Top Retail Technology Trends to Watch Out for in 2017
The speed at which technology changes is virtually impossible to keep up with as a marketer or tech leader. The good news is, there are a lot of shiny things to ignore and focus on the leading trends that seem to be valid for commanding attention for the foreseeable future. In my opinion and in talking with leaders across the globe, here’s what I see as important areas to consider:
• Cloud Computing
This includes building out CRM systems that power data-informed marketing campaigns, personalization, greater understanding of ROI and data-silo elimination. Get this right first and everything else can layer on top. Retailers and CPG brands that relentlessly focus on getting this executed will be clear winners and have a dramatic competitive advantage over their peers.
In 2017 we will witness AR and VR become more mainstream. From Mattel’s 3-D VR View-Master to Google Cardboard, these types of technologies are affordable and within easy reach of every consumer.
"In my own experience, CMOs can even spend more on technology than our CIO and IT leaders. Technology must be looked at as the enabler of the business opposed to a massive cost center"
With Amazon Dash, Echo as made voice and AI acceptable and main stream; especially when there’s a transactional relationship. Aristotle, Mattel’s AI voice-activated device that recognizes the tones from a child is another example how CPG companies are innovating for the future. It’s very much like Amazon’s Alexa, except it’s designed specifically for children. Instead of saying, “Alexa” to activate the device, a child can say, “Aristotle,” and it will wake. Look for more and more products and launches in this space this year.
The Internet of Things, the Internet of Me, the Internet of Health. Whatever you want to call it is here. In fact, Cicso predicts that the IoT global market will be $14 Trillion by 2022. From beacons to Dash, smart homes and health monitoring, IoT is intersecting with our lives deeper and deeper every day.
I include Amazon in this list because we consider them a technology company and disruptor first and a retailer second. From Amazon Go to StyleCode, drones to devices, Amazon should be considered both a partner and threat to CPG brands but certainly a motivator to retailers to be as innovative as ever with their ecosystems.
Prevailing Market Conditions
Painting a general picture of most organizations, I’ve been part of and witnessed massive changes in structure and ways of working. Early on, most heads of eCommerce and digital needed to be their own evangelists and fight for creating integration across the functions including ops, R&D, supply chain, digital, marketing, shopper and sales. Teams that transitioned to this type of integration had better planning, better collaboration and, ultimately, successful launches.
Thankfully, this is happening more and more throughout CPG teams. I’ve also seen tremendous involvement and the desire to learn more about digital and eCommerce from top leadership, CEOs and CMOs in particular. Even members of the board are passionate about this space. There is the realization that online is where the future is, and top leaders will support and build their organizations to ensure success is achieved. As the way we buy changes, competencies need to adapt. From innovation, pack design, converting from cases to eaches, marketing campaigns and budgets all must have digital and technology as considerations. CMOs, CIOs and CEOs need to help foster the idea that we call 11/60/100. Meaning that 11 percent of sales occurs online. 60 percent of those sales are informed by digital exploration, research or word of mouth. And 100 percent of your organization needs to be considering digital in everything they do. It’s the job of these leaders to make this part of the culture. If I could give advice to leaders in organizations, I would strongly urge them to invest in the right CRM system, ensure the team is sold on technology as an enabler and a non-negotiable fact, and form integrated teams with cross functions that plan with digital and eCommerce as part of the full process and not an afterthought or days before a product is about to hit the shelf.
Technology: Enabler of Business
We might have touched on some of these answers above but one of the key points to make is that leaders–CIOs, CMOs, CEOs must all be the disruptors and harbingers of change. In particular, the role of the CMO is changing. In my own experience, CMOs can even spend more on technology than our CIO and IT leaders. Technology must be looked at as the enabler of the business opposed to a massive cost center. Technology can power an organization and help it leapfrog into new growth and over competitions. And, in the case of Wal-Mart buying Jet.com or Unilever’s acquisition of Dollar Shave Club, if the core competencies don’t exist within a team, look for innovative ways to build or buy it. The biggest shift I’ve witnessed over the past five or even three years is the speed and desire CMOs have to learn technology and digital. Once this happens, success and buy-in often cascades throughout the organization.
IoT: Seeping Into Every Aspect of Life
With technology and the speed at which innovation is occurring, IoT is seeping into every aspect of our lives. This includes things like voice enabled ecosystems, connected toothbrushes to smart insulin pens, from bluetooth-enabled pregnancy tests to smart changing pads. IoT is impacting the way we care for our families and ourselves. In addition, IoT will play a major role in the way shoppers interact with retailers, brands, and each other in the future. Amazon Dash has paved the way for IoT to become universally accepted as a real ‘thing’ for shoppers and more and more connected products and smart packaging will spring up over the course of the next several months. The in store shopping experience thanks to IoT; beacon technology for one, will make the store-to-shopper and product-to-shopper interaction more personal, more me-shopping and custom. Brands and manufacturers must understand how stores are adapting and changing and develop programs that partner with retailers and take advantage of the technology overlay.