Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Multichannel Shopping and Privacy

Probably most of you remember Minority Report (2002) with Tom Cruise. What about that touchless screen? Cool, isn´t it? Today it is a reality. Look for example SIMIOZ, a touchless technology applicable to different industries. Or Insteo providing also digital signage solutions, some of them powered by Kinect technology. Certainly, most of you know for sure about Kinect in the gaming world, but it is a technology applicable for business purposes as well. See here a cool Kinet grocery cart prototype.

I won't discover anything new if I say that an improved shopping experience is now at the center of any retailer strategy. This combined with Multichannel, means that this shopping experience must be the same across all channels, which makes us talk about the Omnichannel concept.

Again, nothing new if I say that e/m/s-commerce are growing faster than of brick-and-mortar, and some people say that this will mean the end of the traditional physical store model. I don't think so. I'm more of the opinion that traditional stores must change, or better evolve, and this is already happening. The role of the physical stores is changing, and this is something retailers have noticed. I liked very much this interview with  Ron Johnson, creator of the Apple Store and now CEO of J.C. Penney. I highly recommeded reading it. And more recently this from Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren, talking about how stores are borrowing ideas from the online world.

Assuming this and thinking that conversion rates in the physical world are much higher than in the e-world, it makes sense that location based shopping technologies are getting more and more important. Goal: increase your foot traffic.

And I was precisely reading about location based shopping when this scene of Minority Report came to mind. An example is ShopKlick, which, I recognize, I only recently came to know. I find their model very interesting and I recommend watching some YouTube videos with the company's CEO like this. A shopper gets rewarded simply by crossing the store doors, and this virtual currency can be cashed in other brands, or even totally different products. For example you can get Kicks in an apparel store and use them for buying a theatre ticket. They have now more that 3 million active users.

Other vendors are providing location based shopping technologies. An example is Retailigence but there are others.

Marketing departments love these technologies, but if they evolve as rapidly as we've seen with other technologies, the Minority Report example could become reality in short, if we think in a mass commercial use. In fact, retina and iris recognition technologies have existed for a long time ago; so far they are used in specific sectors, but this could change. See here.

At this point, I rise a question : will all these technologies really improve our shopping experience? Or will they become more and more intrusive, thus threatening our privacy more and more, just for marketing and sales purposes?. It's true that nowadays, you can decide if you adopt them or not, but Minority Report shows a future where I think this is not a choice. I think on RFID, a technology which has been discussed for long time, that has not definetely exploded, first because of the tags cost, but also because of privacy concerns.

Retailers wants to know more and more about potential shoppers, and at the end, this will rise inevitably privacy issues, and also will require a different way on thinking about our privacy. This is not a new topic, but something we should start thinking more seriously. If we move to the e-world, this is a clear reality, and for example in Europe, a new law will require retailers to get permission from shoppers before placing a cookie on their computers. Imagine their reaction...

In fact, most of you are probably publishing your personal photos, experiences... in Facebook, Pintarest, FourSquare.... So maybe this mindset change is already on-going. Are you conscious about it? Lets see what marketeers have prepared for us in the future. For sure they will impress us!

Enjoy and happy shopping!