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I was interviewed the other day by the National Association of Colleges and Employers; this group is heavily involved in supporting career opportunities for college graduates. The focus of the interview was on generational diferences, and what happens in the workforce in the future.

Read the PDF! “Don’t mess with my powder, dude.” Such was the rather flippant response by an engineering graduate to a job offer from a leading architectural/engineering company. The CEO of the organization was explaining this story to me while we discussed the global trends that I should address during my upcoming presentation to staff of the organization. “What’s with these kids?” he asked.

Certainly there has been a lot of focus on how different the Millennial generation when it comes to the future of careers; I’ve been speaking about this issue for more than 20 years!

The article is below…… but read my article, ‘Don’t Mess with my Powder, Dude” for more insight on the work/life thoughts of the next generation. 

Also have a look at this video from an education conference, in which I speak about how video is the knowledge ingestion tool for the next generation.

Video: The Acceleration of Knowledge


Technology the Catalyst for Generational Differences
Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
January 11, 2017

When we talk about generational differences, we no longer can just identify differences between generations, but we can identify differences within generations as well, according to Jim Carroll.

Carroll, a futurist and trends expert, says technology is the catalyst for the rapidity with which generations now evolve.

“It’s not politics or sociology, because they don’t move fast enough,” Carroll says. “The speed with which technology has come into their lives has made the differences within Generation Z that are amplified when compared to the Millennials.”

For example, Carroll says that there are definitely differences between a 30-year-old Millennial and a 25-year-old Millennial.

“There was a lot of technology coming at them as they grew up, but it wasn’t a huge amount,” he says. “But if you take an 18-year-old and a 23-year-old today—both members of Generation Z—it’s almost like they grew up in entirely different periods of time because they would have been exposed to different sets of technology.”

This carries over into the workplace. Carroll says Generation Z shares common traits with Millennials.

“They have very short attention spans,” he says. “They need multiple different things to do. These are all traits that were common with Millennials, but they are much more pronounced with the generation entering the work force.”

He says that a realization many organizations have not come to grips with yet is that this is the video generation.

“These young employees consume video like it’s oxygen,” Carroll says. “When it comes to training or any type of education or professional development, the use of video is paramount. These employees have never known a world without YouTube, so if you’re doing anything to engage them, it has to be video based. They are not going to sit and read policy and procedure manuals. Nor are they going to spend their time dealing with complex reports.”

They also have little time for what they consider unnecessary or unwieldy tasks or formats.

“They don’t subscribe to the idea of performance reviews or long, laborious processes in stages to move up the ladder,” Carroll says. “They don’t have a lot of patience for complexity and rules and structure. They get frustrated with antiquated practices. It has been a command and control workplace. Instead, they want to get in and get their work done without a lot of talking about it.”

Carroll explains that, with members of Generation Z, organizations also have a powerful source of collaborative powers that they need to harness.

“By growing up with mobile devices and social networks, the skills they bring into the workplace for collaborative capabilities is profound compared to what we saw with Millennials just 10 years prior,” he says. “Employers have to support that and take advantage of these collaborative capabilities.”

While technology allows employees of all generations to work remotely, Carroll believes Generation Z still will value connecting in person.

“The common prediction is that the new generation of employees is going to unplug, work remotely, and not congregate in offices,” Carroll notes. “I might be proven dead wrong on this, but I think that’s going to flip around so we’ll see a trend back to the workplace and increased human interaction.

“The employees entering the work force have untapped tools and skills for the workplace. We have to give them more credit than we do. They have surprised us in the past and I’m certain that they will continue to surprise us in the future.”

I was recently interviewed by the folks at the Speciality Foods Association, for my thoughts on what is happening in their sector.

How a Futurist Deciphers Trends
By Brandon Fox, January 2016

RD2008Food1.jpg

Fads have a shorter lifespan, trends have a shorter lifespan, consumers have a shorter attention span.

Author, speaker, and consultant Jim Carroll offers global trend analysis and strategies for change to companies as varied as Johnson & Johnson, the Walt Disney Corporation, and Yum! Brands. Here, he discusses why trends are more complicated than “what’s hot or what’s not,” the lightning speed of consumer influencers, and why experimentation is necessary to build shopper relationships.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY?

Boy, where do we start? I take a different approach—it’s not “what’s hot or what’s not,” but how are things changing and how quickly can specialty food come to market

People are influenced faster than say, five or 10 years ago—or even a year ago—and a lot of that has to do with social networks, but also with just the way new concepts and new ideas are put in front of them.

I spoke to a group of beverage executives a couple of years ago about what was happening with food and alcohol. I told them to think about “Mad Men.” All of sudden, 1960s retro drinks were all the rage. It happened quickly because people are influenced in new and different ways. It’s not, “what are the new taste sensations?” but “where are those new taste sensations coming from?”

[As for what’s emerging now,] consider how hummus grew as a trend—and then consider what comes next: more quinoa, buckwheat, and rice [products] as people seek similar healthy snack and meal options. And there are fascinating new developments like fruit sushi, chocolate-flavored soda, and even bacon-flavored vodka.”

