Big game changers: Immersive reality and customer robot service

An article in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, Five business trends set to shape 2016, asked three business “clairvoyants” what innovations small business will see in 2016: Craig Rispin, Jon Tanner, and myself.

Here are a couple of the quotes from me:

On Immersive Reality:

Futurist Ross Dawson, who heads Advanced Human Technologies Group, says the debut of Facebook’s Oculus Rift (and a host of other virtual reality head-sets arriving next year) is his “big game changer”. It will be arriving in the first quarter of 2016. Dawson believes it could transform the retail, travel, education and property industries. It is not augmented reality (as in Google Glass) but immersive​ reality: the images move in sync with a user’s head movements.

It could be used to offer virtual snapshots of off-plan apartments to prospective property buyers, give travellers the opportunity to peruse a virtual city or visit a mock art gallery in cyberspace, Dawson says. “You could immerse yourself in a battlefield or spend a virtual day in Rome, Paris or Berlin.”

On Automation:

Dawson expects to see greater automation in the retail and hospitality sectors, but believes fast food outlets will be the first to deploy robots. He mentions US-based Orchard Supply Hardware whose “OSHbot” answers questions and directs customers to products. There is also California’s Aloft Hotel, run by three-foot-high (91cm) “botlrs” which have 7-inch touchscreens to interact with patrons.

Here are videos of these robots:

Companies large and small need to be actively thinking about and exploring how these kinds of new technologies will change their business, and how they can seize the emerging opportunities.

Collaboration and activation: the nub of the merger of physical and digital retail

Last week I visited Melbourne Spring Fashion Week as a guest of IBM and the City of Melbourne.

City of Melbourne’s over-arching vision for the annual Melbourne Spring Fashion Week is to position Melbourne as Australia’s premier fashion destination, and have a real economic impact by driving increased sales for retailers in the city.

MSFW

In partnering with IBM for the second year the intention was to extend the impact of the event beyond the week and to drive ticket sales and in turn sales by tapping the social currency of influencers.

Melbourne Spring Fashion Week is unusual in fashion shows in that everything on the runways can be bought at stores in the city. This contrasts to the traditional role of fashion shows as breaking new fashion, which may not be available for many months after it is launched.

Melbourne Spring Fashion Week used IBM Social Media Analytics on Twitter and Instagram to uncover the top 50 relevant fashion influencers, used Watson Personality Insights to work out how best to approach them, and invited them to be MSFW “insiders”, asking them what content would be most useful to them.

Ticket sales have been considerably higher than last year, with 4 of the events sold out.

The initiative is particularly interesting in showing how social analytics and engagement can help drive shoppers into shopping centers and physical stores.

While individual stores can do a great deal to merge their digital, social and physical engagement, the real power comes in bringing people to a shopping center or area, or even an entire city center.

All shopping is becoming social. Retail strategies for merging physical and digital are best envisaged and implemented on a large scale, tapping collaboration and activating buyers.

Image credit: Eva Rinaldi

The virtual agent of the future: Real-time photo-realistic human faces that bridge the human/ machine divide

I recently gave a series of opening keynotes on The Future of Customer Experience as part of a roadshow for omnichannel customer experience platform provider Genesys, which is running a global series of events for their lead customers, which includes organizations such as News Limited, Vodafone, Western Union, and the Australian Taxation Office.

The central theme of my keynotes was the boundaries and relationship between humans and machines in customer experience.

Today, extraordinary insights from data and analytics enable us to address individual’s unique preferences to an unprecedented degree.

Yet the emotion, empathy and engagement of humans cannot be replaced – we all seek personal connection and a real sense of caring.
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Consumer expectations continue to rise: advocacy reduces, antagonism rises, but trust enables value creation

The latest results from IBM’s annual Smarter Consumer Study provide interesting insights.

If consumers are smarter, they are expressing it with not just increased expectations, but an increasingly active expression of their displeasure if expectations are not met.

The following chart, provided to me by IBM in response to a request for more detailed information, shows that in all major countries advocates – those who actively advocate for their primary retailer – have decreased, while antagonists – those who would actively discredit their retailer – have increased.

IBM_advocates_antagonists
Source: IBM
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Cities reconfigured: How changing work, shopping, community, and transport will transform our collective lives

One of our companies, Future Exploration Network, recently created a detailed report for a client delving into the most important shifts shaping the next decade and beyond.
City_aerial1

One of the themes was Cities Reconfigured. The section began:

Urbanisation has proved to be a dominant global force, shaping both developed and developing countries. We know cities are both spreading out and become denser at their centres, but radical shifts are now reshaping the structure and shape of cities. The rise of flexible, remote and freelance work and shifts where and how people shop and socialise are significantly changing travel patterns. The widespread deployment of data sensors is providing real-time insights into environmental, traffic and infrastructure conditions, enabling rapid response and a deeply-needed increase in urban efficiency.
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Shazam will recognize objects as well as music: the implications for retail and design

The music recognition service Shazam will branch out into new domains, said CEO Rich Riley at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today.
Reuters reports:

The next phase of development will be to enable phone users to Shazam actual objects, said Riley, such as a cereal packet in the grocery store to get more nutritional information or a DVD case at home to buy the movie soundtrack.

The capability is not new, with services such as Amazon Firefly allowing users to identify objects and buy them on Amazon, and Slyce identifying objects within a store for lookup and purchase. However Shazam’s excellent and long-standing service suggests they will execute well on object recognition and take the domain further.

There are massive implications for both retail and product design.

Design
A couple of years ago, anticipating this development, I wrote about the idea of “Shoezam“, that could recognize and order shoes on the street. I wrote:
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7 defining themes for 2015 (with videos)

At the end of every year since 2006 I have created structured thoughts about the year to come. The last months of 2014 have been so crazy that I have, unfortunately, not had the time to create highly designed content on the year ahead.

However in preparing for some TV interviews at the turn of the year I have pulled together 7 themes that will help define 2015. Here they are, together with illustrative videos.

1. Robots are here


Robots have so long being part of science fiction that many have come to believe they will never arrive. With recent technological advances, the age of robots is finally beginning, with humanoid robots finally entering the mainstream in work, retail, aged care, the home and even warfare.
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The rise of robots in retail will be swift

Yesterday US retail chain Lowe’s announced that it will be launching a robot assistant named OSHbot in one of its Orchard Supply Hardware outlets.

The Wall Street Journal notes:
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4 important implications of us reaching Crunch Time

A little while ago we released our “Crunch Time” framework, looking at the 14 domains where we are hitting dramatic disruption, including work, money, privacy, government, education, media, climate and more. You can see the full Crunch Time framework on the Future Exploration Network website.

We have created a short video to introduce the concept of Crunch Time, and the four major implications that apply across the board.


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Keynote slides: Creating the Future of Retail

Yesterday I gave two keynotes at the Congreso Internacional de Retail in Lima Peru.

The first keynote provided a big picture view of the changing world of business, while the second keynote focused on the future of retail.

Here are the slides to my second keynote. The slides to the first keynote are here. As always, my slides are designed to support my presentations, not to stand alone, but may be useful to others.