Keeping up with the Kirks in technology innovation

I am fascinated by TV programmes and films that depict what the world will be like in the future – Star Trek-style health monitors, flying cars and the like. Given the way that technology has developed exponentially, it is perhaps surprising that real-life innovation has not kept up with our imaginations.

Secret Marketer

In my business – like many, I am sure – we frequently ask our customers what they think of us and how we can improve. Perhaps not surprisingly, while we generally score highly for customer satisfaction, one area where we are always marked down is on their perception of our ability to innovate. When we probe into what it is they demand of us, they are unable to help, suggesting that they expect us to have all the ideas.

Which takes me onto a subject I wrestle with frequently – what is the future of our high street? And more importantly, how can high street retailers make themselves more relevant in this multi-channel age? My brand works with many such retailers and while there is innovation in retail, few – if any – brands have got this right. If you ask a sales assistant in a retail store who the company’s biggest competitor is, most will say it is their own branded website.

There is much written of the benefits of ‘big data’ and the use retailers are making of transactional data to better drive loyalty and repeat purchase. But if I am honest, I have not seen the step-change that I expected in this space – in fact I do not see anyone doing more with customer data today than Tesco was doing with its Clubcard 10 or so years ago. My expectation then was that by 2013 retailers would – at the very least – have variable pricing on shelves, such that as the customer walked along the aisle, the loyal customer would see one price, whereas the casual shopper another. But the closest we see to this is still the trusty old money-off coupon.

So what is the future of retailing, and how can my brand capitalise on this? Is my vision of personalised shelf pricing capable of ever becoming reality? Is Google Glass and ‘wearable IT’ the answer I have been looking for? Time will tell – now where’s Captain Kirk when you need him?

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