WHERE DO YOU SEE INFLUENCES COMING FROM SPECIFICALLY?

One example I use all the time is bacon. I traced it back from an article that appeared in the Associated Press newswire in March 2011. The article was called “How Bacon Sizzled and People Got Sweet on Cupcakes.” [The author] followed the trend back to a wine distributor in Southern California who, about six years ago, paired a Syrah with peppered bacon at a tasting. That somehow got out onto the blogs of the time and all of a sudden, boom! Bacon became hot. Everyone talks about Facebook and Twitter all the time, but it’s a new kind of connectivity in terms of how we eat and drink and how we share and talk about it.

DO YOU THINK CELEBRITY CHEFS’ INFLUENCE HAS BEEN STRONG ENOUGH TO DRIVE THIS INDUSTRY?

Huge impact. It used to take a new taste trend from a high-end restaurant five years [to filter down] and now it takes six months or three months or less because there is so much exposure. And another thing is food trucks. People can’t meet the high capital cost of a new restaurant, so they roll out a truck. They’re everywhere. You have people with obvious skills. They can now do what they want and get in front of an audience. And with television shows like the Cooking Channel’s “Eat Street,” it’s a supernova that’s moving faster than ever before.

HOW DO YOU DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN SOMETHING THAT’S GOING TO BE SUSTAINED VERSUS A BLIP ON THE RADAR? YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT BEING NIMBLE, BUT IS THERE A DANGER TO JUMPING TOO QUICKLY?

Too fast or too slow? When the low-fat and low-carb trends came along, by the time [companies] got a product to market, the trend had come and gone. One fascinating experience was when I was doing a talk for Reader’s Digest’s food and entertainment magazines on the same day Lehman Brothers went down and the stock market crashed. The focus of the conference quickly became the economic downturn, comfort food, and the fact that people would focus on more grocery shopping and less time in restaurants. That was the day that Campbell’s Soup was the only stock that went up in value. The buzz around the room was that we, as a food industry, are not very fast or agile to respond to these fast-paced trends.

THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN IN 2008—HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THINGS CHANGE SINCE THEN?

I still worry. How far has the industry come along? Well, a little bit. To a large degree, many consumer food companies still have not made much progress. Fads have a shorter lifespan, trends have a shorter lifespan, consumers have a shorter attention span. While you might have had longevity of three to six to 12 months with a particular type of food, is that collapsing now? We’re no longer in a world in which we can sit back and have a one-year planning cycle.

YOU TALK A LOT ABOUT MOBILE TECHNOLOGY. EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE DOING EVERYTHING WITH THEIR PHONES, BUT HOW CAN A COMPANY REALLY LEVERAGE MOBILE?

Think big, start small, scale fast. If you think big and look five years out—you’re, say, an olive oil company—the bottle is going to be intelligent. It’s probably going to have a chip built into it. You’ll 
probably have some type of relationship, either direct or indirect, with the consumer. That’s a given.

HOW WILL A CHIP ON A LABEL OR BOTTLE HELP THE 
COMPANY GET TO KNOW THE CONSUMER?

The consumer might have liked the company on Facebook—maybe there was a very effective ad on Facebook and they have agreed to share their information. That establishes the relationship. When [the consumer] walks into the store, their mobile device has that 
relationship embedded in it and the product with the active 
packaging chip in it recognizes that they’re near and starts running a commercial on an LED screen while they’re walking into the store. It might say something such as, “You’ve liked this before, so here’s a coupon that we’ll zip to your mobile device.”

That kind of freaks me out.

I’m 56 and that kind of freaks me out, too. My son—he’s 20—is in a different world. He views contractual relationships in a very 
different way. Five years, 10 years from now, he’s going to have more of a budget for spending, and will he accept that idea of zipping a coupon to him? I think he will.

There’s a stat I dragged out years ago—the average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Think about that. You have very little time to grab their attention, so you’ve got to experiment quickly with new ways of putting [your product] in front of them.

Brandon Fox is the food and drink editor of Style Weekly in Richmond, Virginia. Her work has also appeared in The Local Palate and the Washington Post.

I had a long conversation with a potential client in the manufacturing sector the other day; they’re looking to bring me in for a keynote in 2016. I’ve developed a reputation in the industry for some cutting edge insight into the key trends that are redefining every single aspect of the sector at an extremely furious, fast pace. I’ve headlined events for tens of thousands at major manufacturing conferences in Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando and Detroit.

