When it comes to retail tech, consider gray matter before gray hair
I don’t think it’s discriminatory to say something self-incriminating, so first, allow me to admit to sporting a few gray follicles myself. Secondly, I’m not against anyone of any ilk. Objectively though, when I look across the landscape of purveyors of in-store technology including digital displays or tablet solutions, many that offer either dated or "me too" concepts are represented by people of a "certain era."
The point is not about age, but about perspective. It’s crucial for technology providers to think progressively and be in-tune with the mindset and motivations of current and future users. Yet, many of the "latest concepts" in retail have previously been piloted or deployed at least three to seven years prior. No kidding.
In 2010, one of the world’s biggest POS vendors proved this point while promoting its new music download kiosk. iTunes was already ubiquitous and growing tremendously, yet this "old school" company opted to revisit stationary music download machines — something introduced in the 90’s.
Recently I watched a video from a digital signage vendor that proudly boasted of their system, an ultra-typical web-like product interface with a button with which a shopper can summon a salesperson for help. If beckoned, the associate arrives with a tablet that reveals the consumer’s browsing history. Replace the word tablet with Blackberry and we’re back in 2005.
There’s nothing wrong with systems that provide core interactive features and services, especially for retailers that offer none. But if you want to stay ahead of the competition (Amazon Flow for example), distinguish your store as a unique destination, and provide the best in class user experience, ordinary doesn’t cut it.
The problem is, vendors that are not on top of today’s fast moving tech trends and social change will suck up your budget on their way to delivering an average (or worse) engagement solution that will never recoup your investment. Many of these cases prove that eons of industry experience are not automatically a good thing.
If you want to grow your in-store interactive engagement, do the research and do the math. It’s imperative to question the knowledge and thinking of any vendor you entrust your brand and livelihood to. It’s easy to dismiss new tech as trendy or for younger markets only, but that’s a mistake. Even if you have grey haired customers, that’s no justification for risking your business on fossilized technology that’s only cool to the people who are pushing it.
Are retailers looking progressively enough at in-store technology options? If not, what’s causing the conservative approach? To what degree may retail have to wait out an older-thinking mindset before true tech-driven innovation arrives?