Tag Archives: smartphones

How the Fourth Industrial Revolution Shapes the Retail Industry

It seems to almost happen overnight, the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Something’s coming. It’s picking up speed and will overtake most of us in the coming years. Industries will be disrupted, lifestyles will be altered, economics will be shattered as this revolution takes hold”, according to a press release by the Digital Journal.

The revolution started almost unnoticed, very quiet and extremely swiftly. It’s also clean, unlike the first industrial revolution that was noisy, dirty and very slowly – just imagine the coal gobbling steam engines, 3 centuries ago…

Don’t make any mistake. The 4th Industrial Revolution wouldn’t have happened without the 1st (coal); the 2nd (oil and electricity) and the 3rd (internet technology and clean energy) Industrial Revolutions.

However, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is busy happening right now and it’s having a profound effect on our businesses and our lives. Indeed, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the future of core technology trend are expected to result in an all-new era of automated industries 1.

Also, the retail industry and its customers are already part and parcel of this revolution.

So what is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The internet and Information Communication Technology (ICT) have facilitated the advent of cyber-physical Internet-based systems.  These systems offer innovative capacities that can benefit industry and other economic sectors. This phenomenon is happening now and is known as the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a fusion of all current technologies to create a cyber-physical system 1.

Floridi 3 (2014) explains the 4th Industrial Revolution as a space where smart and autonomous agents no longer need to be human.  Therefore, a society that’s fully dependent on third-order technologies and thus are human-independent. Here, learned machines that communicate with each other, are taking over the thinking and doing of humans…

Or, as Oosthuizen 2 (2016) recently described it: “Consider the possibilities of mobile devices connecting billions of people driving unparalleled processing power, storage capabilities and access to knowledge. In addition, the overwhelming convergence of emergent technology such as, among others, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing.”

The retail industry is one of the spaces in business that the 4th Industrial Revolution is seen working and it is experienced by many.

How the Fourth Industrial Revolution shapes the retail industry

The World Economic Forum 4 (2015) identified six software and services mega-trends which are shaping society:

People and the internet

How people connect with others, information and the world around them is being transformed through a combination of technologies. Wearable and implantable technologies will enhance people’s “digital presence”, allowing them to interact with objects and one another in new ways.

Bricks2Clicks recently discussed how the multi-purposed smartphones of customers that are AI empowered can help them to connect, communicate, recognize and experience the digital world of the 4th Industrial revolution.

Computing, communications and storage everywhere

The continued rapid decline in the size and cost of computing and connectivity technologies is driving an exponential growth in the potential to access and leverage the internet. This will lead to ubiquitous computing power being available, where everyone has access to a supercomputer in their pocket, with nearly unlimited storage capacity.

The use of the mobile smartphone has grown exponentially since its introduction a decade ago. In fact, just over 36 percent of the world’s population is projected to use a smartphone by 2018, up from about 10 percent in 2011, according to Statista. For retailers the growth in use of smartphones by their customers may result in opportunities and threats. Read more: Bricks and Mortar Retailers Need To Be Smart With Smartphone Customers.

The Internet of Things (IOT)

Smaller, cheaper and smarter sensors are being introduced – in homes, clothes and accessories, cities, transport and energy networks, as well as manufacturing processes.

“Connected devices and products provide retailers with the opportunity to help optimize operations in the face of a more complex supply chain. That’s  increasingly important for digital channels, and a more demanding customers.  By utilizing the IOT, managers can track inventory more easily, and adjusting pricing in real time using smart tags”, says Douw G Steyn (Bricks2Clicks).

Artificial intelligence (AI) and big data

Exponential digitization creates exponentially more data – about everything and everyone. In parallel, the sophistication of the problems software can address, and the ability for software to learn and evolve itself, is advancing rapidly. This is built on the rise of big data for decision-making, and the influence that AI and robotics are starting to have on decision-making and jobs.

Retailers will have to decide where and when Artificial Intelligence has the potential to replace human intelligence. Cost and scale will drive these decisions. Future decisions about AI by retailers will probably be about the ethics of using the technology and the effect it may have on society. Further reading: Artificial Intelligence – Digital Outcomes or Digital Disruptions for Retailers?

