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I spent the morning yesterday with the Board of Directors of a multi-billion dollar credit union, taking a good hard look at the trends sweeping the financial services space. They know that disruption is real, and that it is happening now.

And disruption is everywhere: every business, and every industry is  being redefined at blinding speed by technology, globalization, the rapid emergence of new competitors, new forms of collaborative global R&D, and countless other challenges.


The speed with which these changes occur are now being increasingly driven by he arrival of a younger, more entrepreneurial generation; a group that seems determined to change the world to reflect their ideas and concept of opportunity. They’ve grown up networked, wired, and are collaborative in ways that no previous generation seems to be.

And therein lies the challenge.

Most organizations are bound up in traditions, process, certain defined ways of doing things — rules — that have helped them succeed in the past. Over time, they have developed a corporate culture which might have worked at the slower paced world of the past — but now has them on the sick-bed, suffering from an organizational sclerosis that clogs up their ability to try to do anything new.

Those very things which worked for them in the past might be the anchors that could now hold them back as the future rushes at them with ever increasing speed.

They are being challenged in a fundamental way by those who think big, and by some really big, transformative trends.

How to cope with accelerating change?  Think big, start small and scale fast!

I’m doing many keynotes in which I outline the major trends and opportunities that come from “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast,” by addressing some of the fundamental changes that are underway.

1. Entire industries are going “upside down”

One thing you need to know is this: entire industries are being flipped on their back by some pretty big trends.

Consider the world of health care. Essentially, today, it’s a system in which we fix people after they become sick. You come down with some type of medical condition; your doctor does a diagnosis, and a form of treatment is put in place. That’s overly simplifying things, but essentially that is how it works.

Yet that is going to change in a pretty fundamental way with genomic, or DNA based medicine. It takes us into a world in which we can more easily understand what health conditions are you susceptible or at risk for throughout your life. It moves us from a world in which we fix you after you are sick — to one in which we know what you are likely to become sick with, and come up with a course of action before things go wrong. That’s a pretty BIG and pretty fundamental change. I like to say that the system is going “upside down.”

So it is with the automotive and transport industry. One day, most people drove their own cars. One day in the future, cars will do much of the driving on their own. That’s a pretty change — sort of the reverse, or upside-down, from how it use to be.

Or think about education: at one time, most people went to the place where education is delivered. But with the massive explosion of connectivity and new education delivery methods involving technology, an increasing number of people are in a situation where education is delivered to them. That’s upside down too!

You can go through any industry and see similar signs. That’s a lot of opportunity for big change.

2. Moore’s law – everywhere!

Another big trend that is driving a lot of change comes about as technology takes over the rate of change in the industry.

Going forward, every single industry, from health care to agriculture to insurance and banking, will find out that change will start to come at the speed of Moore’s law — a speed of change that is MUCH faster than they are used too. (Remember, Moore’s law explains that roughly, the processing power of a computer chip doubles every 18 months while its cost cuts in half. It provides for the pretty extreme exponential growth curve we see with a lot of consumer and computer technology today.)

Back to health care. We know that genomic medicine is moving us from a world in which we fix people after they are sick – to one where we know what they will likely become sick with as a result of DNA testing. But now kick in the impact of Moore’s law, as Silicon Valley takes over the pace of development of the genomic sequencing machines. It took $3 billion to sequence the first genome, which by 2009 had dropped to $100,000. It’s said that by mid-summer, the cost had dropped to under $10,000, and by the end of the year, $1,000. In just a few years, you’ll be able to go to a local Source by Circuit City and buy a little $5 genomic sequencer – and one day, such a device will cost just a few pennies.

The collapsing cost and increasing sophistication of these machines portends a revolution in the world of health care. Similar trends are occurring elsewhere – in every single industry, we know one thing: that Moore’s law rules!

3. Loss of the control of the pace of innovation

What happens when Moore’s law appears in every industry? Accelerating change, and massive business model disruption as staid, slow moving organizations struggle to keep up with faster paced technology upstarts.

Consider the world of car insurance — we are witnessing a flood of GPS based driver monitoring technologies that measure your speed, acceleration and whether you are stopping at all the stop signs. Show good driving behaviour, and you’ll get a rebate on your insurance. It’s happening in banking, with the the imminent emergence of the digital wallet and the trend in which your cell phone becomes a credit card.

In both cases, large, stodgy, slow insurance companies and banks that move like molasses will have to struggle to fine tune their ability to innovate and keep up : they’re not used to working at the same fast pace as technology companies.

