5 “Big Picture” Technology Trends
While it drives my family and friends crazy, there’s always been a pioneer spirit in my soul driven to continually explore, hone and define the “big picture” of trends in the world of technology. As I explore and learn, I search for the primary drivers, the colors and hues if you will, that make up the picture and I attempt to assimilate those into blogs, stories, presentations and general discussions from which we all can benefit.
It is hard to believe that at the end of this month it will have been a full year since I left the helm of PFSweb, the web commerce company and all things commerce think-tank, I founded with my team in 1994. I truly miss the great team of people at PFSweb but I am extremely excited about the progress they continue to make in evolving our business. For me, the time away this past year has allowed me to refresh, explore, study, network, attend conferences and just spend loads of time learning and reflecting.
Recently a large company executive and close friend of mine asked me what I had been up to lately. I told him I had been spending most of my time listening, watching and learning in the technology space. He laughed and uttered that he wasn’t a techy and didn’t really get it all, but then he asked me if I could sum up what I had learned for him in something he could understand and take action on at his company. I chuckled, thought for a minute and then told him that I was really excited because what I’ve learned from my time spent this last year is that the next several years promises to bring waves of disruptive trends and technologies that will drive a pace of change in people, companies and policies we’ve not seen since the late 1990’s. He looked at me startled and then said “OK you’ve peaked my interest, what is it you are talking about”? Herein is a very high level recap of our conversation and what I see as 5 “big picture” disruptive technology trends that sit at our doorstep.
Leaders & Innovators, ask yourself “How’s my firm doing in preparation for these changes”? “Are we having these discussions in our strategy sessions”? “Are boards inquiring to management about how they are preparing for these trends”? Be honest now…
- Omni-Channel Commerce
This is a topic that I’ve been blogging about for a couple of years that is now truly beginning to hit its stride in terms of consumer expectation. The concept of Omni-Channel is most easily defined as commerce without channels or barriers or said another way, commerce that allows the consumer to interact/purchase from your brand or offering from when, where and how they want, and further be able to see your entire supply chain of inventory from whatever display from which they at the time have access. Can your consumers see your entire Supply Chain?
- Mobile First Development
Internet transactions from mobile and tablet devices are conquering share like Goliath eats buildings, yet 90% of the companies I work with continue to develop technology designs from the desktop or laptop first and then rely on responsive design to render a graceful degradation of their site as the screen size diminishes. Most every piece of research I’ve read recently is showing combined Mobile/Tablet transactions now at near 50% of all transactions and growing at double digit rates. When I speak to developers about this topic, so many of them look at me and say, “won’t happen” because they believe the screen size is too small to deliver the breadth of experience the consumer desires. My come back to that is “pull your head up and look around” and think about how voice, gesture and the use of the camera on the mobile device can completely revolutionize how we as consumers interact with devices. Keyboards could be as obsolete as typewriters by 2020. Has your firm changed to Mobile First Development? (My blog entitled “The Paradigm Shift has Arrived” provides more detail about this trend.)
- Big Data & First Person Analytics
We’ve long wondered if “big brother” is watching. Wonder no more, he is! Think of every step and action you take as being recorded, in effect creating a massive map or “digital footprint” of data about you and your behaviors. Over the next several years the emergence of what is being called “first person” analytics will permeate and several of the technology software entrants in this “Big Data” space are working to provide ways to harness this mass amount of data about you. No longer is it groups or subsets or demographics (called 3rd person analytics), its real life first persona behavior patterns. I’ll even go as far as predicting that most of us have no real idea who we will really are in terms of many of our behaviors, we just chalk it up to “urges and impulses”. But today’s “Big Data” scientists suggest differently and they believe they can harness this huge amount of data into tools that will forever change the way brands market to consumers. Toss in the rapidly growing trend toward internet/streaming television & radio and now brands can effectively market to you one on one. Imagine both you and your spouse are watching the same show in two different rooms and the adverts shown to each of you are specifically tailored to you. Your wants, your desires and your behaviors done so using data about YOU that has been thoroughly analyzed. This could revolutionize traditional ad spend and set a whole new benchmark for response and conversion rates. I don’t often see much that I think Google needs to worry about given their market position, but this trend has the potential to be tremendously disruptive to the golden goose of “Search” that is Google today.
Tagging is not a new concept and we have seen proliferation of various technologies like UPC, RFID, Splat, 2D, 3D, QR and more for many years, none of which are particularly attractive or user friendly but they have served a purpose. Recently though, I’ve seen vast improvements in the application of tagging technologies by several companies that will be critical pieces of accelerent for the trends discussed in this blog as they aid in the ease in speed at which users can interact with the web. Check out these two companies that I am watching closely; Layar and Powa . I’m particularly intrigued by the inaudible tagging technology that Powa is bringing to market that allows for your mobile device to “hear” the tag as its broadcast on a TV or Radio or in a Stadium or Church and immediately link to the site for a one touch completion of a transaction. How is your firm incorporating the advancements in tagging technologies into its future?
- Cyber & Personal Information Risks
We’ve all read about the horrors of the Holiday Season 2013 and the theft of personal data and the large amount of credit card fraud proliferated by criminals who continue to find ways to penetrate the systems of credit card merchants across the globe. The problem in the US has been particularly exposed not only because the size of our market is highly inviting, but also because the US is light years behind most of the rest of the first world in terms of card and terminal technology. And when private industry does a poor job of protecting consumers’ data, guess who comes knocking…you got it Uncle Sam! While the US has probably the best consumer protection laws on the globe as it relates to financial exposure for fraud, billions are being lost annually by merchants to fraudulent activity and the US merchant banks and payment processors have been miserably slow to evolve. I expect that we will see a horde of legislative interest and action on both the cyber fraud and personal data protection topics over the next 12 to 18 months that could materially impact how POS and other card terminal systems, email marketing, shopping cart designs and other payment interaction processes function. Much like the fervor in development over Y2K in the late 90’s, you can expect a long list of expensive and critical resource diverting system enhancement requirements coming from this trend. Merchants slow to respond to this trend will more than likely end up bearing a greater cost for fraud transactions, including fines and penalties. How well is your firm’s payment system architecture prepared for this evolution?
From the front door of the world commerce, I wish you peace and prosperity.