Apple Stanford StoreI’ve been mulling over the job specs for the next SVP of Apple Retail. What qualifications and experiences does he or she need to have? The job is still vacant. In January 2012 Apple hired John Browett (ex Dixons) as SVP Retail. He was fired in July 2012 and the position has been “open” since then, with Retail operations reporting to Tim Cook. As a customer I felt the stores took a service dive during that short period and then recovered in time for last Christmas.  Today Egon Zehnder is apparently still managing the search. So what gives? Why is it so hard to find an SVP for Apple retail?

The answer is “Mobile” is at the forefront of a retail change and candidates just don’t have the experience. Mobile technology is only just at the point where disruptive changes are likely. Apple Stores are uniquely positioned to be at the leading edge of disruptive retail practices. Their biggest advantage is more customers on iPhones than in any other store. That’s a huge opportunity for leadership to define the future of retail.

This post is part thought experiment built on the idea the Apple Store today could be a iStore platform for millions of entrepreneurs. Upstream is an opportunity to create iStore, like iWork, or iLife as a way for Apple customers to do better business and prosper. That huge stretch starts with Apple Retail, their platform for enabling the shopping experience and empowering customers from start to finish. And that is why we don’t yet have a hire. How many retailers actually get the mobile pocket shopping revolution? Who out there could bring this stretch and leadership to Apple?

What the new SVP Retail job specification should include:

  • Global Retail Vision with Emerging Market Understanding
  • Simplicity – Elegance – Experience – Brand Champion
  • StoryTelling Required
  • User Experience Design – Pocket Retail
  • Payments Innovation – Platform for 500 million Customer stores

I’m sharing some of my thoughts around each of these areas below as a way to frame the challenge for an Apple  SVP Retail over 5+ years.  

Global Retail Vision with Emerging Market Understanding

Let’s step back. Apple has the most profitable stores in the world ($’s/sq ft). This includes some of the most iconic storefronts; many marque stores with impressive architectural input. They are a statement about Brand. This is a model that can’t be rolled out to 1000’s of stores without impacting the brand. This steady rollout is working ok although internationally it appears slow. 

In a global context, Apple stores have a new opportunity and clientele. We tend to think of Apple as the consumer market leader. In the West we’ve brought iPhones into the enterprise. And Enterprise is now adopting them. In the western world the phone is part of a changing life, rather than a tool for life and economic improvement. In emerging markets the mobile continues to create wealth and provide economic benefits. As a result even the simplest business practices have changed (think rickshaw driver for example). It is these small businesses, entrepreneurs, that are just now beginning to harness the “computer in their pocket”. From the rickshaw walla, to the real-estate agent, or small shopkeeper they are now looking to take their business to the next level. They are also serving an increasing number of smart phone users. This presents a golden opportunity. The opportunity to put every little enterprise on iOS as well as every wealthy aspiring college student. For the only way to make Apple devices sticky in places like India and China where apps are free and Android phones are priced significantly lower is to make business simpler. Importantly, this is not a challenge any IBM will take on. These are not Fortune 500 cos. No these are the entrepreneurs that Facebook will go after if you don’t!

Apple growth will come from new retail. The best retail may actually be helping others into the business of retail. A global vision that sees 500m stores in 5 billion pockets may really redefine how things work. Apple is also in a battle with Amazon for this opportunity. When will Amazon go local? Will will their resellers get to promote their physical presence?

Simplicity – Elegance – Experience – Brand Champion 

It may not seem obvious from the outside. Stores are just one sales channel to many. I see Apple Stores as the barometer of the business, the bearer of the message, the brand and the Apple experience. Over the last few years they have brought millions of new people into the Apple fold. While Marketing can continue promoting products with advertising, the stores are the lifeblood of what customers want, see and experience. They are also not perfect. When the receipt comes on my iPhone I don’t always get a follow-up feedback questionnaire or the opportunity to remember who I dealt with. I’m still dealing with those Designed by Apple in California characters. The choreography of the personalized transaction remains poor limited.

