Wise Up, Lumberyards: Smartphones Aren’t Going Away

Below is an article from FastCo. Design. What are you doing about smartphones in your Lumberyard? Are you embracing the new customer?

Wise Up, Retailers: Smartphones Aren’t Going Away

Walt Disney
Walt Disney

Rather than fearing in-aisle smartphone usage, retailers should embrace and support it. Only then will they eventually win back control of their stores.

I recently asked an audience of technology buffs how many of them used their smartphones to help them shop in physical retail stores. Over half of the hands shot up. Now for the surprise. “Those with your hands up, please keep them up if a salesperson has ever asked to help you to shop with your smartphone in any way.” All of the hands went down.

Their response mirrors a discrepancy that prevails more generally across the U.S.today (even among non-techies): Customers increasingly use smartphones in stores to help them shop, but the brick-and-mortar retailers are ignoring them.

We can’t go on like this much longer. For one thing, the retailers have no choice: In-aisle smartphone usage is here to stay. One in four Americans taps into the mobile Internet (or about 75 million, according to Forrester’s Melissa Parrish). That number is roughly equivalent to the population of the U.S. eastern seaboard. Most of them own smartphones, and the vast majority of them (84%, according to our own recent survey) use those devices to help them accomplish at least one kind of activity related to shopping, such as searching for product information, taking photos as memory aids, checking prices, or “checking-in” to a location-based service. Barcode scanning and QR, or Quick Response, code scanning is not only popular but sticky: 85% of people we surveyed use their phones to scan products today at least as often as when they first tried it out.

So if there is no chance at all that this is all going to blow over, how come more brick-and-mortar retailers aren’t exploiting this new medium — say, to drive sales? In most cases because they are doing their best to clamber out of the recession: managing prices, inventory and costs, as consumers trade down and buy cheaper. In this context, mobile technology plays into their worst fears: “scan and scram,” as the practice is rather dismally known. Or as a smartphone shopper in our observational field research described his personal experience, “You feel like you’re kind of cheating the store by doing one of these [holds up phone as if to scan a barcode]. Because it’s as if you’re going to hold [the product], and look at it, but not buy it here.”

So consumers and retailers are at odds on the whole subject of in-aisle smartphone shopping: with consumers loving it, wanting it, needing it, and retailers, by and large, hesitating to support it.

Even the most innovative retailers like Best Buy, which stakes brand equity on the success of its in-aisle mobile experience, still provide almost no physical support for it. Its QR code hangtag system, for instance, is progressive. Scan a product code with your phone, and you get instant product reviews and other detailed information. But as a whole, from a customer experience perspective, it’s far too tentative. There are no on-shelf instructions (e.g., how to use a QR code, how to distinguish a UPC code from an internal company barcode); no in-store signage about the Best Buy mobile app; and little, if any, staff advocacy.

Most crucially, an attitude of explicit support for mobile shopping does not shape store culture among any brick-and-mortar retailers, including Best Buy. In its absence, a large swath of consumers is able to imagine that the relationship with retailers is not just ethically ambiguous but positively adversarial. Over a third of in-aisle smartphone users we polled said they felt at least somewhat “self-conscious” about scanning a barcode or QR code with a salesperson nearby.

Fortunately, we know pretty much how this is all going to turn out. Think back to where social media was only in 2006, when photos circulated on the Internet of a Dell laptop ablaze after exploding at a conference in Osaka, Japan. Dell recalled the Sony-made batteries but was initially slow to respond to angry bloggers. Then it formed a social media team, which found that if they singled out influential blogs and commented on negative posts with helpful links to the recall site, the grateful blog owners took on the rest of the damage control for them, evangelizing Dell’s good deeds to their own flock of readers on Dell’s behalf.

Then, as now, you’ve got to go with the flow. Dell responded effectively only because it understood that the days of its monolithic control over its messaging was over. Similarly, for retailers, the only way out, is through. They will eventually win back their aisles, but only when they can accept that they no longer fully control them. At that point, the current “moral discomfort” of both retailers and smartphone-equipped customers will fade into the past: growing pains of a new practice for which norms have not been agreed upon.