The sharing economy and distributed trust

The internet is driving a shift towards networks and platform-based social and economic models. As a result, assets can be shared, creating not just new efficiencies but also whole new business models and opportunities for social self-organization. The Blockchain, an emerging technology, replaces the need for third-party institutions to provide trust for financial, contract and voting activities.

Here we are talking about crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin. “There is the potential for a lot of demand for crypto-currencies from a consumer perspective. But right now it’s a pretty complex process to set up a digital wallet, gain access to a crypto-currency exchange, and start buying up coins”, according to Nikki Baird (Forbes).

The digitization of matter

Physical objects are “printed” from raw materials via additive, or 3D, printing, a process that transforms industrial manufacturing. Consequently it allows for printing products at home and creates a whole set of human health opportunities.

3D printing technology for retailers is now emerging as an outcome for small localized retailers that are facing closure. However, as it is with most disruptive technologies, the advantages that 3D printing offer for retailers should be weighed against its potential pitfalls. Read more: 3D Printing Technology for Retailers – An Opportunity or a Waste of Money?

Conclusion

The 4th Industrial Revolution is not only about digital technology and gadgets, but also about us. How should we prepare ourselves and our children to survive and prosper in this digital, robotic and information rich space? And what about retail? Not only need the structure, operations and organisational cultures change at retailers, but retailers also need extraordinary leaders (Read: Success in the Digital Age Requires Extraordinary Retail Leaders).

The last words are from Albert Einstein: “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Notes

1 Chung, M. and Kim, J. 2016. The Internet Information and Technology Research Directions based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, KSII Transactions on Internet & Information Systems, 10(3):1311-1320.

2 Oosthuizen, J.H. 2016. Entrepreneurial intelligence: expanding Schwab’s four-type intelligence proposition to meaningfully address the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. In proceedings of 28th Annual Conference of the Southern African Institute of Management Scientists, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

3 Luciano Floridi 2014. The Fourth Revolution, How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality, Oxford University Press, USA.

4 World Economic Forum 2015. Deep Shift: Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact, Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software & Society, Survey Report, World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland.

Images

c1.staticflickr.com and pixabay.com

Are Websites Obsolete? Not so fast, some says…

Websites obsolete, really? Think about it – the 1.2 billion websites are becoming outdated and out of fashion? And who is to blame? The smart phones and mobile technology? Of course; according to Damle, Aslekar and Yadavalli, (2016) 1, people are beginning to use mobile applications (apps) more than ‘traditional’ websites.

Indeed, Connie Hwong reported that data from Verto Analytics showed that there’s a correlation between the number of distinct apps that consumers use and the total amount of time they spend using their smartphone on a daily basis. That’s no real surprise.

Pappachan, Yus, Das, Mehrotra, Finin and Joshi (2015) 2 suggested that today’s internet users have an array of choices while installing apps of any kind for entertainment, utility, or education. As a result, smart phones started to replace other devices as de facto medium for online browsing, social networking, and other activities. Even more, mobile apps are replacing traditional desktop applications and websites, said Pappachan et al (2015) 2.

So, it this the end of websites? Let’s first compare websites with apps – what are their functions and where do they fit in?

Websites versus Apps

For some, there is no question that the websites are obsolete. The transition from an internet of websites to an internet of mobile apps is no longer coming — it is here, writes John Herrman recently in The New York Times.

Dan Cristo, announced (quite dramatically) in Search Engine Watch: “I’ve been preaching the death of the web in favor of native mobile apps for a while now, but many don’t see it. They can’t imagine a day when their beloved .com will go away, disregarded as a relic of the early Internet.”

But can we do without a website? Are apps making websites obsolete?

Anderson and Rainie, (2012) 3 predicted five years ago that the experience when you visit a webpage and the experience when using an app will converge, possibly to the point where there is little practical difference. They listed points for and against apps.

Points for apps:

  • The convenience – of using apps as a gateway to getting what you want meets human needs.
  • Apps are are easier to control and turn into commodities for sale.
  • The apps approach to accessing information on the Internet is perceived as “closed,” while the traditional Web paradigm is seen as “open.”
  • Apps’ ability to meet specific needs becomes a double-edged sword; they simplify life and they create “walled gardens” and a lack of serendipity.