Jim Carroll on stage in September 2011, keynoting the IMXchange - Interactive Manufacturing Exchange -- conference, with a talk on the future of manufacturing and the necessity for continuous, relentless innovation

Jim Carroll on stage in Las Vegas keynoting the IMXchange – Interactive Manufacturing Exchange conference, with a talk on the future of manufacturing and the necessity for continuous, relentless innovation

What’s going on? Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • collapsing product life cycles – simply put, products don’t have as long a lifespan in terms of relevance, consumer attention, rapid escalation of design ideas — whatever the case may be, with shorter life spans, manufacturing organizations are having to pick up the pace!
  • the Internet of Things and product redefinition – every device becomes connected, intelligent, aware… this has major implications in terms of how devices are designed and manufactured. Suddenly, many manufacturers are finding that they must integrate sophisticated user interface capabilities into their products, not to mention advanced computer and connectivity technology.
  • rapid design and rapid prototyping. We’ve seen incredible advances in the ability to conceive, design and develop new products faster than ever before. There is a constantly rising bar in terms of capabilities, and if you can’t pick up on this, you can be sure that your competitors will. The first to market with a new idea is often the winner.
  • the influence of crowdfunding on product design. There is no doubt that the global connectivity that the crowdfunding business model provides is resulting in a change in product conception. Suddenly, anyone can have an idea, fund it, design it, and bring it to market. What I’ve witnessed are situations where these small scale projects are light years ahead of what we’ve seen with established industry players. Crowdfunding is the new garage in many industries.
  • build to demand vs. build to inventory business models. Big auto companies build hundreds of thousands of vehicles, and shove them out to dealers hoping they sell. Tesla Motors takes an order, and builds the vehicle to send to the customer. Big difference — and this model is driving fundamental business model change across every aspect of the manufacturing sector.
  • agility and flexibility. The impact of build-to-demand models is that manufacturers must provide for a lot more change-capability throughout every aspect of the process, from supply chain to assembly to quality control. The ultimate in agility? The Magna factory in Graz, Austria, which can custom build a wide variety of automobiles from completely different car companies.
  • post-flat strategies. What happens when the world gets flat? Put a ripple in it! That’s been the focus of a few of my keynotes for several manufacturing clients. I’ve spoken about organizations who have evolved from having to compete with low-cost producers by focusing on price, to a new product lineup that is based on quality, consumer perception, brand identity, or IoT connectivity.
  • faster time to market. Consumers today have perilously short attention spans. In some sectors, such as fashion, high-tech (smartphones!), food and others, you’ve got to get your product to market in an instant — otherwise, you lose your opportunity.
  • rapidly emerging consumer demand. Closely related to time to market is the fact that new fashion, taste trends or other concepts now emerge faster given the impact of social networks. Think about the impact of food trucks — people can now experiment with new taste trends at an extremely low price point. The result is that new taste trends emerge faster — and food companies must scramble to get new products out to the customer faster. Long, luxurious product development lead times are from ‘the olden days.’ If you can’t speed up, you won’t be able to compete.
  • the fast emergence of same day delivery business models. Amazon, WalMart, Google and others are quickly building big infrastructure that provides for same day shipping. This has a ripple impact on demand, inventory, logistics …. a massive change from the old world of stockpiled inventory.
  • the arrival of 3D, additive manufacturing 3D printers and the inevitable shift to “additive manufacturing” from “subtractive manufacturing based on cutting, drilling and bashing metal..  probably the biggest change the industry will witness in coming years.
  • the acceleration of education requirements. Robotics, advanced manufacturing methodologies, machinining-in-the-cloud, advanced ERP processes : you name it, the skill of 10 years or even 5 years ago doesn’t cut it today. I had one client in the robotics sector observe that “the education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.” That’s the new reality going forward!

That’s a lot of change, and there’s even more underway.

Want more? Watch this!

VIDEO: Atlantic Design and Manufacturing 2013 Interview with Innovation Expert Jim Carroll from ThomasNet on Vimeo.

Running in the Ottawa Citzen, Vancouver Province and other papers today is this article, which offers more food for thought about what the future will be like for babies born in 2014.


Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.
“– American author and cultural critic Neil Postman

2014Baby

Carroll admits he’s only guessing, but says the child who is raised thinking, ‘Mom, dad, get off that device and talk to me,’ could conceivably grow up rejecting personally intrusive types of technology

Almost 400,000 Canadian babies will be born in 2014, a small portion of 140 million who will join the human race next year.

In Canada, those babies will be born to the first generation of parents totally consumed by devices with glowing screens — the chronic tweeters, the obsessive email users, the web surfers, the social media addicts.

And when it comes to predicting and imagining what life has in store for the babies of 2014, it is there we should begin, says Canadian futurist Jim Carroll.

“The kids today aren’t getting the attention that I gave my kids or the attention my parents gave me,” says the 54-year-old Carroll. “Their parents are completely wound up in their mobile devices and social networks. They have no attention span. Those first two or three years are formative, so somehow what they learn during that time is going to help shape their view of the world.”

How might that happen?

Carroll admits he’s only guessing, but says the child who is raised thinking, ‘Mom, dad, get off that device and talk to me,’ could conceivably grow up rejecting personally intrusive types of technology — despite the absolute certainty they’ll grow up in a world with more technology than their parents and grandparents living today can only dream of.

There are already many hints of what technology will bring Canada’s 2014 babies. Just a few weeks ago, Sony applied for a patent for the SmartWig, still a concept but an innovation in wearable computing devices that would capture and broadcast sophisticated images and contain minute sensors capable of monitoring bodily functions such as blood pressure and temperature.

Aside from galloping technological advances, today’s Canadian babies will have to grapple with a deteriorating natural environment and increasing social and economic inequity in one of the world’s richest and most desirable countries.

