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The average consumer scans some 12 feet of shelf space per second. Mobile interactions in the retail space are about to become common. You've got but multi-seconds to grab their attention.

When the GAP went looking for a trends and innovation expert to speak to a small, intimate group of senior executives, they chose Jim Carroll. He has been the keynote speaker for some of the largest retail conferences in the world, with audiences of up to 7,000 people in Las Vegas, including Consumer Goods Technology Business & Technology Leadership Conference • Subway • Multi-Unit Franchise Conference Las Vegas • Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit • Consumer Electronics Association CEO Summit • Retail Value Chain Federation • Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut) Global Leadership Conference • Burger King Global Franchise Meeting • VIBE (Very Important Beverage Executives) Summit • Manufacturing Jewelers Suppliers of America • National Home Furnishings Association • Do It Best Corporation • US Department of Defence Commissary Agency • Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Group Branding/Retail Summit • Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association • National Association of Truck Stop Operators • Convenience U annual conference • Point of Purchase Advertising International Association • Chain Drug Store Association of Canada • Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors • Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers

I did a keynote a few weeks back for a leading North American food company.

It was a highly customized keynote, built around the theme, “Being Agile: How Innovators Thrive in the High Velocity Economy.” I think it took about 5 or 6 conference calls with senior executives at the client as I worked to build my content and insight into their overall theme. They had about 200 of their top executives at the corporate offsite. (This is typical of about 50% of the events I do ; a lot of “corporate off-sites” for Fortune 1000 companies, often at the behest of a CEO).

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A quick screen shot of one of my opening slides!

What is “corporate agility” or “business agility”? From my perspective, it involves an organization that has aligned itself so that it can “respond to fast external trends in order to spot opportunity, ward off challenge and align resources for fast success.”

Of course, a good part of my talk focused on the trends in this particular sector that are driving the need for agility; specifically, the rapid emergence of new forms of in-store promotion known as “shopper marketing,” which combines location intelligence, mobile technology and in-store display technology; massive changes to the in-store payment process, including mobile payment involving Apple Pay and the complete elimination of the concept of the cash-register; the emergence of same-day shipping from titans such as Google, Amazon and Walmart; the rapid installation of “click and collect” infrastructure (i.e. an online purchase, with same day pickup at a retail location); faster ‘store fashion’ with rapid evolution of in-store promotion, layout and interaction; the arrival of intelligent packaging and intelligent (“Internet of Things”) products; and collapsing product life-cycles, rapid product obsolescence and the implications on inventory and supply chain! (All of which is covered in depth in a previous retail trends post….). Not to mention all the fast changing consumer, taste, food and social networking trends influencing today’s food purchasing decisions…

How do achieve agility in a fast moving environment? I focused on these issues:

  • structure for execution
  • rebuild your competitive intelligence capabilities
  • watch the “edges”, particular crowdfunding initiaitves in your space
  • abandon tradition – get more projects on the leading edge
  • be decisive – avoid aggressive indecision
  • innovate with structure – form fast teams!
  • enourage entrepreneurial units – spin out units rather than reining them in
  • partner up in unique ways
  • redefine strategic planing – flex it to short term thinking
  • build a culture that supports new ideas
  • challenge decisions
  • rapidly ingest new technology
  • “test and learn”
  • spots trends quicker
  • risk failure faster
  • align different generations on social projects

I spent some time walking through each of these issues in a fair bit of depth; and there is a copious amount of insight on each elsewhere throughout my blog.

And of course, avoid the “innovation killers” — which can shut down opportunities in learning how to be agile!

It was a great keynote talk on agility, and the client was genuinely thrilled.

Agility is a critical issue that organizations need to think about in a world in which the future belongs to those fast….! Here’s a video clip to whet your appetite!

 

More news from my keynote for Potato Expo 2015 …. this time from The Packer magazine, one of the leading agricultural publications with a focus on — everything packaging! Except the article goes beyond packaging into many of the other things I talked about, including genomics, autonomous vehicles, vertical farms and more!

"What is happening is that packaging is becoming part of the product"

“What is happening is that packaging is becoming part of the product”

ORLANDO, Fla. — Intelligent packaging for produce will become one of the most important trends in the industry in the next five years, agricultural futurist Jim Carroll said at the closing session of Potato Expo 2015.

The expression “Internet of things” refers to the fact that everything that is part of our daily lives will be plugged into the Web, and Carroll said that trend also applies to packaging.