This is a future that innovative retailers should want to embrace now, rather than later. Because with change, comes opportunity. Those who get in the game today can differentiate themselves, powerfully, by positive association with the new technology. Simply asking, “Did you know you can use your smartphone to help you shop here today?” will go a long way to set the relationship back on the right path. One of the great brand-building moments of the next decade is available, right now, to the first company who can design a place that shouts “smartphones welcome here.” The chance will not come again.


Five Ways To Survive Your Inbox

Email email email

Below is a great blog post. What are your best strategies for overcoming your inbox?

5 Ways To Survive Your Inbox

Six Pixels of Separation – Marketing and Communications Insights – By Mitch Joel at Twist Image byMitchJoel on6/7/11

I love email. I hate email.

Most people probably have a similar love/hate relationship with email as they grapple daily with their inbox. In fact, I hate email… I just hate not getting email more. And, that’s the dilemma that most professionals face when it comes to their inbox. It’s gotten worse over time. Now, it’s not just emails. We get messages from FacebookLinkedInTwitter and beyond. Most of us are managing multiple inboxes across multiple platforms and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better or easier to manage. My inbox has become a never-ending game of Tetris, where emails continue to flow in and stack up to the breaking point. Many professionals have declared email bankruptcy (where they simply delete every single email from their inbox with the hopes that if the contents were truly critical, the sender will reach out them or call as a follow-up).

Most of us rely on email for critical business communications and email bankruptcy is not a legitimate option, so let’s look at five ways to master the inbox.

  1. Create folders. Some of the newer Web-based email clients do not have folders (like Gmail), but they do have “tags” (words you can use to associate multiple messages to), either way creating tags or folders are critical to getting organized. My general strategy is to create a folder for every client or project. On top of that, I create folders for each member of our team at Twist Image (in case it’s a conversation related to an individual instead of a specific project). I also have folders for HR, business development, interesting news items that may wind up becoming content fodder for my newspaper columns, Blog post, or an idea for a book. I also track trends using my inbox. If something interesting happens with Facebook, I email the link to myself and file it under Facebook in my trends folder. Using sub-folders is another way to keep your emails organized.
  2. Create rules. I set-up a lot of email alerts from places like Google Alerts or when somebody new is following me on Twitter or requesting to connect on Facebook or LinkedIn. With a couple of simple clicks on the “rules” button, you can have emails sent from a specific email address or emails that have a similar piece of content in the body of the message to redirect automatically to a pre-defined folder. This avoids inbox clutter and clog-ups. This tactic works great if you subscribe to a lot of e-newsletters as well.
  3. Get it done. In 2001, David Allen wrote the groundbreaking business book, Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. While I’m not a sworn devotee ofAllen and his techniques (I’ve managed to develop my own coping mechanisms over time), one gem of productivity insight is culled from this masterful tome: if you can get it done in 60 seconds or less, do it right away. Emails that don’t require more than a few sentences to respond to get done as soon as possible and then get filed in their specific folders (or deleted). The longer emails are attended to in-between meetings, but I will set aside one hour – every day – to deal with the emails that require more writing/thinking. Lastly, I don’t beat myself up if every email doesn’t get responded to on the same day that it was received. The non-critical messages get dealt with in due process, but I do respond to every email that requires a response.
  4. Create a hierarchy of response. During the day, clients or potential new business get responded to first, then staff, then requests for media or writing, and then family and friends (unless it’s an obvious emergency). It doesn’t matter if that rule gets broken from time to time, but it’s the spirit of: clients first, team second and everything else after that, which allows me to look at my inbox with a different perspective. Create a hierarchy of who gets responded to and in what order.
  5. Tell people – in your emails – how to work better with you. Most people have no idea how to use email. They respond to everyone on an email with a bunch of people who were only cc’d and they’ll do things like send back an email that says, “ok,” as if that adds any value to the chain of communication. You can set the ground rules by putting some insights into your signature file. I’ve seen people with signature files that not only have their contact information, but say things like, “please only respond back to me, the other people who are listed on this email are just there to be kept in the loop,” or, “there’s no need to respond to back me, I just wanted you to see this so that you are kept in the loop.” A little clarity on how you like to interact via email will help keep your inbox clutter down to a dull roar and it will also teach other people new ways that they can use their email with more efficacy.