Carroll and fellow futurists in the United States and Europe have plenty of theories on what life will be like for 2014’s children, at least those born in Canada and other affluent nations. The Citizen gathered some of their thoughts and attempts to imagine the lives of next year’s babies.

TECHNOLOGY

In the early 1990s, when British futurist Ian Pearson predicted a method of communication now known as texting, his idea was dismissed as ridiculous. Why would people write on mobile devices when they could just punch in a number and talk?

With Sony now flagging its SmartWig, Pearson has pondered the notion of computerized contact lenses that would flash images to our eyes — maps, road closures on a usual commute, people whose names we forget at parties. But it’s difficult to know where this might lead.

Even technology futurists admit that ideas that seem ridiculous can become massively popular in the wink of an eye. Just consider the rapid ubiquity of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Are driverless cars just around the corner? Will plastic soon become redundant as direct payment options move to fingerprints or eyeballs?

THE ENVIRONMENT

By the time children born in 2014 are 50, futurologist Raymond Hammond figures they could be living in a world virtually unrecognizable to those living today, a world in which climate change has been by replaced by climate control (and thereby eliminating TV and radio weather predictors as a career choice).

Less fanciful is the United Nations prediction that by the middle of the century, at least two billion people will face severe water scarcity and/or the contamination of drinking water, a condition already faced by millions in developing countries. Heat trapping gases will cause radical climate change and extreme weather conditions that will equal or exceed the power of Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005.

In his acclaimed 2003 book The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery wrote: “We must be under no illusions as to what is at stake. If humans pursue a business-as-usual course for the first half of this century, I believe the collapse of civilization due to climate change becomes inevitable.”

WORK

After education that will be increasingly impacted by e-learning, some futurists believe the concept of a career as we know it today will be replaced by constant change.

Learning is what most adults will do for a living,” says Carroll. It’s already underway. As robots continue to eat away at much of our traditional labour, jobs that people once saw as career paths will continue to disappear and be replaced by jobs that are as unimaginable now as the high-tech industry was at the dawn of the last century.

Babies born in 2014 will be members of a workforce that will be increasingly untied to their employers’ office desk. With 3D holographic conferencing and 3D contact lenses presenting pertinent information before your eyes, the office will be wherever the worker is.

HEALTH

Many futurists confidently predict that health care will be tipped on its head during the 90 or 100 years our 2014ers can expect to live.

Along with health gadgets such as smart toilets to monitor waste for early stages of disease and health sensors embedded in our bodies, clothing or homes to monitor well-being, doctors will conduct back-to-the-future-style home consultations without leaving their office or the patient leaving home.

But the biggest overall change, predicts Carroll, will be the perfected ability of people to know with certainty what might ail them before it actually happens.

I can look at a couple of strands of your DNA and know what you will have, or what you’re likely to have,” says Carroll. “We won’t be talking wait times in a system where we fix people after they get sick. The entire system will be based on prevention and deciding what a person has to do to avoid specific illnesses.”

ENTERTAINMENT

This remains one of the more complicated, unpredictable areas of future human activity to forecast.

On one hand, it’s clear that the screens we use for entertainment will become more sophisticated. British futurologist Frank Shaw imagines a future where walls, floors and ceilings will be interactive screens for video games, movies and TV. On the other hand, the 2014er is being born at a time when vinyl records and the turntables needed to play them are making a comeback.

Just consider the confident predictions of the early 1950s that television would kill radio and you have the conundrum of being reasonably sure that technology will offer options but unsure as to whether people will actually embrace it.

FUTURE TENSE

Futurists admit that most predictions are subject to change, but some aspects of human behaviour are predictable enough for them to be relatively confident about some things. Wars, for example. Our 2014ers and their children will face wars, but drones will be ubiquitous both as weapons and quite possibly as (unarmed) toys for the more affluent.

In his 2006 book, Mind Set! Reset Your Thinking and See The Future, American futurist John Naisbitt took a plus ça change, plus c’est la même, relatively optimistic view of what’s to come.

Whether cellphones can display television and calls are made via the Internet, your bathtub filled by taking off your clothes, or your refrigerator opened by a rumble in your stomach, these are just other ways of doing what we do — easier faster, further, more and longer — and not the substance of our lives. We go to school, get married, and have kids and send them to school. Home, family, and work are the great constants.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by the Membership Management Report about some of the trends and issues that association executives should be thinking about. This came about after their online search discovered the Associations category of my blog. I’ve written a tremendous number of articles about the trends and issues that associations should be addressing as the professions, industries or people they represent under very fast paced changes in terms of skills, knowledge requirements and change. Here’s the article….