“What is happening is that packaging is becoming part of the product,” he said at the Jan. 9 event.

For some pharmaceutical companies, the packing monitors whether the patient is taking the medicine and monitors whether it is working, he said.

Carroll predicted there will be packaging for potatoes that will monitor the health of the potato while it is transit, constantly monitoring and perhaps reporting that data to consumers.

In his presentation called “Big Trends in Agriculture: What Ag will look like in 2045,” Carroll said it is likely that driverless, autonomous tractor use will be commonplace in decades to come. Automated spraying and harvest technology also will be used, he said.

“We will see staggering rates of change with autonomous vehicle technology,” he said.

By 2045, he said changes in farming also will include a dramatic expansion of vertical, indoor farming methods as global cities become larger and urbanization increases. One acre of indoor farming can match the yields of four to six acres grown outside, he said.

Automated robots that monitor crop stress, disease, weeds, pests and soil status will become commonplace. Geospatial analysis will allow farmers to know exactly what nutrients and other inputs they need to apply on a specific acre.

The cost of to sequence DNA in crops is declining, he said, and that will lead to rapid advances in crop breeding. Carroll said the cost of sequencing human DNA has dropped from about $3 billion in 2009 to about $1,000 in 2015, he said.

“The cost to come up with perfect produce is collapsing,” he said. “We can’t deny that science will accelerate faster into the future.”

Already, Dupont can adjust the genetics of genetically modified corn to account for climate differences between western Iowa and eastern Iowa, he said.

In closing remarks, Carroll said urged growers to be bold and daring in how they adapt technology for their farms.

You can read the original article over at The Packer Web site.

Trend: Mobile is Eating Retail
January 16th, 2015

“The next five years will bring more change to retail than the last 100 years” – Cyriac Roeding, CEO of Shopkick

I had the delight of leading a small, intimate talk to a group of leading retailers in New York City earlier this week, at an event sponsored by agile software development firm Thoughtworks. The focus of my talk was to put into perspective the reality of the high-velocity trends that are impacting every single aspect of the world of retail.

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If you are a CEO of any type of retailer, and do not understand the scope of these trends, you need to get onboard — fast.

1. Mobile is eating retail

The future of retail is all about mobile and if any CEO  doesn’t understand that, they should be out of a job.

Already by 2013, statistics show that sales through mobile and tablet devices were up 138% in 2013 from the year before. That takes us to the point where sales through some type of mobile device is estimated to be at least at 30% of *all* retail sales.

If that doesn’t get your attention then consider that another group suggests that by the end of 2015, every single retail transaction in the US will have some type of mobile element. It doesn’t matter what type of element — it could involve the actual purchase transaction, or logistics tracking, or a payment process, or some type of loyalty transaction.

Think about that. Every single retail transaction will somehow involve a mobile device somewhere along the way. That’s significant, because it provides big opportunity for business transformation — but it also provides for the potential for massive business model disruption, new competition, loss of market control and dozens of other challenges.

It gets even bigger over time. In the UK, leading retailer John Lewis suggests that every category will migrate to online shopping in a big way — with their estimate that by 2023, 27% of all fashion sales will be through a mobile device.

2. Control of the speed of innovation has shifted to Silicon Valley

The retail industry, like every other industry, is caught in a trend that  control of the speed of innovation moving to the pace set by Silicon Valley speed? For a long time, the pace of innovation in retail has been relatively slow and deliberate; aside from some cool new cardboard layouts for end-cap displays, and sprucing up a store layout, there wasn’t a lot of need to do anything really fast.

Whoops! Now when you enter a store, you’ll use your iPhone to confirm the transaction, and you’ll get an instant receipt. Loyalty transactions will occur through mobile. Consumers will be influenced by something on their mobile (see below) …..

All of which means — new business models, disruptive competition, a shift in control, customer churn — everything is up for grabs once Silicon Valley seizes control and defines your future!

3. Mobile “influence” is going to completely redefine in-store interaction

We’re in the era of what is known as “shopper marketing,” a method of promotion involving mobile devices. Booz & Company research suggests that shopper marketing is already at $50 billion in the US.IMG_6376

What is it?  I’ll walk into a store, and behind the scenes, the store will recognize me through an interaction with my mobile device, either because of an App that I have with the retailer; a permissive social relationship; or maybe a loyalty relationship. The result is that I’ll either get a message on my phone with an e-coupon. Or perhaps an LCD TV in the store will put up a welcome message for me, with audio, and suggest I walk over to  aisle 7 for a customized special offer just for me!