Retail is about statistics, about growing the business. Same store sales up, $’s per sqft up, revenue per employee up, etc. Reduce / eliminate leakage, efficient returns etc. Yet this focus is where Browett made his biggest mistakes forgetting why we love Apple and their stores. Apple is about service first. It is more Disney than any other chain. Yet Apple still doesn’t know me by name when I walk in (although I suspect given the service I get they quickly know how many 000’s I’ve dropped there)

So where must the new SVP Retail champion a difference? I don’t believe Ron Johnson ever influenced the product. Steve Jobs did, and the stores were his storytelling outlet. I suspect with each new product he asked himself how can I also use this to improve the retail experience? I suspect that the next retail executive must influence product, developers, and marketing. Retail leadership can continue to make buying and selling simpler, easier, and more beautiful. People get that. It reinforces the brand. I suspect that Jony Ive also gets it.  This is why it is so hard to find a new Retail SVP.  The retail challenge is a fine balance between keep the product sku’s down in the store and broaden the product range possible in my pocket and speed delivery. Apple already has an app for that. Still when a buyer can’t find what they want at the Apple Store they open up Amazon and a sale is lost.

The Apple Store must live in my pocket as well as my mind. To make it more relevant I must shop there more often. That means opening it up. The Apple model for that is probably more like AppleTV. Bring in Macy’s, Nordstrom etc. This could create a possible virtuous circle of expansion while retaining and enhancing storytelling in-store and building on the platform that supports them. Stores are part of the brand image. Apps are intangibles. Marissa Mayer gets it. There are only a collection of Apps that really get people going. They include text, mail, calendar, photos, weather, sports, finance. Marissa Mayer Biography – Business Insider. The trick is not to just make the Apple Store one of the greatest on earth. The trick is to make the one in your Pocket every bit as elegant. The Apple story for the next five years should be the Appleization of Retail.

StoryTelling Required: 

15+ years ago when I was running stores the interaction I most enjoyed was with Visual Merchandising. I led marketing for two chains. One a lifestyle chain and another a chain of Garden Centers. Both these businesses had a “color” story. “Color” sold the plants, and it built the dreams inside one’s home too from accessories to paint. Still, many years earlier when I was retailing bricks and genuine brick transformations (new patio, BBQ, mailbox etc.) it was the demos that sold the weekend pallet that the homeowner was going to DIY. You have all walked into the store where the entrance display grabbed you. Yet what do you do when the store you are now so familiar with isn’t really changing? You want something new. In fact you need a plan that matches shopping frequency.

That’s an underlying Apple Store problem. Yes it is getting new products over the next few weeks and that is part of a story but not the real story. Fact is Apple stores today are well known, understood, we expect great service, we go in to buy a new iPad or yet more Apple products. Yet when you are satiated and can’t do with another accessory what’s the real story that is going to bring you in. More importantly what’s the story  or set of stories that will broaden Apple’s appeal. What will you notice next time that is different about the way you shop?

At retail Apple must simple tell more powerful stories. It must continue to push the boundaries. Fitness, Health, Smart Home for example. It’s may have to think out how to become an ATM/Bank and Business Center although most of that could be done at home. Then the example of that is Apple sold Music in the stores (although no records, DVD’s etc) and supported it with iTunes. Before Apple launched their first store they spent ages building one inside a warehouse till they got it right. Now with 100’s of stores it isn’t quite so easy to change the formula. Yet that is still where the storytelling starts. The product isn’t the whole story the user experience is. When every phone looks alike or close to the same how can Apple change their stores. The truth may be in staffing up more and reducing products. Make the experience more bazaar like, more marketplace than static product displays. In a Disney context create more characters and more entertainment. Close the gap between the phone and magic as for many of us the mobile is now just like magic and the power we find with an always on connection.

User Experience Design at the Mobile Level 

Apple Store is one of the best mobile shopping apps out there. I can even use it to pick up and walk out the store with goods in hand. No interaction required. While I suspect this is hardly ever done, it points to experimentation to reduce the friction around payments and collection. I’ve written elsewhere about Pocket Retail and why putting the Cash Register in the customers pocket is smart. Apple with iOS 7 has also launched iBeacon. We don’t know yet how that will roll out in Apple stores (on September 20th with the new iPhones?). As in recent discussion iBeacon, matched with Bluetooth LE is a potential game changer for both payments and store visits which means “experience” and behavior changes. The combination of mobile and stores puts Apple at the intersection of this disruptive change.