MemberManagementReport2013

How Associations Can Keep Up with Change, Change … And More Change By Dawn Wolfe While even the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus knew the only thing that is ever constant is change, the fact is, in today’s world, the changes are coming faster and more radically than ever before. What can membership associations do to stay alive and thrive in the midst of these challenges? “If I’m in a career that’s being impacted by huge rates of change, whether through technology or learning how to work with the new generation, I want to know how my association can help me deal with that,” says futurist, author and consultant Jim Carroll. According to Carroll, there are three main things associations need to think about to help their memberships professionally — and thus, stay alive:

  1. “Associations frequently do annual meetings and focus major efforts on them, but what about helping members cope with the changes that occur between meetings? To borrow from the Pink Floyd song, we need ‘short, sharp, shock(s)’ of knowledge,” Carroll advises. He adds it’s a good idea to create smaller, issue- focused events throughout the year. “We still need to do the annual events — for a lot of associations, that’s their bread and butter — but you also have to fill a smaller, more strategic role.”
  2. “The second thing,” Carroll continues, “is the speed at which the knowledge in different industries is changing. If you’re in health care — or think of banking: people’s cell phones are becoming their credit cards. I should be able to look to my professional association or chamber of commerce to help me deal with this new technology. Increasingly, your job should be supporting the generation of knowledge.”
  3. Finally, Carroll says associations should be actively looking at their relevance. “I’ve spoken to conference attendees and asked if their profession will even exist 10 years from now. This is really important — are you evolving to meet what’s coming?”

To stay relevant, Carroll advises his clients to, “Challenge yourself to do something different. I go to a lot of association events, and they’re just doing the usual. Are you really thinking through the strategic purpose of your events?” It’s also necessary for associations to rethink everything from the length and frequency of blog posts to how to structure their newsletters. “Everyone is blogging, so associations are blogging. They generally are blogging weekly, but changes are coming on a daily basis. Everything is happening faster, so you have to do things faster,” he says. In addition, Carroll cites the example of his 20-year-old son who “gets his news from Twitter. If you’re thinking the next generation is going to have the attention span to read a 500 to 1,000 word New York Times piece, or even your two-page association newsletter, that just isn’t going to happen.”

I’ve just had an article published in STOrai Magazine. This is the monthly magazine for the Retail Association of India, one of the largest such groups in the world.

The article takes a look at the trends which will define the world of retail through the next 1, 2, 5 to 10 years.

You can grab a PDF version of the file — it’s 2 pages long.   

Grab the PDF of the article above! “…most retail experts believe that retail stores will evolve, so that they simply become showrooms for a massive backend logistics system that is their e-commerce system.”

I’ve been doing quite a few keynotes in the world of retail for quite some time, with clients that including for The GAP, the Walt Disney Company, Loblaw and global conferences for both Yum! Brands and Burger King. There’s a lot more information in the Retail Trends section of my blog.

These have ranged from speaking for small groups around a boardroom table (with the CEO and senior management team of several major retailers) to 7,000 person events in Las Vegas.

While dong my research for a recent event, I came across a great quote from Cyriac Roeding, CEO of Shopkick (which develops location- based shopping apps available for Macy’s, Target and other top retailers) ….. “The next five years will bring more change to retail than the last 100 years.”

I certainly believe that to be true.

I also believe that there are quite a few retailers who aren’t quite ready for the scope, speed and breadth of the change that is underway.

The article does a good job of putting into perspective just a few of the trends that are sweeping the world of retail. Much of it is being driven by mobile technology — which is coming to influence not just purchasing behavior, but the entire checkout process.

And think about how quickly dramatic change is occurring in the world of retail – by simply visiting an Apple Store – which is redefining the layout and purpose of a retail store, as well as causing significant upheaval in the entire retail process.

Consider this fact: Apple Stores devote at least 50% of their retail process to what they call “ownership experiences”. The Genius Bar, training, and exploring. That in itself is a fascinating statistic.

And then there’s process: the Apple checkout process, for example. All of a sudden, cash registers seem obsolete! They’ve had such an impact that countless other retailers are now scrambling to put the same type of process flow in place, trying to link themselves to the coolness of the Apple cachet.

That’s the new reality in the world of retail today — pacesetters can swiftly and suddenly change the pace and structure of an industry, and other competitors have to scramble to keep up.

Here’s the article in it’s entirety – and remember, you can grab the PDF from the image above!

Logistics, E-commerce and Attention Spans!

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the future of retail is that e-commerce, or virtual commerce – which was so hyped in the late 90’s and then came into it’s stride in the last decade -will probably come to define the future of the physical retail experience. Jim Carroll, a futurist trends and innovation experts with clients such as The Gap, the Walt Disney Company, the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association, Loblaw and other, has an interesting take to share on the future of retail.

 Isn’t that the obvious conclusion in a world in which, in the US at least, Amazon.com is now promising same day delivery?

Buy online, get it delivered, all in an instant. So imagine that you go into a store, see something you like, buy it and the same e-commerce system kicks in to deliver it to you later in the day!

Why? Well, why carry inventory if you don’t have to if you’ve built a big e-commerce infrastructure for your brand, you might as well use it!

This is the obvious conclusion  in a world in which the customer in the typical retail store probably spends more time looking at the screen on their smartphone than looking at store shelves. So why not adapt to that reality?

Certainly it is becoming more difficult for retailers to keep the attention of their customers. It is said that the average consumer scans some 12 feet of shelf space per second – because they are spending a lot of other time looking at their phones.