Most people are in email hell.

It’s on their smartphones and it’s on their screens for most of their waking moments. Many people look at their email before going to the bathroom as their first act of the day and many people look at their email right before they close their eyes for the night. Some may see this as an indictment on our society’s inability to find a peaceful balance in our work-centric lives. Ultimately, the only way to really survive your inbox is to make a personal promise that you are going to better manage your technology, instead of letting your technology manage you.

What are your best strategies for overcoming your inbox?

The Untethered Customer: Why Mobile is a Game Changer?

Below is an excerpt from a manifesto: The Third Screen: Why Mobile is a Game Changer , by Chuck Martin. Our industry is changing are you a game changer?

The Third Screen:  Why Mobile is a Game Changer

We’re in the midst of a revolution bigger than the TV or PC, and businesses of all types and sizes will be faced with how to deal with it. Not only are many businesses not ready, others are totally unaware.

This is a time similar to the early days of the Web when businesses were plodding along, doing their thing, and along came a totally disruptive technology that rattled companies and their business models. This time it’s the mobile phone, of which there are now more than five billion people using worldwide—roughly five times more than there are personal computers.

But while the mobile revolution is enabled by technology, it is fundamentally about behavioral change.

If you think about it from a screens perspective, there have been three main screens. The first screen, television, revolutionized how marketers reached consumers. That screen involved a broadcast model, where a company could reach millions of consumers with well-crafted and fine-tuned messages.

It was the age of one-to-many. The company had control of the message. Then along came the second screen of the personal computer. Now a company could interactively communicate with its customers and gain real-time customer feedback. That was the age of participatory marketing. The customer began to have a say.

With each of these two screens, however, the company and customer were connected to each other, the first by a mass connection and the second by an interactive connection driven by the company. Major behaviors were created and modified during these two screen revolutions.

Now comes the third screen of the mobile device. With the third screen of mobile, no longer is the customer tethered to a TV or PC screen, perfectly positioned to receive your message on your terms. The mobile consumer is on the move, on location, and the company will have to find how and where their customers aggregate in this new digital landscape to reach them.

This is not the lean back of TV or the lean forward of the PC, but the pull it forward of mobile. It’s up close, it’s personal and it’s always on.

The first two revolutions pale compared to this third screen revolution. These devices, in which PC-type capabilities converge with mobile technology, are about to revolutionize how people behave, interact, consume and live. Much of the technology for this revolution, in development for years, is now here and already driving dramatic changes in consumer behavior.

The Untethered Consumer

This new wave of digital mobility is leading to the creation of the untethered consumer. These individuals are freed from the constraints of awaiting a broadcast message or any form of traditional, online communication from a company. These post-PC consumers are mobile, on the move, and willing and able to use their always-on mobile technology to act and interact on the spot. Businesses ignoring this new untethered behavior do so at their own peril.

The untethered consumer is revolutionizing the entire buying process, from product research all the way through transaction, based on location. Marketing can be hyperlocal, which is what mobile commerce or m-commerce is all about.

It involves the transformation of the entire selling process, including the when and the where. Mobile marketing is beyond providing coupons and discounts. It’s about deciding how you will interact with your customers when and where they want and defining the future of your brand in the mobile environment. This is transformational.

And mobile consumers are doing a lot more than talking on their phones. They’re checking the weather, sending and receiving photos, checking email, watching videos, sending and receiving text messages, researching and purchasing products, reading restaurant reviews, scanning barcodes in stores, downloading coupons, reading, playing games, checking in to locations, finding directions, checking traffic, following sports, social networking, buying movie tickets, listening to the radio and more.

The Mobile Market

No matter how you look at it, the growth of mobile has been astounding. It is the fastest adopted technology in history, surpassing even Internet usage every step of the way.

Mobile adoption is being driven by technological advances including Internet access, higher connection speeds, and a flood of applications providing almost any mobile feature imaginable.

  •  Four out of five people in the United States have a mobile phone and at least half will soon have a smartphone. This is creating the ability for everybody to connect with everybody else at any time.
  •  Many smartphone owners are willing to view ads on mobile devices, leaving companies who do not adapt disadvantaged.
  • Untethered consumers with smartphones text more, use the Internet more, play more games, use more applications, listen to music and watch video more than those without smartphones.