Many retailers are user experience experts although this will trace to the more visual merchandising and promotional skills. Yet few have any real experience managing apps adding to the in-store experience. Outside Amazon or perhaps eBay few candidates could provide a successful track record for online  and mobile store experiences. For the Apple candidate to be successful it requires them to be deeply passionate about mobile. As the online store increasingly moves from the web to the pocket the integration of this experience is key to the future of retail.

We can see how the iPad and iPod changed the Apple retail experience. iPods for Cash transactions as a register. iPad for product details (which you now see duplicated in other stores Nordstom and Comcast). Is it too far-fetched to believe an entrepreneurial Apple customer in India or China could walk into an Apple store buy an iPhone and walk out with a device and accessories that can help them run a simple iStore in the same way? It would really just be an extension of what’s already done well today. Providing a cash register, inventory management system, online store presence, and customer relationship manager. Could this help the small shop, the street vendor, the barber, the door to door salesman, etc.?

Is this Appleization of retail possible? Could Apple retail build a transaction platform for every small seller on the planet?  Wouldn’t this just extend the customer love? Help them handle their payments, make them rich and then the iPhone is really priceless. Could this be a huge reason why the current vacancy remains? Is there a retailer and candidate out there that can prove they have this vision?

Payments Based Innovation – 500m Cash Registers?:

Similarly, not many in a senior retail position knows much about the future of mobile payments. The jury is still out on what approach will win. Yet Apple Retail is in a box seat to lead innovation in this area. Let’s see if iOS, Passbook, Bluetooth LE, iBeacon hit the Apple stores in new ways before Christmas. While I’ve written more recently about Square  (Apple should probably buy) it is the movement to integrate the wallet into the mobile that will create the next real wealth/value situation for Apple shareholders. As I’ve suggested in the Square post, The company that provides the register may also be part of the payments system.

The next new head of Apple Retail must drive this change through, pioneering a radical change in the way we shop; everywhere. By proving it first in the Apple Stores and then potentially helping to open it up to customers and developers (WWDC 2015).   Apple must continue the revolution around how it sees its online store and physical store relationship. Where Apple captured the creative class – artists and designer with Macs, the mobile presents a more entrepreneurial opportunity. What Apple Stores need today is a personal individual store in everyone’s pocket. That’s the holy grail for every business today. Know your customer by name. Have the ability to go global while making local interactions more valuable than ever. So our Apple candidate must move the world from 1-Click payments to one where zero touch payments are the norm. 

Other Challenges:

There are probably some challenges and skeletons. I suspect that Apple’s store systems may not be as pretty on the inside as the outside. Turning stores into a full platform that works for everything from the small store to the diner with a minimum amount of fuss is a big undertaking. We all know how slowly iTunes store evolution moves.

The mobile payments race involves many factors. Everyone wants to clip the ticket just like Visa does. Yet the revolution will be in reducing Visa costs by a factor of 10. If a combination of mobile social business can achieve this then Visa will be challenged by  over the top OTT customer to seller payment relationships. If everyone phone is effectively a cash register almost everyone can re-think how payments happen. From running the garage sale to selling an item or service on Craigslist. When cashless is just easier, safer, and more likely to build relationships then literally business may again be just a hand shake. Now just think if an Apple store could be run like that.

So a post far longer than I expected to write. I want more work / projects in this area. Retail and payments are ripe for disruption. The majority of the world’s businesses are tiny and it’s quality of product and service that helps these entrepreneurs win. The dumb phone changed lives. So far the smart phone has changed few lives economically. When “data plans” and smartphones take on more basic economic meaning then we’ll see smartphones everywhere. Retailing provides a frame of reference for that. Note that Apple is already well positioned for this adventure. Still Windows / Nokia might get here too. Google without stores will likely find it a challenge. Facebook seems like it could be a good fit for an OTT type strategy in this area although needs strong partners. Amazon almost has all the goods already. Kindle Store – device coming?