In a recent keynote with a world-leading retailer, I made the observation that most retail experts believe that over time, retail stores will evolve, so that they simply become showrooms for a massive backend logistics system that is their e-commerce system. Stores won’t carry much inventory anymore, and instead will become integrated into the sophisticated e-commerce systems which they have built for the online shopping experience.

Anne Zybowski, an analyst at Kantar Retail, stated this possibility perfectly: “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.

And it is for reasons like that, that we have Ron Boire, the chief marketing officer at Sears (and former chief executive of Brookstone Inc.), commenting that his focus is about “creating more and better theater in the stores.”

In other words, pump up the in store experience to grab the attention of the customer. Send promo codes to their smartphones, interact with them heavily through technology, give them the excitement of shopping and deliver the product to them the same day through the logistics system that you have already put in place.

Continual re-invention

Of course, if the consumer is losing their attention, then retail needs to ensure it can do the right thing to stay relevant.

We are seeing this as many retailers invest heavily in the in-store experience. In the UK, Marks & Spencer is spending $600 million revamp of its High Street Kensington store! And Macy’s in New York is spending $400 million on flagship store.

But it’s not just big global mega-stores, mega brands that are reinventing. Trends involving everything from safety to energy to health are causing retail chains to reformulate their stores at a fast pace.

Consider Fresh-Stop, a chain in South Africa that is own owned by Chevron. With the push to healthier diets in the country, the gas-bar chain is now moving away from a mix of unhealthy snack foods, to shelves that offer  fresh produce, meat, fish, a delicatessen and even up-market meals!  And they are converting stores at a furious pace with results. Converted stores have recorded a 12 per cent footfall increase and a 40 per cent sales increase in 2010 against the background of a convenience store sector where sales fell 6 per cent.

What’s most fascinating about this is the fact that they are learning how to change an entire store extremely fast. They can convert an entire store in just two weeks so the future belongs to those who are fast!

And then the credit card disappears

The biggest change to the world of retail comes about as credit cards disappear – because our cell phones become the credit card!

This is a huge trend in North America, it is estimated that payments using digital wallets will grow from $4 billion in 2012 to $191 billion in 2017, breaking $100 billion in 2016.

We’re already seeing the signs of this change consider the Silicon valley upstart Square. Plug the little (square device) into your iPhone, and all of a sudden, you can accept credit card payments.

The service is growing at a furious pace with over 2 million users in just 2 years. They’re doing $8 billion in payments, and just had equity investment by VISA. Even more momentum Starbucks planning a massive rollout to 8,000 stores throughout the US. Square has an unmitigated cool factor!

Yet, despite the excitement of such initiatives, it will take some time for the ‘digital wallet’, or mobile commerce, to become real. Even Google admits this their VP of Wallet and Payment Systems, Osama Bedier, commented that “there’s a lot of ideas and not a lot of problems being solved.”

That’s because there are a lot of BIG problems that need to be solved concerning credit card infrastructure. The New York Times noted this, commenting that “one of the bigger problems that has to be overcome is that mobile payments involve deals between companies that aren’t used to working together like wireless carriers and banks.” (Mobile Payments Slow to Catch On, New York Times, March 2012).

Certainly smartphones are everywhere but retail stores and credit card companies are going to have to invest a HUGE amount of money to put in place the technology that will support near-field-communications.

How much work? “Yankee Group analyst Nick Holland estimates it will cost $15 billion to deploy the technology that will make mobile payments ubiquitous.” Wall Street Journal, November 2011.

A few weeks ago, I was the opening keynote speaker for the 2011 Multi-Unit Franchising Conference held at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

The audience were owners and operators of multiple franchise operations, primarily from the restaurant / food sector, but also from other franchise operations in auto, pet care, home supplies and other retail product lines.

An audience of close to 1,000 listens to Jim Carroll's keynote on fast paced consumer, retail and restaurant industry trends in Las Vegas

My keynote topic was built on the theme “”Where Do We Go From Here? Why Innovators Will Rule in the Post-Recession Economy – And How You Can Join Them!”

 

What did I take a look at? A wide variety of the fast-paced trends impacting the retail / restaurant sector today. I broke my talk down into 3 key trends, what I might call:

  • Consumer velocity
  • Mobile madness
  • Intelligent infrastructure

1. What We Know: Consumer behaviour shifts faster today than ever before

The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second.” That’s a stat I’ve long used to emphasize that the attention span of the typical shopper of today is shorter than ever before — and retailers need to innovate to ensure they can keep the attention of today’s consumer.

It’s not just keeping up with fleeting attention spans — it’s about adapting to the fast pace of how quickly consumer choice changes. Consider what is happening with the rapid emergence of revenue in the late night business segment – it was up 12% in 4th quarter 2010, compared to 2-3% for other parts of the day. That’s why major chains have been focusing on new “happy hour” offerings — and so their success increasingly comes from how quickly they can scale and adapt to fast moving trends.

We’ve seen plenty of fast innovation from various organizations in the sector to respond to quick consumer change. Morton’s capitalized on the new consumer sensitivity towards value when it jumped on the trend that involves the “casualization of fine dining” with its’ $6 mini-cheeseburger.