The Smartphones

And smartphones are far more sophisticated than traditional phones and have attributes that can be leveraged and considered in marketing efforts:

Networking: Connected to the network all the time, by cell carrier or Wi-Fi, depending on location.

Location: Can determine where the phone is located at any time.

Camera: Photo and video resolution nearing or matching those of high-end cameras. Can stream video live to the Net, to a friend, or save to memory.

Computing power: It is a small-sized but powerful computer.

Video: Can watch video in very high quality.

Motion: Can tell which way the phone is pointed, if it is shaken, and how the person is moving it.

Touch screen: Highly sensitive to motions and other gestures.

Portable: Can (and likely does) go wherever its owner goes.

Voice: Some may forget, people can still talk on smartphones.

In this revolution, the consumer is ahead of the company, using more and more phone features every day. While the mobile revolution is like the early days of the Web, the notable difference now is that the network infrastructure of businesses and customers already is in place and everybody is on the Web.

Mobile Is Global

So the time for companies to get into mobile is now. It is a wave, and you can either be on it or under it. If you wondering if your company is on track with the mobile revolution, here a few questions you may want to see if you have answers to:

  • What is the overall mobile strategy of the business?
  • Where do your mobile customers aggregate and what mobile platforms do they use?
  • What role does your CIO or IT department play in this? Are they on board?
  • Can your point of sale system or rewards program be integrated and maximized for your mobile customers?
  • How do you plan to deal with your customers on location?
  • Are you going to use 2D or QR (Quick Response) codes?

And those are only some of the questions that need to be addressed.Mobileinvolves determining how you will interact with your customers when and where they want, and defining the future of your brand, product or service in the mobile environment

The Under-the-Radar Revolution

As more people see the value those around them are achieving from smartphone features, they may want to achieve similar results. When they see a shopper scan an item and get an on-the-spot discount, they can become an instant believer. It’s not about the phone, it’s about the value. Companies can’t afford to wait while their customers rapidly adopt mobile or they will have a hard time catching up. Consumers and customers already are moving ahead at great speed. They are driving the market.

And mobile is the ultimate measurement vehicle since a message can be directly tied to customer action taken. If a customer clicked or tapped a commercial message, it can be determined at what location and what time that action occurred.

But it still comes down to the value the company is providing its customer through their phone. Knowing when and where those customers are gives businesses a totally new opportunity to match time, distance, and supply and demand, since each of those is now measurable. Those who do this win.

Companies must recognize that the mobile revolution is more than just an additional sales channel or one more place to advertise. It involves fundamental changes in consumer and customer behavior at all levels, and changes and heightens customer expectations.

But while many large brands have been experimenting with mobile, many are taking a wait-and-see approach. In a mobile marketing study we conducted at the Center for Media Research at MediaPost Communications, 41% of those not yet doing mobile campaigns do not plan to in the foreseeable future. Another study by Acquity Group showed that only 12% of the top 500 retailers had websites optimized for mobile phones.

That old adage about a rising tide lifting all boats doesn’t hold true to those that are anchored. They sink. The question for businesses is whether they will raise their anchor or remain tethered during the mobile revolution. The ultimate impact of this global phenomenon will be bigger than the impact of television or the personal computer. But many companies still don’t see the mobile revolution. But just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. It is happening in a big way that will only get bigger.

Are you ready for the mobile revolution?


Three months ago, I started using software called Evernote. Evernote is a program that helps you capture your ideas, web pages, photos, and more. Evernote will automatically process, index and make your notes searchable. I use it for books I’m interested in reading; I tag these as new books. When I find an article online that’s interesting, I put it into Evernote for later reference. You can setup different notebooks: for example, education, business, and personal. One suggestion made on their website is to take a photo of your notes on a white-board for later reference. Another suggestion is to take a photo of a business card. Evernote App can be installed on a Blackberry or IPhone. This could be used to take a picture of a jobsite and add to Evernote with GPS coordinates. This would enable you to organize all your notes for a particular job.

Download here: Evernote Corporation