Not only that, while they work to get their innovation agenda on track, they’ll realize with horror that its really hard to compete with companies like Google, PayPal, Facebook, and Apple — all of whom compete at the speed of light.

It should make for lots of fun!

4.  “Follow the leader” business methodologies

We’re also witnessing the more rapid emergence of new ways of doing business, and it’s leading us to a time in which companies have to instantly be able to copy any move by their competition – or risk falling behind.

For example, think about what is going on in retail, with one major trend defining the future: the Apple checkout process. Given what they’ve done, it seems to be all of a sudden, cash registers seemed to become obsolete. And if you take a look around, you’ll notice a trend in which a lot of other retailers are scrambling to duplicate the process, trying to link themselves to the cool Apple cachet.

That’s the new reality in the world of business — pacesetters today can swiftly and suddenly change the pace and structure of an industry, and other competitors have to scramble to keep up.  Consider this scenario: Amazon announces a same day delivery in some major centres. Google and Walmart almost immediately jump on board. And in just a short time, retailers in every major city are going to have be able to play the same game!

Fast format change, instant business model implementation, rapid fire strategic moves. That’s the new reality for business, and it’s the innovators who will adapt.

5. All interaction — all the time!

If there is one other major trend that is defining the world of retail and shopping, take a look at all the big television screens scattered all over the store! We’re entering the era of constant video bombardment in the retail space. How fast is the trend towards constant interaction evolving? Consider the comments by

Ron Boire, the new Chief Marketing Officer for Sears in the US (and former chief executive of Brookstone Inc.): “My focus will really be on creating more and better theatre in the stores.”

We are going to see a linking of this ‘in-store theatre’ with our mobile devices and our social networking relationships. Our Facebook app for a store brand (or the fact we’ve ‘liked’ the brand) will know we’re in the store, causing a a customized commercial to run, offering us a personalized product promotion with a  hefty discount. This type of scenario will be here faster than you think!

6. Products reinvented

Smart entrepreneurs have long realized something that few others have clued into : the future of products is all about enhancement through intelligence and connectivity. Nail those two aspects, and you suddenly sell an old product at significantly higher new prices.

Consider the NEST Learning Thermostat. It’s design is uber-cutting edge, and was in fact dreamed up by one of the key designers of the iPad. It looks cool, it’s smart, connected, and there’s an App for that! Then there is a Phillips Hue Smart LED Lightbulb, a $69 light bulb that is uber-smart, connected, and can be controlled from your mobile device. Both are sold at the Apple store!

Or take a look at the Whitings Wi-Fi Body Scale. Splash a bit of design onto the concept of a home weigh scale, build it with connectivity, link it to some cool online graphs and you’ve got a device that will take your daily weight, BMI and body-fat-mass tracking into a real motivational tool.  Where is it sold? Why, at the Apple store too!

Do you notice a trend here?

7. Careers reinvented

For those who that the post-2008 North American recovery from the recession was slow, here’s an open secret: there was a significant economic recovery underway for quite some time, as companies in every sector ranging from manufacturing to agriculture worked hard to reinvent themselves. It just didn’t involve a lot of new jobs, because the knowledge required to do a new job in today’s economy is pretty complex. We’ve moved quickly from the economy of menial, brute force jobs to new careers that require a lot of high level skill. The trend has been underway for a long, long time.

Consider the North American manufacturing sector, a true renaissance industry if there ever was one! Smart engineers at a wide variety of manufacturing organizations have transformed process to such a degree, and involved the use of such sophisticated robotic technology, that the economic recovery in this sector involves workers who have to master a lot of new knowledge. One client observed of their manufacturing staff: “The education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.”

Similar skills transitions are underway in a wide variety of other industries….

8. The Rise of the Small over Incumbents

We are living in the era that involves the end of incumbency. Companies aren’t assured that they will own the marketplace and industry they operate within because of past success ; they’ll have to continually re-prove themselves through innovation.

Consider Square, the small little device that lets your iPhone become a credit card. What a fascinating little concept that has such big potential for disruption. And it’s a case where once again, small little upstarts are causing turmoil, disruption and competitive challenge in larger industries — and often times, the incumbents are too slow to react.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a Merchant Account from Visa, MasterCard or American Express in order to accept credit cards knows that it is likely trying to pull teeth from a pen – many folks just give up in exasperation. Square, on the other hand, will send you this little device for free (or you can pick one up at the Apple Store.) Link it to your bank account, and you’re in business.