Farfetched? I don’t think so. Creepy? To us maybe, but perhaps not to the next generation. When we think of the strangeness of the future and our likely negative reaction to some of what might come next, we have to remember this: it’s not bad, it’s just different.

How fast is shopper marketing moving forward? Research suggests that 56% of food wholesalers, 61.1% of manufacturers and 38.3% of sales agencies will likewise invest more in shopper marketing in the coming year. What’s popular? Mobile coupons (51%), personalized mobile offers (44.8%), store-specific mobile apps (40.6%), text messages (36.5%) and location-based services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places (35.4%).

And we’re only in the early stages. If you want to understand the future, grab the Apple Store app, and allow it to check your location. Then go visit your local Apple store, and watch what happens.

4. The change to the mobile wallet provides more potential for massive disruption

Two things are happening: if you think about it, Apple has eliminated the concept of the cash register in stores. And more importantly, they’ve rendered the plastic credit card obsolete with Apple Pay.

And the fascinating thing is that most of the retail and banking world was seemingly caught unawares, which is staggering since everyone knew this was coming for at least the last 20 years! The result is that organizations like Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover now find themselves in a heated competition with Apple, Google, PayPal and other high-velocity, innovative tech companies.

Who would you put your money on?

It’s not just that; the battle of the small vs. incumbents (Square vs Visa/MasterCard/Discovery/Amex) continues. It is still terrifically difficult for any small retailer to get a ‘merchant’ accountant from any of the dinosaurian incumbents. That’s why you see so many new business organizations using devices like Square and other industry disruptors.

svenvintges_2015-Jan-13

There’s another aspect too! The move to the mobile wallet involves a need for a rapid and massive infrastructure change. Most retailers can’t move that fast; they are still working to solve the big ERP problems they inherited in 2010! So while they are trying to fix the past, the future is unfolding in front of them way too fast.

4. Same day shipping everywhere destroys markets

Can you say “Amazon-Prime?” I am speaking to countless industries that are suddenly waking up to a world in which Amazon might suddenly be able to dominate their retail business model. Flooring products. Thermostats. You name it.

Anne Zybowski, an analyst at Kantar Retail said it best a few years ago: “A few years ago retailers spent a ton of time trying to make their online stores look and act like their physical stores. Now they’ve sort of reversed course, and the challenge is how to take that online shopping experience that’s so personalized, socially connected and heavily layered with data, and essentially bring it into a physical environment.” The model in which stores carry a lot of inventory is disappearing — the future is all about fulfilment.

We live in the era of “omni-channel retail,” and nothing will ever be the same. The future of retail is all about Google vs. Amazon vs. Wal-Mart, all of whom have promised to build an infrastructure that will support same day delivery to 50% of the US population within a few short years. With that, we are witnessing the rapid emergence of instant delivery startups. Amazon is hiring bicycle couriers  to put in place a business model that will offer up one-hour delivery in New York and San Francisco.

But wait! There’s more! ‘Click-and-collect’ infrastructure in major urban centres is happening at a furious pace; sit at your desk, order your groceries, and pick up your order in just one hour from your local grocery store.

Caught flat-footed are a whole bunch of retailers who find that they can’t compete on price, don’t have comparable infrastructure, and frankly, don’t know what to do other than recoil in fear!

5. The “Internet of things” also involves intelligent packaging, which changes everything.

The hype out of CES last week was fascinating. The Internet of things is real — I’ve been talking about it for 15 years.

But what isn’t being talked about in many circles is the impact of intelligent packaging — which completely defines the retail process, not to mention the product.

Intelligent packaging has huge implications.  We are talking about packaging that talks to you — maybe we will see Apple’s SIRI embedded in the package. We’ve already got pharmaceutical packaging that does “electronic event monitoring” for patient adherence. We’re going to see food packaging that automatically uploads calorie, carb, sodium and other data to a customer’s smartphone. We’ve already got packaging that comes with a unique code — and will automatically send a text through your mobile to verify that the product is not counterfeit.

We’ll have packaging that lights up when you pick it up with a small LCD screen, and runs a customized video, just for you, because it links to the app on your phone.