Other fast trends drive the industry. The Sydney Morning Herald ran a great article in April of 2011, noting that “… the world of cooking and restaurants is becoming more like an arm of show business …..” with the result that “everyone wants to see the chef.” That’s why we are seeing many restaurants from fine-dining to fast casual moving the kitchen to the “front of the house,” or in other cases, a lot of TV display technology that provide for video links from tables to the kitchen. The evolution that is occurring is that the chef is becoming the star, and more and more of the staff are becoming ‘performers.’ Innovators in appropriate sectors would see the opportunities and jump on this trend.

Whatever the case may be, the consumer of today changes quickly, and innovators check their speed and agility in being able to respond to this reality.

2. What We Know: Technology – especially mobile – has become the key influencer of today’s consumer decision making.

Simply put, the velocity of mobile adoption, local search and product promotion is evolving at a pace that is beyond furious.

Consider the growth rates underlying today’s technology. It took two years for Apple to sell two million iPhones. It took 2 months for them to sell 2 million iPads! It took 1 month to sell 1 million iPhone 4’s!

The impact of such trends is an explosive rate of growth of wireless Internet usage. Mobile represented but 0.2% of all Web traffic in 2009. That grew to 8% by 2010, and is expected to hit 16% of all traffic this year.

Some suggest that mobile searches now exceed the number of computer based searches. What is also well known is that most mobile searches are for “local content.” Not only that, but Google has found that when someone gets a smartphone, the number of searches they make increases 50 times!

What is clear is that people are using their mobile devices to find nearby – stores, retailers, restaurants and just about everything else. Combine this with the emergence of new promotion opportunities (through apps and other tools) and you’ve got a revolution in the making in terms of local product promotion. That’s why the success of many retailers / restaurants will come from their success with location-sensitive coupon technology.

Bottom line? Innovation is: rethinking in-store uplift in terms of new methods of interaction!

3. What We Know: We will have far more opportunity for operational innovation through the rapid emergence of new technology, infrastructure and other trends

Consider how quickly near-field payment technology is going to steamroller the retail / restaurant sector. Simply put, over the next few years, the credit cards in our wallet will disappear as our iPhones, Blackberries and Android phones become the credit card infrastructure of the future. This is a HUGE trend — it provides countless opportunities for innovation, disruptive business model change, new competitors, and all kinds of other fun opportunities.

The trend has enormous velocity – we can expect $113 billion in transactions by 2016,  with 3.5 billion transactions – and with this comes new opportunities for loyalty and contact followup. From an innovation perspective, the sector will have to ensure they can ingest the new infrastructure quickly enough, and keep on top of the industry change that it will cause to ensure that challenges are turned into opportunity.

There are all kinds of other areas of fast change that present opportunity. Consider the issue fo ‘green buildings’ and sustainability. The West Australian newspaper recently noted that “with the rapid increase in knowledge, skills and availability of materials, costs have fallen. The industry now understands how to build green and building a 5-star Green Star building is now generally cost neutral.”

Some franchisees are taking this to heart, with aggressive plans involving eco-friendly buildings. Chick-fil-A has a  LEED initiative in building a test model restaurant that has water usage down by 40% through rainwater collection; an electricity reduction of 14% through the use of skylights & energy efficient appliances; 20% of the building content is from recycled material; and 30% more fresh air than regular buildings. While the structure is 15% more expensive to build, they expect a fairly quick payback — and will manage to get a branding image to their customer base that they don’t just talk sustainability – they do it!

From this perspective, innovation is keeping ahead of and planning for hyper-innovation with IT, energy, environmental and other infrastructure trends that impact facilities or the nature of the customer interaction.

 

Innovators get ahead by focusing on bold ideas, and exploring the concept of 'experiential capital' - Jim Carroll

I also emphasized that innovators aren’t afraid to make bold moves. Every franchise and retail organization today is looking for opportunities for cross-promotion, cross-selling and product placement. So consider this observation from the Dallas Morning News in March 2011 in an article titled: Funeral home adds little sip of heaven: Starbucks Coffee.

At McKinney’s Turrentine Jackson Morrow Funeral Home, it’s now possible to pay your respects to the dead or plan your own funeral with a venti Caramel Macchiato in hand

Craziness, or smart niche-marketing? I think it’s innovation!

So what do you do? My message to the folks in Las Vegas was to get involved and explore these fascinating new worlds that surround you!

Many of them might hold themselves back from Facebook advertising, because the concept might simply seem overwhelming for a small to medium sized mulit-unit franchise operation. Yet, today Facebook now accounts for 1 of 3 every online ads. And we are seeing the rapid emergence of new online ‘aggregators’ that are focused on helping small business take advantage of that fact. These organizations — such as Blinq — manage the buying of thousands of individualized ads, based on age, location, interests.

They should simply try the world of mobile promotion. Buffalo Wild Wings gave it a shot for one recent NFL based initiative, and indicated that they tripled the return on their investment.

Think differently in terms of new ways of reaching the consumer. Pizza Pizza, a Canadian chain, recently released a new iPhone App that allows online ordering. Nothing new or special about that – such apps are becoming a dime a dozen, and are quickly becoming de rigueur. What is cool is that the chain has revealed that it is working to link the  app payment system to university meal card plan, in recognition of the fact that many students in the target market might not have credit cards (or “credit worthy” cards.)

