The Best Retail Technology is Invisible

Many a retail chain has made a drive to be more “digital” and one of those ways was through what is called “omnichannel” marketing, which is just a marketing term for being across every print and digital channel to connect with consumers. Many a retailer thought putting up touch screens in store and making tech highly visible was a game changer. It was, but not in the right way.
The Best Technologies are Invisible
Let me clarify what I mean here. By “invisible” I mean that the technology is largely in the background and works with consumer devices that are already broadly accepted and are second nature to the consumer. Like smartphones.
Sticking up some monitors and touch screens is a terrible approach. They may look cool, but require the consumer to make an effort and consumers are inherently lazy. Any tech they engage with shouldn’t be glaringly obvious.
The best solutions take advantage of what the consumer is already comfortable with. Take IKEA for example. Their app is on the smartphone. A device the consumer is already comfortable with and the app works in-store and out. It’s extremely clever and intuitive, and it is invisible.
Walmart uses technology behind the scenes, specifically with Big Data for supply chain management and their online eCommerce operations. It is invisible to the consumer. Amazon’s new grocery stores use cameras, sensors and AI, largely behind the scenes and connect with the consumers device they already have.
Consumers are Lazy
Inherently, consumers are lazy. Especially when they’re shopping. It’s why paying through smartphones and smartwatches is taking off. It’s easy, the retailer doesn’t have to do a lot of work and makes the shopper happier.
Invisible Technologies
Aside from the smartphone and a device a consumer already has, other invisible technologies are Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, beacon sensors and similar sensing devices installed in walls, ceilings, parking lots and floors. Using these technologies in varying configurations and applications, are smart digital strategies for retailers.
Build Experiences
As I’ve written about before, consumers are increasingly bored with their retail experience because it isn’t an experience. IKEA gives experiences with always changing rooms to wander through and tasty dishes midway through. Apple has the Genius Bar and classes. Few other retailers, who still view profitability by maximizing shelf space to square footage understand this model.
The Ideal Blend
The perfect mix for a retailer is to create a great shopping experience while making the technology that supports that experience more invisible and leveraging consumer laziness.
When you can leverage laziness through technology, you’ve got it figured out. That’s your digital strategy.
What do you think?

About the Author Giles W. Crouch

Giles Crouch is a design anthropologist and CDO/CIO. He spent over 20 years in globally-focussed marketing communications for technology products and services, but his roots are anthropology in a modern sense. He uniquely ties his deep knowledge of technology, marketing, design thinking and design anthropology as a polymath to help clients seeking digital advantage in today’s complex world. Giles has been regularly interviewed by international news media on topics such as social media, blockchain, artificial intelligence and it’s impacts on society. He is a passionate practitioner of design thinking and anthropology. Giles is prolific writer and public speaker, lecturer and keynote. He has also completed over 250 netnographic research projects since 2009. His secondary activity is as Group Publisher with Human Media Inc.

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