We’re talking about …..interactive packaging, intelligent and active packaging, multi-sensory packaging, edible packaging … packaging as mini-billboards…!

6. All this is happening in the context of collapsing product life-cycles

We are in the era of era of instant obsolescence and disappearing lifespans.

Think about this: 60% of Apple’s revenue came from products that didn’t exist three years prior to the earnings release, according to an analysis of Apple’s revenue by mobile app developer Asymco.

thoughtworks_2015-Jan-13

Think about that in the context of your operations. What if you had to replenish your product or service line every two or three years? It could become the new normal in many industries. The impact on retailers is staggering.

Think about the graph in your marketing textbook from years or decades ago when you first learned about the concept of product life cycles. Remember how it showed a product coming to market: sales increase, reach market maturity and eventually begin to drop off. That’s been the model of product life cycles as taught in business schools for the past 100 years or so.The rule of thumb was that companies would innovate and introduce a new product. If it succeeded, the company would experience growth. At some point, sales would peak. The product would then become obsolete or overtaken by competitors and sales would decline.

That might involve a time period of 10, 15 or even 25 years.

What a quaint model. Too bad it bears no resemblance to today’s reality. The product life-cycle model today is being turned on its ear by instant obsolescence. In some industries, that product obsolescence now occurs during the growth stage; in the high-tech industry, the decline phase caused by instant obsolescence can occur during the introduction of a product or even before a product makes it to the marketplace.

And so in the context of all the change noted above, retailers have to support faster logistics, marketing, branding, sales training, promotions…….

It’s a lot of change. That’s why innovation in the high velocity economy is all about:

  • an accelerated innovation cycle
  • rapid ingestion of new technologies / methodologies
  • faster time to market
  • rapid re-focusing of resources for opportunity or threat
  • rabid focus on operational excellence
  • rapid response to volatility
  • re-orientation to fast paced consumer and brand perception

Are retailers ready? I did two quick text message polls of my audience in New York City, and here’s what I got!

First, they don’t think their ready!

TW1

And second, they think they have a lot of mismatches that they need to fill;

Tw2

Retail?

The future belongs to those who are fast — particularly as mobile eats retails!

 

The rate of change in the retail sector is going from ‘fast to furious’ if you pardon the cliche. I’ll be outlining this issue when I speak to a small group of folks in the retail sector in New York in early January at an invitation only event. The problem? Most retailers are too focused at a strategy level on social marketing — and aren’t thinking about the big, substantive transformative trends which will completely reshape the sector. It’s a perfect strategy mismatch!

What’s going on? Here’s a clip from a talk last fall in Naples, Florida, in which I cover a few of the trends occurring in the world of retail

It is a time in which a lot of trends are unfolding all at once, and everyone in the world of retail, large or small, needs to ensure that they can keep up. That’s why we keep on hearing about the need for ‘agility’ and ‘flexibility’ in the sector.

Consider what’s happening:

  • the rapid emergence of new forms of in-store promotion known as “shopper marketing,” which combines location intelligence, mobile technology and in-store display technology
  • massive changes to the in-store payment process, including mobile payment involving Apple Pay and the complete elimination of the concept of the cash-register
  • the rapid emergence of mobile loyalty programs
  • the emergence of same-day shipping from titans such as Google, Amazon and Walmart
  • the rapid installation of “click and collect” infrastructure (i.e. an online purchase, with same day pickup at a retail location)
  • faster ‘store fashion’ with rapid evolution of in-store promotion, layout and interaction
  • the arrival of intelligent packaging and intelligent (“Internet of Things”) products
  • the battle of the small vs. the incumbents (think Square vs. Visa/Mastercard/Amex)
  • collapsing product life-cycles, rapid product obsolescence and the implications on inventory and supply chain

There’s a lot more going on. In essence, so much change that the word ‘agility’ is becoming more than a word – it’s a capability that increasingly will define success in the future for every retailer.

Earlier this year, I was featured in the UK’s Retail NewsAgent 125th anniversary publication, with a variety of comments on trends that will impact the retail space, such as this quick quote which commented on the integration of Siri, automobiles and the shopping experience.

CarCreditCard

I just came across this additional quote in one of the articles, about the future of in-store interaction and payment.

The pace of change in the world of retail right now is simply staggering!

Two things will be consistently present in nearly every type of retail business, according to Jim Carroll – mobile phones that influence our purchasing decisions and LCD TVs – and there is going to be a distinct link between the two.