Bottom line? One of my key closing messages was that innovators focus on the concept of “experiential capital” -there’s a lot going on, and to figure out, we should just get out and do it! Try new ideas, explore new initiatives, undertake new projects. One of the only ways to get ahead is to work quickly to build up your experience in all the new opportunities that surround you.

Here’s another week of unique insight from my blog tracking tool, ReInvigorate, that links the search phrases that people used to find a page on my site.

It’s a useful way to see what people are thinking about, and to also access some nuggets from the hundreds of blog posts that I’ve written through the years.

I started running this report weekly starting in early December. You can read these earlier posts with the “What’s Hot” tag on my site.

Below, you’ll find the search phrase that someone used on a search engine like Google or Bing, and second, a bit of commentary on the blog page that the search led them to.

  • “importance of innovation” led to the blog post, “The importance of innovation in the era of the new normal,” which outlines five key areas for focusing your innovation efforts as an economic recovery takes hold
  • “Consumers more demanding innovation in retail sector” led to “Innovation: Riding fast paced trends in the consumer / retail sector“, which is a pretty good overview of the key trends impacting those sectors today
  • “the best speakers in the world” led to my home page. Maybe they were looking for someone like me. Maybe they were looking for some stereo speakers!
  • “imagination and business” took someone straight to my “Masters in Business Imagination” manifesto — still a great read to stir up your creative thinking!
  • “an error occurred saving image location” takes you to the page “My digital life – bumps along the way.” This is from way back in 2003, when I had a problem with a particular HP scanner, which I wrote about in the early stages of my blog. It stuns me that 7 years later, some people are still getting this error message, and do what any computer user does – they search the Web for the phrase, which leads them to this old blog post. Has HP not fixed this bug yet? Astonishing!
  • “recreation trends 2010” led the searcher to the page, “Upcoming keynote: The Future of Recreation“, with details on my 2009 keynote for 4,000 parks and rec professionals in Salt Lake City. I’ve certainly been busy in this field, with keynotes for the PGA of America and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. More on that in a blog post to come tomorrow
  • “technology innovation and retail” provides the post “High Velocity Retail Innovation” about trends in the retail sector, including the impact of “zero-attention span customers”
  • “21st century characteristics” led the person to the page, “10 Unique Characteristics of 21st century skills“, a good read for anyone seeking to understand talent management and workforce trends
  • “Snowboarding technology trends” led the researcher to one of my favouritie blog posts (with a video clip), “The future of snowboarding and skiing.” I took up skiing with my family 10 years ago, and it is one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
  • “High velocity markets” provides a blog post, “High velocity globalization – Massive markets, major trends” written just before the market meltdown of 2008. What’s interesting is that if you read that post, post-crash, the same trends are still in play — they were just deferred a bit by global economic upheaval.

That’s it for this week – stay tuned next week for more unique insight from what people find in the thousands of posts in my blog!

On a mailing list to which I subscribe, someone just asked how to write a great press release.

Off the top of my head, I jotted out a response. I’m on the receiving end of a ton of press releases sent by various companies because I do a lot of writing. Most are dull; contain no news; announce stuff of absolute insigificance; and really tell me nothing at all. I toss most of them.

So here’s my list:

  • Change the focus. It’s not a press release – it’s a news release. It should have news.
  • Make it new. It should say something your audience hasn’t seen before. They’re jaded. They’ll say ho-hum. They’re bored with press releases. “Been there, done that.” You’ve got to swat them on the head.
  • Get a different droid. Make it different. These folks likely see a zillion PR releases that all look the same, written by PR-droids in PR-factories with tiny-little droid-computers that spew out droid-PR-rubbish. Read what they wrote, and write it differently.
  • Give the facts. Provide interesting tidbits, statistics, factoids. Most people today have the attention span of your average rock, and you’ve got to connect with their innermost-hyperself. You’ve probably got about 5 seconds to get their attention. Use it well.
  • Keep it short. Short.
  • Don’t be dull. Avoid the same old long drawn out boring quotes. “Mr. Peter Didsworth, an expert in our industry, and a distinguished individual of long accomplishment, noted that it was time …. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” Every press release has them, and people hate them. Don’t boast.
  • Do the work. Give them the story, nicely packaged and put together. I find that most news people are lazy. Sorry! But if this is so, prepare the story for them — so that they can rip and rewrite. Want to read tomorrow’s news? Go read a press release wire today. It’s all right there.
  • Give them bullets. People love bullets. I think people like bullets these days more than they like sentences. Sentences are just too much work. Bullets are better!
  • Make it fun! Most people are so bored with routine that you’ll hook them if you can make them laugh.
  • Make it personal. Find out the 100 people who really care about who you are, and send it to them. Send it invidually. Personalize each note. Take the time to ‘relationize’ with them.
  • Make it a list of 10 things. People like lists of 10 things. Then add an 11th item pointing this out, which will make people chuckle. If people chuckle, they remember you.

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