Point against the domination of apps:

  • The rapid global adoption of narrowly targeted software applications—increasingly popular because of their ease of use on mobile devices—is negatively impacting creativity, innovation, and individuality on the World Wide Web.

websites obsolete

So, are websites obsolete?

Before you get rid of your websites and fall heads over heels for apps, read the 5 reasons Evan Rose (Business2Community) suggests keeping your websites:

  1. There is no SEO for mobile apps. For the moment, there is no way of getting more search results for your business through the mobile app. SEO is still restricted to websites when it comes to on-page keyword strategies.
  2. You cannot incorporate too many features in an app. Imagine every type of content included in your website squeezed into a mobile app. It would be a huge app which would take up a lot of storage space and it would be difficult to use.
  3. You still rely on website landing pages. Coming back to those people who are still browsing social media from their computers (there are a lot of them, and for certain niches they are the typical potential customers), your social media campaigns, ads and offers would not be effective if you send people to a mobile app instead of a web landing page.
  4. Web pages are better for blogging. Although they are very busy, people still enjoy reading a good article or blog post, even if it is longer. It is quite annoying to do that in an app, with endless scrolling on the screen.
  5. Maintaining and updating websites is less expensive. If you focus all your marketing, promotion, presentation and blogging efforts in a mobile app, you will have to apply frequent updates. This is not only annoying for the users, but it is also costly for your organization.

Concluding

I suppose the website will never become obsolete. However, it may become a niche application.  It won’t be long before we can do everything with apps that we can do now with websites. More intriguing may be an application, on a different platform, that will make apps obsolete…

Notes

1 Damle, M., Aslekar, A. and Yadavalli, V.S. 2016. Comparative Study of Online Shopping Experience With Specific Reference to Mobile Apps Based Shopping, International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, 7(4):1238-1246.

2 Pappachan, P., Yus, R., Das, P.K., Mehrotra, S., Finin, T. and Joshi, A. 2015. Building a Mobile Applications Knowledge Base for the Linked Data Cloud, In MoDeST@ ISWC, 14-25.

3 Anderson, J.Q. and Rainie, L. 2012. The Web Is Dead? No. Experts expect apps and the Web to converge in the cloud; but many worry that simplicity for users will come at a price, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Video:

Images

  1. Pexels.com
  2. StaticFlickr.com

Read also: The Big Challenge: How to Increase your Website Traffic

Augmented Reality in Retail – a Useful Customer Experience

Not so long from now. There is an eerie quietness in the retail store.  Almost all the customers are wearing identical glasses and head sets, slowly walking through the aisles like humanoid robots. No, it’s not a new episode of Star Trek in the making – this is Augmented Reality (AR) in action.   Retailers are now experimenting with AR to get customers back in the stores.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is the practice of augmenting a real-time direct or indirect view of the physical world with virtual information 1. Scholz and Smith (2016) describe the practice of AR as: “Marketers layering digital information (e.g., text, pictures, and videos) over objects and spaces in the physical world (e.g., product packaging, advertisements, or street scenes). And consumers experiencing these hybridized realities via digital screens (e.g., smart phones or video installations) or projections (e.g., holograms)”.

AR can also be explained as the co-existence of virtual and real in the same space, as well as the interactive alignment and mutual registration of computer generated sources with physical reality 2.

Scholz and Smith (2016) have identified the five ingredients of AR:

  1. AR content – is virtual information that is often perceived by consumers through digital devices (e.g., smart phones, large-screen AR installations);
  2. Users – are the people who directly experience an AR layer. Users can share the same physical space. For example, if a screen displays an augmented view of the street behind a bus stop (e.g., bogus window paradigm). Or they may view the same AR layer while dispersed across different locations – for example, when readers of a magazine access the AR content of an active print;
  3. Bystanders – are people who do not experience an augmentation themselves but instead observe a user’s actions either directly – by sharing the same physical space – or indirectly – by viewing content (e.g., images) that a user has generated during his or her augmented experience. Bystanders can affect users’ willingness to engage in AR experiences because they form the social context of the experience;
  4. Targets – are entities in the physical world that are augmented with digital information. In many cases, targets are objects; for example, a marketer might digitally overlay a brand narrative or ingredient information on product packing. Targets may also be people – for example magic mirrors in fitting rooms that superimpose digital images of their merchandise over live images of customers;
  5. Background – those objects and ambient conditions that share the same physical space as the target, but that are not augmented in this particular AR layer.