“I played out a scenario for the leadership team of Gap in which I had ‘liked’ them on Facebook so had a relationship with them,” he says. “I walk into one of their stores and it will recognise me and run a customised commercial on an in-store TV saying ‘welcome back Jim. We’re giving you a $20-off coupon today and in aisle seven there is something you might like.’”

Mr Carroll believes that the technology currently used by Oakley in snowboarders’ sunglasses – which gives wearers access to Facebook, hill conditions and statistics from their run – will also influence retail in the near future.

“Apple is cutting deals with all the car manufacturers to get Siri in them. By 2017 we will be driving along and you will ask Siri in the augmented reality dashboard which store has X product. She will put five stores on the map and you will pick one, which the car’s autonomous driving technology will take you to. What’s more, you will have payment technology embedded in your car so that will be your credit card too.”

It might sound like a goofy scenario, but it isn’t really. Right now, we’re seeing major cell companies working to cut deals with automotive companies to get SIM-cards into automobiles — partly to support in-vehicle WiFi, but also to support the potential for future payment transactions. And while we see a well publicized failure with augmented reality with the pullback of Google Glass technology, there’s no doubt that there are rapid advances occurring with augmented reality technology.

The other big part of this trend is known as ‘shopper marketing’, an intersection of mobile, location intelligence and social networking technology — the idea being that there are methods of providing for in-store promotional opportunities.

You can read the full version of the Retail Newsagent 125th anniversary article with a variety of observations from various futurists on the future of retail here.

A week ago, I had the pleasure to open the FutureVision, “an invitation-only event designed for the industry’s retail leaders, is an exclusive relationship-building event packed with industry insights.” I shared the stage with some pretty impressive visionaries!

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 9.16.50 AM

It’s a small, intimate 50 CEO level event held in Sonoma County, California, with the focus being “the key trends coming over the next three years for retailers. This exclusive format allows retailers to listen and connect with industry visionaries and elite manufacturers — through exceptional networking, business meetings and strategic information sharing sessions. These featured speakers will address critical shifts that will impact your business over the coming years”

Here’s an excerpt from Technology Integrator Magazine on Day 1.


 

The inaugural FutureVision Conference’s first day in Sonoma Tuesday was a forum for three visionaries – futurist Jim Carroll , ShopRunner CEO and former Yahoo and PayPal executive Scott Thompson , and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone – to present their views of how technology has shaped and will continue to shape the retail industry, the consumer and the content that is delivered to that consumer. Some of the comments were colored by anecdotes from the speakers’ personal experiences.

Carroll spoke about consumer technology’s “furious rate of change.” He cited statistics to the effect that 65 percent of preschool children today will work in a career that does not exist today, and that half of what they learn in science will be obsolete by the time they graduate. These realities pose a challenge to CE product-production and marketing cycles as never before, he said. “Sixty percent of Apple’s revenue comes from products that didn’t exist four years ago,” he said, to drive home the point. Crucial to survival in this new normal, he said, is flexibility, and the ability to react to fast-paced change – to the “fast future,” as he phrased it.

Furthermore, he said, “the consumer is increasingly in control. The control of the speed of innovation is shifting from individual industries to technology companies. You need to turn those trends into opportunities and redefine the future.”

Three trends he identified were:

  • the rapid emergence of new business models and new competitors (warning listeners to be careful that what happened in the livery cab industry doesn’t happen to them: “don’t be Uber’ed”);
  • fast-changing media-consumption trends where consumers can get whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want;
  • and the shaping of innovation, which is increasingly occurring on the fringes rather than from established sources (“R&D is being changed by crowd-funding”).

He warned against clinging to routine, paraphrasing Steve Jobs, who never worried about cannibalizing his own business because “if you don’t do it, someone else will.”

He told the audience, “Think big, start small, scale fast. What to do? Observe, think, change, dare, banish (as in banish innovating-killing statements like, ‘That’ll never work’ – which create ‘organizational sclerosis’), try, question, grow, do – and enjoy.”

You can find the full article here.

Some months back, the folks at Retail NewsAgent in the UK sent me a series of questions asking about the future of retail. They were busy preparing for their 125th anniversary issue, and were interviewing a number of fellow futurists for insight into the trends that might shape and impact the sector in the future.

