the Cell network and not using minutes on the phone.
By the end of 2006, there should be enough of a critical mass of consumers with communicating devices that retailers can start developing ways to increase loyalty using the customers own device.
Voice over IP has come a long way in the last 12 months and is now being considered in most of the Next Generation Store projects that I am aware of. For consumers, the VoSKY Call Center from Actiontec allows anyone to place VoIP calls from any phone and you don't have to be using a PC to place calls. You can use it to make free Skype calls remotely from any land line or mobile phone.
By the end of 2006, I think VoIP will be causing significant changes in phone billing plans and usage.
Blogs to Wikis
Blogs were growing at 60,000 a day in 2005 and many retailers are monitoring their name in the blogsphere to keep abreast of consumer attitudes. Wikis are now gaining ground and are starting to be used as knowledge management tools by retailers. To better understand how to use a wiki, visit www.wikipedia.org . A wiki can allow store managers and merchants to share up to the minute information about the market in a painless manner.
We ended 2005 with more cell phones in North America than households. Cell phones are now starting to show up with 802.11g HiFi and gigabytes of storage. 2 Mega pixel cameras in phones are the new standard. According to Consumer Reports, over one-third of 11 to 14 year-olds have their own cell phones. This is much higher in the 15 to 20 age group. China now has 50% more phones than North America. The Samsung phone in Korea has GPS capability that allows you to not only know where you are, but where your friends and family are as well.
Mobile phones are now the social connection for much of the world and retailers are going to have to include them in their marketing planning within the coming year. The consumer touch points are becoming more sophisticated than most retailer's infrastructure will be able to handle.
Shopping on the Web
According to the fifth annual Holiday eSpending Report, online holiday shopping grew 30% over last holiday season and totaled $30.1 Billion. In 2004 online spending had grown 25% to $23.2 Billion. The report states that catalog shopping remained fairly steady.
The report points out that a big factor in the growth is that the channel is becoming easier to use and the consumer is becoming increasingly more sophisticated. Another finding is that we as consumers are procrastinating more and waiting for the deeper discounts partly because we trust in the shipping reliability and mostly because we are trained to procrastinate.
Communities are a key to customer loyalty
All of these types of technologies are bringing people closer together and actually making shopping much easier than 10 years ago. Remember when you had to go to several stores to make a significant purchase decision? Now folks just get on the Web. Everything seems to be on the Web. The consumer is reaching perfect information when it comes to shopping. Last year consumers used price comparison Web sites for many purchases.
Challenges for 2006
Daniel Hopping is a global technology futurist, author, consultant and speaker. With four decades of hands-on experience, Dan’s area of expertise is forecasting the impact that technology will have on the retail industry and tomorrow’s consumer.
Copyright © Daniel Hopping. All rights reserved.
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