So while credit card companies have been trying to figure out the complexities of the future of their industry, a small little company comes along and just does something magical! No complexities, no challenges, no problems.

* * * *
There are people who are making big bold bets, big bold decisions, who are going to change the world and who are going to do things differently.” That phrase was from my opening keynote for the Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference in San Francisco some years back.

It’s a good sentiment, and is a good way to think about the idea of ‘thinking big.’

As with anything, the opportunity around the idea of the ‘smart home’, and the reality of what will transpire, varies to a large degree. We are in early days yet!

That was the essence of an exchange I had with a potential client in the home/condo construction market; they were looking at me for an executive offsite concerning their plans in this space, and wanted a senior level executive session that outlined opportunities with smart home construction in the future.

My key goal was to get across to them that a smart home doesn’t just involve throwing in some Internet-connected devices;  it’s not just about the Internet of Things; there is a lot more potential, and the scope of the opportunity is pretty significant in the long term. Given that, they really needed to take a substantive approach that involved not just short term goals but some long term thinking.

Here’s what I outlined:

  1. It”s bigger than you think. The smart home of the future will not only play a role in security and energy, but also also a role in economic development, healthcare virtualization, the reengineering of local energy grids and much, much more
  2. We’ve only just begun. Major organizations, such as appliance and other home device manufacturers, are only just starting to understand where they can go with the smart home. This is outlined in my recent post, The 11 Rules of IoT Architecture – they are coming to understand that just as Tesla is building cars that can be upgradable, they can play a role in smart homes that will be upgradable and changeable over time. That’s a pretty big scope of opportunity.
  3. The energy side is much more than just connected thermostats The real smart home of the future will be designed with major energy implications in mind. This will involve @ home energy generation, as well as sharable energy systems and support for local community micro-grids. Catch my video on this, Will the Energy Industry be Mp3’d?
  4. AI will play a big role, but no one is sure what that means yet. We are in early days with home AI devices such as Amazon Alexa and other intelligent assistants. Alexa and other devices have caught the attention of the innovators; someone out there is busy engineering future solutions that are barely an idea yet. We don’t know where this aspect will take us!
  5.  Virtual healthcare in the home is a bigger component of the smart home than you realize. Bioconnectivity – the virtualization of healthcare, is massive. The hospital is being reengineered to incorporate the monitoring of patients from afar. Big, bold thinking in the seniors care and other industries will lead to transformation of the very essence of what we think a hospital is – because the home becomes a part of the hospital. Look to the MedCottage for guidance on the opportunity with this issue.
  6. Making it work is pretty complex. An API has been built, but people are only just beginning to use it. Head over to the site, If This Then That. It’s at the vanguard of where we can go with this massive form of hyperconnctivity. It involves a series of rules -if this device does this, then do that. Talk to your phone to turn on your thermostat. Use your phone to see where you are and define a rule if your garage door should open. The number of companies joining IFTT is staggering — it is likely the World Wide Web for the Internet of Things!
  7. Existing players aren’t necessarily the major players. Google was big and early into the game with NEST, but don’t expect that big organizations like GE, Whirlpool and others will easily give up the potential market. While big companies aren’t necessarily the best innovators, I’m seeing a lot of deep, substantive thinking in these organizations as to the real nature of a smart home eco-system.
  8. The economic implications are huge. In the 1950’s, the modern suburb defined the future of economic relocation – companies made decisions based upon where the employees might live. In the future, smart communities wired by smart infrastructure, particularly those supporting the nomadic worker, will have an economic leg up. Wild card: self-driving cars and economic success.
  9. Architectural / design issues are only just being explored. If we can build ultra-smart, energy efficient, secure homes, have we yet hit an understanding of the design opportunity? In this area, think about the Jetsons – it really provides guidance!
  10. The skills issues are massive! I had one of the first Internet enabled thermostats about 17 years ago. My HVAC contractor flipped out when he saw it, complaining he didn’t know how to wire Ethernet stuff. I said that’s ok, my teenage son will do it — and he did! Its going to take a lot of knowledge re-skilling for the future of the smart home!