RN_125-SmartphoneThey’ve run a pretty lengthy article which I’ll post later this week, but here’s a short little article that they also ran in which two of us talk about the impact of the smartphone on the overall shopping experience.

The entire PDF is available on the right, but here are two quick extracts:

Canadian futurologist Jim Carroll, adds that the relationship between consumers and their smartphones introduces new shopper marketing opportunities too.

“I did a session with the leadership team at Gap. I played out a scenario where I had a Facebook relationship with Gap and ‘liked’ them. I walk into one of their stores and they recognise me and run a customised commercial on an in-store TV, saying ‘Welcome back Jim. We’re giving you a $20-off coupon today and in aisle seven there is something you might like’.

“Every 15-year-old is already giving away all their private life and they are not going to care about privacy when they get 20% off by linking their mobile to a screen in store.”

Mobile innovation is also changing payment technology at rapid pace.

“Control of the speed of innovation in every industry is shifting to Silicon Valley and the likes of Apple and Amazon are innovating a lot quicker than traditional retail companies,” says Jim Carroll. “As soon as Apple puts a chip in the iPhone that supports credit card transactions the industry will change at lightning speed.”

Over the years, I’ve done a tremendous number of presentations into the retail sector — check here for a glimpse! On the page, I use one of my favourite observations about the world of retail in a world of fast paced change: “The average consumer scans some 12 feet of shelf space per second. Mobile interactions in the retail space are about to become common. You’ve got but multi-seconds to grab their attention.

Obviously, if everyone is carrying around a smartphone, then that becomes a primary window in which to try to grab their attention!

 

The folks at the UK’s Retail News publication recently interviewed me on the future of retail; I’ll be featured in their upcoming 125th anniversary edition coming out in mid-July.

eplThey’ve just run a teaser for the article on their Web site.

I promise to put up a full version of the article when it appears; for now, here’s the tease!


Step into the future with RN as we celebrate 125 years
by BetterRetailing.com / Retail News, May 1, 2014

Picture this: you are driving along and ask Siri in your dashboard where you can buy a dozen eggs.

She will put up five stores on the map and you will pick one. The car’s autonomous driving technology will take you there and the embedded payment technology will pay for your purchase.

This may seem like science fiction, but it is likely to happen by 2017, according to Canadian futurist Jim Carroll, and was just one of the topics discussed when I interviewed him last week.

If you are thinking about the future of your business and how to make it profitable you won’t want to miss RN’s 125th anniversary issue on 18 July He has run sessions for the leadership teams of NASA, the PGA and global retail brands like Gap on preparing for the future. He agreed to talk to RN when I pitched him to appear in our 125th anniversary issue coming up on 18 July.

It’s a project the whole team is working on. Rather than looking back at our history of helping retailers run successful businesses, we will look forward to the future of local shops.

Our aim is to get the most proactive retailers to think about the things they need to do now to be successful next year and long into the future. Our main article will look at the future of convenience retail in 125 objects.

We are also interviewing retail industry leaders and celebrities like Sainsbury’s head of convenience Simon Twigger, Glamour and Private Eye editors Jo Elvin and Ian Hislop and JTI managing director Daniel Torras, as well as many others in the run up to 18 July throughout June and July.

RN has produced nearly 6,500 issues over the past 125 years, including four days after D-Day and the day before England won the World Cup.

But if you are thinking about the future of your business and how you can make it profitable, you won’t want to miss RN this summer.


 

I’ve been saying at many of the retail conferences I’ve had the opportunity to keynote, that we will see more change in retail in the next 5 years than we have seen in the last 100. These folks have been around for 125 years. This promises to be a fun article!

A few weeks ago, I was the opening keynote speaker in Las Vegas for the 2014 Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference (MURTEC). In the room were folks responsible for the technology investments of a vast number of major fast-casual and quick-service restaurant companies.

Murtech2014 The attendee list featured some of the largest such organizations in the world, as well as many of the new, young upstarts which are challenging existing business models, changing methods of customer interaction, and providing more menu options and choice.

I was brought in by Hospitality Technology Magazine, which is part of the Edgell Communications Group. This was the fourth booking of me for a keynote by the latter organization — I guess they like my message! It’s always fun to have a great client like that.