AR has the potential to be a life-changing technology application. In a recent interview by Bloomberg, CEO Tim Cook of Apple said: “We’ll all have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.” What is the value of AR for the retailer?

Augmented Reality in retail

AR can help Bricks and Mortar retailers to let their customers enjoy their shopping experience and come back for more. Shauna Heller writing in Media Leaders propose that retailers offer headsets for people to wear while in their stores, to guide people through the store with pop-up characters, animations, or even a virtual assistant right through the visor popping up as people walk around. According to Augment.com, AR helps in the following ways to stop buyer uncertainty:

  • Proximity, presence, and interaction – a customer who is shopping for home furnishings can launch models of a bed or lamp to see how the item would actually look and fit (to scale), rather than playing a guessing game. AR advocates for purchases with more certainty and satisfaction.
  • Modify or customize selections – Augmented Reality makes it easy for consumers to explore their options and make personalized modifications.
  • Visualize or understand products and features – a customer must be able to understand and visualize how a product works and functions. AR augment sophisticated demonstrations that make it easier for customers to visualize and understand the intricate features of a product before they purchase.

AR marketing campaigns open new possibilities for brands to engage and interact with consumers, especially those from social media generations. Yaoyuneyong 3, et al found that AR is “immersive, persuasive and powerful” and the two benefits of AR marketing that they’d identified are:

  1. Enhancing communication by engaging and increasing consumers’ level of immersion and
  2. Improving sales strategy and sales processes.

Also, augmented reality can make a difference to the shopping experience for both online and offline retail customers.

Concluding

After all, it took a game like Pokémon GO and millions of people with smartphones a couple of years ago to bring Augmented Reality under the spotlight. However, the real value of AR is not just for the entertainment of its users, but also as a dynamic marketing tool for retailers.

Remember Pokémon GO?

Further reading

  1. How successful are Retailers in the Omnichannel?
  2. Bricks and Clicks Retail – Shopping Experience makes the Difference

Notes

1 Scholz, J. and Smith, A.N. 2016. Augmented reality: Designing immersive experiences that maximize consumer engagement, Business Horizons, 59(2):149-161.

2 Javornik, A. 2016. Augmented reality: Research agenda for studying the impact of its media characteristics on consumer behaviour, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 30:252-261.

3 Yaoyuneyong, G., Foster, J., Johnson, E. and Johnson, D. 2016. Augmented Reality Marketing: Consumer Preferences and Attitudes Toward Hypermedia Print Ads, Journal of Interactive Advertising, 16(1):16-30.

Image and video

  1. shortfilmwindow.com
  2. Pokémon GO

Bricks and Mortar Retailers Need To Be Smart With Smartphone Customers

Targeting smartphone customers. How can Bricks and Mortar retailers respond to customers that use their smart phones to compare product prices online?

Show-rooming for smartphone customers

Did you ever wonder why your customers do their shopping with a smartphone in one hand? Well, they are probably comparing the price of your products online. If your prices are higher, they will leave your shop to buy their products elsewhere at a better price.

Some customers are walking into your shop and use your products to feel, fit and smell what they have surfed and found online. For those customers, you are paying rent, keeping merchandise, paying salaries – without getting anything back.

Getting smartphone customers to spend money in your shop

Bricks and Mortar retailers with only physical shops need to implement innovative tactics to get customers with smartphones their shops.

A recent press release by MarketWatch suggested that Bricks and Mortar retailers can take the following steps to get customers using smartphones to buy products in their shop again:

• Bricks and Mortar retailers need not to automatically match the online prices, but rather implement a customer loyalty programs. Giving incentives for show-rooming customers to rather spend money in their stores;

• If the shops of Bricks and Mortar shops are convenient, the service are urgent , and customers are made to feel important, show-rooming customers are more likely to spend their money in Bricks and Mortar stores than online;

• Smartphones may actually improve sales in Bricks and Mortar shops. Customers may use their smartphones to find reviews and specifications about products and still buying the products at the shops.

Bricks and Mortar retailers should react and adapt quickly to changes in the shopping environment in order to keep their doors open…

Image: flickr.com