For each of these areas, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 20 years. By way of examples:

  •  I’ve spent time with many of the companies in the home energy sector; all of Honeywell, Trane, and Lennox have had me in for CEO level events or dealer meetings
  • with the era of smart appliances, I just keynoted a session at Whirlpool/Maytag on the implications and opportunities of the Internet of Things.
  • in the energy field, I’ve spoken about the future of micro-grids and shared energy for the CEO of PG&E, as well as many global energy conferences
  • I’ve done multiple keynotes around the future of virtualized, community oriented healthcare, most recently, for several thousand folks in the seniors care industry
  • on the economic implications , lots of talks — I’ve just been booked by the Western Nevada Economic Development Association for a keynote around this theme, by way of example
  • on the architectural / design issues, I recently had a keynote in St. Louis for Alberici Construction…. and others
  • and on the skills issues, a lot of time, including talking about the future challenges for HVAC contractors and others at the WorldSkills conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil!

One of my favourite future phases is from Bill Gates: Most people tend to overstate the rate of change that will occur on a two year basis, and underestimate the rate of change on a 10 year basis. So it is with the smart, connected home. We’re going to be in a different space 10 years from now, but we are only just starting to define that!

Closing comment? Back in the late 90’s, I wrote a monthly column for one of the world’s leading airlines — Canadian Airlines! One of my columns had to do with the smart home of the future. It’s a fun read today – and I was pretty right about the trends going forward! Have a read!

Soon you’ll be programming the drapes
September 1999 – Canadian Magazine
by Jim Carroll PDF

The last few decades have been marked by promised of innovative new technology for the home. The presumption, of course, is that more technology is good for us and that, in the process, our homes will become “smart.” Yet today, as we consider the number of people whose VCRs still flash 12:00, we wonder just how smart our homes have become.

YESTERDAY

Ever since the 1930s, many industries have predicated a variety of fanciful technologies that would find their way into our homes and make our lives much easier. Most predictions are, in retrospect, hilarious.

Perhaps one of the earliest examples was the introduction of the automatic dishwasher at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Westinghouse presented a dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern (using a Westinghouse dishwasher) and Mrs. Drudge (cleaning her dishes by hand). At the close of the contest (you know who won), the moderator commented that in addition to losing, Mrs. Drudge was not nearly as “neat and refreshed as when she started.” Yes, technology would make us feel better!

Washing dishes seemed to be a favourite theme of the World’s Fair: some 25 years later, the 1964 Fair featured the Norge Dish Maker. The appliance washed and dried plastic dishes – and then ground them up into tiny pellets, which it would then mould them into new plates, cups and saucers!

Walter Cronkite got in on the act, appearing on March 12, 1967 in At Home 2001, a half-hour show about the nature of the home at the dawn of the new millennium. He explained, for example, the duties of the host: “When a guest arrives, he just pulls out his inflatable chair – a small pressurized air capsule would inflate it and it would be ready for use. At the end of the evening he’d just pull out the plug and put the deflated chair back into his little bag.” Need to cook for the guests? Simply reach for the ultimate in convenience food. “A meal might be stored for years and then cooked in seconds,” he said, without a trace of scepticism.

Optimism continued to reign. In 1977, the Vancouver Sun reported on a “domestic android” manufactured by Quasar Industries, which could “serve your dinner, vacuum your rugs, baby-sit your kids and insult your enemies.”

There was a common undercurrent to many of the predictions about the “smart home.” We would have push-button control over everything, a “remote control for the home,” that would allow us to draw the drapes, water the plants, turn down the thermostat, and control virtually every other aspect of the house simply by punching a few buttons.

TODAY

Of course, few of us today have such capabilities – and we wonder if we’d be able to use it even if it were available. After all, how many of us could manage that “remote control for the home” when we find ourselves stymied by the typical 50-button VCR remote control?

The industry is certainly trying to deal with the problem. There is no shortage of ‘smart-home” technology available and apparently some people are buying this stuff – the U.S.-based National Association of Home Builders estimates that, worldwide, some $2 to $4 billion is spent each year on smart-home devices that link security systems, lighting, and entertainment communication systems.

Who buys them? John and Missy Butcher of Chicago, for example. They have spent $100,000 on a home automation system, which means that (if they are in the mood), they can click the “Romance” button on their home automation controller and watch as the curtains are drawn and the lights dim, while listening to music designed to get them in the mood. “Our lives are much easier,” they note.

Of course, we might think, anyone who can spend $100,000 on a home automation system already has an easy life.

TOMORROW

Will the smart home remain largely a concept, an expensive curiosity available only to the richest and most gadget-hungry among us? Likely not. This is one technology that is set to explode in terms of the number of customers it will gain and the practical role it will play in our daily lives. There are several reasons for this.

