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Technology and Marketing in Future Stores

26/08/2010

With every new bit of technology that helps us connect the “online us” with the” real world us” there is a pledge to make shopping easier. When they really talk about stores, they always talk about how there’ll be smart shopping carts that will tell you what you have in the cart and how much money it will cost. While that will never really happen (at least not instigated by stores themselves, because stores bank on your impulse buys and poor math skills while you’re hungry) there are many other things that will make it to us.

For example, going beyond the Shop Savvy app is Stickybits app that tells you what things you can make with the item you see at the store. This is the sort of thing that we’ll be seeing more of, mainly because advertisers can get behind it, as the app will lead to more sales.

I think Stickybits is just scratching the surface of what can be done with the advertising-is-helping game plan. There are still some parts of the plan that need to be sorted out before it becomes really excellent. The big thing is that there needs to be a bit more push on the advertising side. Methods need to be able to reach out to consumers rather than waiting for them to scan every item they pick up. For that to work, there needs to be a way to figure out proximities to products and to broadcast the location of products.

Perhaps when RFID finally supplants bar codes there’ll be a way to connect to the customer as they pass the shelf to a product. The cart perhaps would have a display or something that shows the specials on each product being passed, thereby increasing the billboard space of each bit of packaging. Taking steps further, when items are placed in carts, the carts would then recommend items in other sections that would be relevant to the current selections.

If you had a system like this, it opens whole new realms of marketing. Products would then be marketed as groups of products and advertising would be targeted to that. Say if you picked up Spaghetti noodles, when you walk past the sauce, advertisements hiding behind ‘recommendations’ would show and in dairy, the cart wouldn’t forget either. There would be a recommendation for Parmesan cheese.

What this would eventually bring is a market for search terms for each grocery store. Vendors would compete at top billing in the recommendation category for sauces after that shopper picks up the noodles – kind of like the battle for shelf space now, only this would be more vibrant and fluid. It would be a battle for the impulse buy.

Not only will there be a battle for recommendations, there will also be a battle for who gets top billing for a certain location, like the seventh foot of aisle 3. We all know how important it is to get to at least the first page of a search engine ranking. It will be even more important to get on the first or second ranking on these store battle grounds.

There will be interesting strategies developed by when not so large vendors who cannot compete head to head with large companies. Many will have to be more savvy, probably using the recommendations and capturing lower volume items and owning their recommendation ratings.

This depth of advertising capability will become still more labyrinthine as temporal situations could take effect. Perhaps stores will sell the rankings and recommendations as a factor of time. The hour or so before sporting events will cause a rise in the ad costs for snack foods and beverages. These times can be set up by mining the already available register sales to determine such things.

The final customer connection will be with the interaction of the cellphone or personal media device or whatever it will be called. The cart will pick up on the phone’s proximity to it, there will be a handshake protocol through an app that will recognize the customer as a repeat customer, just like today with your swipe savings card only this will be instantaneous and hands-free. The savings program will be far more advanced than now. It will recognize you, but more importantly, it will recognize your shopping habits and tailor your experience to that while learning for your next shopping trip.

We as consumers will be come slightly aware, we will learn about how things will work dimly through the experiences we learn through pushing our augmented shopping carts through the stores. Hopefully there will still be ways to game the system.. Of course there will be, there probably will be more ways!

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