Hospitality Technology Magazine just ran this wrap-up summary with some observations on my talk:

HT just wrapped up the Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference (MURTEC) in March and, after moving through recovery phases one and two, I had a chance to reflect. The first thing to report is that technology showed up — big — for the foodservice industry. For those of you who keep hearing HT and other commentators talk about the importance of the CIO-CMO alliance; about the need to shift IT into a business mindset; and about the required transition to a more digitally-focused operation, my first major observation from MURTEC is that you hear us, and you’re in. This was the most high-energy, open-minded, marketing-savvy group of restaurant technology executives who have ever been a part of MURTEC.

Change is coming rapidly, and it won’t be possible to fully vet every IT roll-out as you’ve done in the past. As keynote speaker Jim Carroll stressed, you need to be able to think big, start small, and scale fast. Carroll delivered some of the best one-liners of the conference. Somewhere in between likening mobile payment to teenage sex (because no one’s really doing it as much as they say they are; and those who are, aren’t very good at it), and predicting that by 2017 we’ll be processing payments from our car dashboards, Carroll offered up this: 60% of Apple’s revenue today comes from products that didn’t exist four years ago.

Would you be prepared to be in that position four years from now?

That’s just a glimpse of what I covered in my keynote. Why not, for example, aerial drone delivery of fast food? Is that too farfetched? Maybe not.

But more seriously, think about what the restaurant sector has been faced with in the last year.

It’s been the year of the restaurant tablet, with at-table or wait-line ordering options. The rapid emergence of hidden-menus, as a unique method of building customer loyalty. The entire sector is under challenge with innovation — with faster prep-time and  two minute pizzas by Chipolte’s setting the pace. In some fast casual restaurants, we are suddenly seeing Go-Pro’s in the kitchen and food as a spectator sport! Then there is the whole reservation process, with immediate-customer-demand coming to the forefront with apps like GrubHub, Seamless, DrinkOwl, NoWait!

There are faster influencers too that lead to the more rapid emergence of new taste trends. Flavours now move from upscale kitchens to chain restaurants to grocery home-cooked meals, in 12 months, compared to 36 months 5 years ago…..  consumers are snacking more frequently, now making up 24% of all “meals,” and so restaurants have to come up with new ideas faster, particularly because snacks are like a fashion category. Food trucks lead to new competition, business model disruption and exotic new taste trends that QSR’s and fast-casuals must keep up with…..

And then there is the impact of mobile. Suffice it to say, we are going to witness more change in this sector because of mobile than anything other technology of the last 50 years. There are big changes underway in  terms of customer ordering, loyalty, payment, up-sell opportunities …..

Just three days ago, I did another session in this space for the Canadian division of one of the largest QSR’s in the world — a one hour keynote and a two hour workshop that helped the organization and it’s franchisees understand the unique and fast paced challenges in this space. Top of list and top of mind? Mobile and POS.

I spend a lot of time in this sector, having keynoted the global Burger King Franchise conference, an annual meeting of the top leadership of Yum! Brands, and countless other restaurant and franchise groups. There’t no time for complacency, and an organization certainly cannot rest on it’s laurels….

 

 

The folks over at DealNews gave me a call to chat about a few of the trends I see occurring in the world of retail.

photo-2My main comments?

From an interaction perspective, Apple has completely eliminated the checkout line,” says Jim Carroll, a retail futurist trends and innovation expert based in Toronto. “Cash registers have disappeared, and that’s a pretty significant change. It’s weird when you pay them through one of these iPhone devices and just walk out — and in five years we’ll see a lot more retailers doing that.”

What’s Ahead: Advertisements That Talk to You

In terms of the future, experts say that you can bet on mobile and digital technology playing even bigger roles in the retail shopping experience. “Ten years ago, cardboard end-cap displays were stuffed with a product at the end of an aisle,” Carroll says. “Today it’s all about screens everywhere. When you start to link it to smartphones, it gets very interesting. Soon we’ll see customized commercials in the store: ‘Hey Jim, we’ve got a deal for you in aisle number seven.'”

The first point is significant, and will become even more so once near-field-communication chips become ubiquitous, our plastic credit cards disappear, and our smartphones effectively become cash registers. There’s a lot of *profound* change going on in the world, and I’ve given talks to numerous organizations on these trends, including one for folks at the global HQ of The GAP.

The second point is something I’ve been talking about for over a decade. There’s even a video clip where I speak about the trends at play here — “Cardboard People, Plasma People!” I use the story to talk about innovation, but it also puts into perspective my thoughts on what happens when personal, interactive in-store promotional videos become routine.


You can check out the full article here.