First, many people now have more than one computer in the home. The computer industry recognizes that linking them together into a home-based local area network is going to be one of the biggest opportunities of the next three years.

We won’t simply be linking the computers in our home. The technology will link all of our devices based on the computer chip into a central control panel, bringing us one step closer to the remote control concept of earlier decades. Three years from now, you may be buying a set of drapes with a microchip. Plug them in, program them – and forget about them.

Second, the emergence of the Internet plays a significant role. Though we think of it as a tool to surf the Web and read e-mail, it is also a technology that will one day link our refrigerator to its manufacturer, notifying the company when the appliance is about to break down – and, in the process, taking us through the next step in home automation.

And finally, there is the ever-decreasing cost of technology. The smart home has always been held back by the fact that the minimum investment was at least $2,000, but that figure is dropping quickly.

And, most significant of all, we’ll barely notice the technology as it sneaks into our home! We’ll be buying appliances, garage door openers, alarm systems and other things for our home, unaware that they contain the necessary intelligence to plug into our home network.

It’s not that we’ll choose to have a smart home – one day, we’ll discover that it’s already smart.

Not quite convinced? Let me quote Walter Cronkite, from that 1967 program. “Sounds preposterous,” he told his audience, with a bit of a smile, “but some people are convinced it will happen.”

Today’s photo is actually from a keynote for an agricultural organization, but the quote in the picture actually started out having to do with the fast pace of change in the automotive sector. The thought came to mind with my morning photo preparation, because I’m currently preparing for a hands-on, interactive session with a Board of Directors, on the future of self-driving cars and more.

Companies that don’t yet exist will build cars that aren’t yet designed, using materials not yet invented, with manufacturing methods that have not yet been conceived..…”

I could have made this quote back in 2000, in the context of where Tesla Motors is today. I pretty much did when I predicted the emergence of Tesla back in 2003 when I led a leadership team for an event with DaimlerChrylser at Mercedes Benz HQ in Germany.

After I prepare my morning picture, I send it out via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. (You can find all of them on my Instagram feed). This one drew some instant response:

Good point — every industry is subjected to the similar trend of uncertainty.

Since I still had the picture on my laptop and was having my morning coffee, I did a quick revision, to make it more general. “”Companies that don’t yet exist will build products that are not yet conceived, based on ideas that have yet been generated, using materials not yet invented, with manufacturing methods that have not yet been conceived..…”

That too got a fast response, with a number of shares  – but one curmudgeonly fellow decided to take a few shots:

So I tweeted back.  “Geesh you are in a bad mood. Cheer yourself up. The type of thinking is real.” I linked to a quote from Tesla Motors on their unique experience with the Model 3. It somewhat parallels my thinking.

I really should know better.

 

Futures-babble? Sure. Let’s check the assumptions and deconstruct my quote from a historical perspective to put this type of future-babble in perspective:

  • companies that don’t yet exist: Netflix, AirBNB, Uber are the easy ones. We’re seeing a lot of existing ones disappear. The entire history of business involves companies that come into industries, change it, do something new, and upset the balance.
  • products not yet conceived. Really? CD’s, DVD’s, drones, curved skis…. isn’t the whole human experience about conceiving new products?
  • ideas not yet generated. Um, iPads? Didn’t someone invent the concept of a car?
  • materials not yet invented. Velcro, folks. I actually just did a talk for the senior leadership team of Arconic — a new spinoff of the aluminum giant Alcoa. I can tell you that capitalizing on the rapid emergence of new materials based on advanced science is very much on their mind. Should I tell them that maybe it’s just future-babble?
  • manufacturing methodologies not yet conceived. Additive, 3DPrinted manufacturing? Build to demand manufacturing models? Mass customization? Rapid prototyping and SmartThings? Seems we have had a constant stream of new methodologies and capabilities.

I always find it fascinating when curmudgeons jump out and undertake critic-babble.

My quotes stand on their own. I don’t see anything the least bit wrong with them. They will become true, over and over and over again.

Challenge yourself to align to a future that is not yet invented, but in fact, is being invented all around you. Listen to the future-babble. Watch for all the signs and trends that are changing everything – faster. Refuse complacency.

It might make a difference in how you approach things.

In the next two weeks, I’ll have two unique keynotes to close off the year: a keynote for the United Soybean Board on the future of agriculture in St. Louis, and then an event in New York City for the senior leadership team of one of the world’s largest life insurance companies.

Then, it’s time for a holiday break — I’ll be busy with one son running the backyard snowmaking machine, and I’ll be working with the other to flood the newly constructed ice rink at the chalet.

** Read more about our awesome backyard snowmaking system below!

But after that, the future fires up in fast fashion as January kicks in! Here’s whats’ coming already in the early part of 2017:

  • I will speaking to the a leadership meeting for the new organization, Arconic. This is a public spin-off of the global aluminum giant, Alcoa, that will be focused on major opportunities in the transportation, construction and other sectors.
  • two days later, I’ll. focus on the future of construction industry for a leadership meeting of the Alberici Group, a major organization in the industrial and commercial construction sector. I’ll take a deep look at future trends and opportunities in the industries that affect them as a means for spotting opportunities for innovation
  • two events in New Orleans follow in fast fashion. The first is for the American Financial Services Association — I’ll be taking a good look at the future of the automotive industry. Everything from the reality of self-driving cars, the emergence of smart highway infrastructure, the sharing economy and more, and how this might impact the future of automotive lending
  • the second N.O. event is for United Suppliers, an agricultural cooperative, where I’ll take a look at the fast paced trends in this industry
  • that’s followed up by an private innovation awards event for a hi-tech company, based around my theme, “What Do World Class Innovators Do that Others Don’t Do?” — and why its important to celebrate innovation success!
  • hot on the heels of that event, I’ll keynote a global event for Bayer  in San Antonio, spinning back into agriculture world with a real – hey, agriculture is a hot topic!
  • then, its off to Palm Springs, where I will host a half day session with a major company in the automative retail/repair space, with the Board of Directors and senior leadership team, again, all around the theme of the future of the automative industry and disruptive innovation

** Backyard snowmaking? Why not! At our chalet, we’ve always had a little ‘luge run’, and one of my sons always wanted to make snow, so he built his own. As I wrote on Facebook: “As temperatures in the north east begin to plummet, it’s time to turn to thoughts of snow. For that, you need to accelerate your innovation with a backyard snowmaking system. Here’s ours. It can pump out a 10×20, 2″ base of snow in 2-4 hours. It utilizes a pressure washer, air compressor, and a very sophisticated system of valves and nozzles to atomize the water to the right consistency. It also requires optimal snowmaking conditions, and so for that, we have a Raspberry Pi with a SenseHat running Linux that monitors dew point, humidity and temperature in real time, so that the proper Wet Bulb temperature snowmaking is calculated and known.”

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.

Tw3

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!

 

Last year, I went back to school, investing time to graduate from the University of Toronto – Rotman Directors Education Program. This is part of my longer term plan to provide my insight and guidance to organizations and not-for-profits on technology and strategy issues as  Independent Corporate Directory.

Read the article, "Wacky Leaks: The Looming Confidentiality Crisis" as it originally appeared in the Institute of Corporate Directors Register

I’m thrilled to have co-authored and have had an article published in the Institute of Corporate Directors Register publication. Entitled “Wacky Leaks: Understanding the Looming Confidientiality Crisis,” with Jim Brown, a well known expert on corporate governance issues.

The article takes a look at the new culture of open communications and its impact on the necessity for corporate boards to often work with an expectation of privacy.

Clearly, we’ve got a significant challenge here as we go forward into the future, and corporate boards must carefully think through the impact of a culture of open communications upon the tradition of privacy. It will be a tricky balancing act.

A few excerpts:

Over the last few months, the issue of confidentiality of information has risen to the forefront in the news media, with a constant barrage of stories concerning the intentional or unintentional leaking of previously private information. The most obvious case – Wikileaks – has challenged many long-standing traditions with respect to the sanctity of privileged communications.

But Wikileaks is only the tip of the iceberg in what is a new cultural demand for transparency, and a challenge to longstanding traditions of confidentiality.

This drift threatens boards at every level. If unchecked, it could compromise even the most scrupulous of companies and undermine every corporation’s rights to hold sensitive information in private.

These are only a few examples of what is emerging as a major cultural shift; our traditional notions of confidentiality face new challenges every day. In late 2010, Yahoo! announced at a private meeting of staff that a series of layoffs was coming; within seconds this information was being transmitted and shared on social networks such as Twitter. so much for privacy!

What’s going on here, and what does it mean for corporate directors? Clearly, many in the younger generation seem to have entirely different attitudes when it comes to the privacy of information. Raised in a maelstrom of connectivity, they live in a world in which they are fully prepared to share each and every moment of their daily lives.

This article originally appeared in the Director Journal, a publication of the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD).

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