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pocket strategies

Tomi Ahonen writes a good post on mobile strategy. He says the fever is catching on and “mobile first” is now many top priority for many companies. It is true we see it everyday, and yet the label generally is faulty, strategically. Mobile first is only part of the strategy equation required for success. Read his post and then see why I believe “mobile first” is a poor label to promote and drive strategic change in your organization.

The mobile fever is catching on. More and more we hear major global brands suddenly talking of their ‘mobile first’ strategy. Not just the telcos. Not just the tech companies from Lenovo to HP, not just the media giants from Electronic Arts to the BBC, not just the electronics giants from Sony to Samsung. Bizarre names now saying mobile is their top priority. Like banks, credit cards, travel, retail. Starbucks, yes the world’s largest coffee chain said that mobile is their top strategic priority.

via Why is Everybody Obsessing About Mobile Now? From Starbucks to Tesco, from Visa to Budweiser Beer.

I’m going to make a case for thinking about mobile in the context of “Pocket Strategies”.

“Mobile First” is a label attracting attention. Probably because expensive consulting firms are using it. The problem is it is device-focused – on smartphones and mobile computers. Instead, what companies require today are “pocket strategies”.  By definition pocket strategies are personalized, user-centric, situation and context aware. Mobile first doesn’t communicate these things. It shifts attention from PCs to mobile devices rather than re-defining attention. A mobile first strategy doesn’t fully embrace the disruptive nature of the behavior change that is happening. More importantly it isn’t focusing the team on deeply immersing themselves in new user experiences. Tomi has great examples in his post of why companies doing great mobile things are enabling changes that are successful and revolutionary. Yet I’m not sure they approach the future as “mobile first” alone.

Obsessing about mobile first and not user first, is to define your business through a device rather than a lens on the broader world.  Why not just dive into someone’s pocket and stay there. Yes I want you to obsess on how they use the device, where and when it happens and what for. You want to be part of that experience and you want to leap out of my pocket from time to time. When you (company, organization, brand) live in my pocket you truly have an intimate relationship with me. Don’t ignore what it means. This is a relationship you never had the opportunity to have before and it is a lot more nuanced than you are accustomed to. Just remember I’m a person not a device and you also don’t want to be a device.

So how does shifting your strategic direction to “pocket strategies” help?

1. Context. A mobile first strategy doesn’t put “context” first. It doesn’t address the user, their status, or deeper understanding of behavior. It is more suggestive of an App, or moving the website to being readable on mobile devices. Too often solutions are dumbed down for mobile. That’s a mistake. The mobile pocket strategy is more like the genie in the bottle.

2. Stories: Mobile first is about forcing stories rather than telling them inside the company from personal experiences. If you want people thinking about strategy and not just the next smartphone’s wonderful features then create a paradigm that involves, emotion, behavior, passion, time, involvement, values, futurism. First employees brought these smartphones to work. Now bring them onboard. Most of them are already learning faster than your company is.

3. Brand and personality. If you want your brand to survive in the new world where my mobile phone is both my friend and gatekeeper then where and when are you part of my life. Will it be time to time, when I go home ,or on my way to work? How many layers will you have in your brand strategy? How will you encourage adoption, how will I find you, remember you or return to you (and why?).

I’m afraid “Mobile First” is an in the moment cry rather than a longer term understanding and direction. As an organization, a leader or manager, you require a POV on how this new world will evolve. Keep in mind how and why I will love you as a brand. How and where I find you, reach for you, and interact with you. What is that edge that your brand, product, service brings that makes me want to take you everywhere (In my Pocket)  and then how will you delight me? Add to my passion, make me a better person, help me live a better life! That’s why so often the mobile is seen as a tool for empowering life.

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google teslaThis well-linked article below may be the best summary of recent links on the future of robocars, self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles. I’ve also linked to a series of articles that refute the view that they will be decades in the making and point to Google applying new pressure by negotiating with Tier One suppliers like Continental. Underlying this should be a realization that maps aren’t about mobile (as in smartphones) anymore. Rather maps are about mobility and rather than point to point they are about what’s in motion at any time. So underpinning Google’s map/location/car efforts is a complete reframing of how we look at the world and perhaps how it is managed in the future.

We do not think someone will have a fully autonomous production vehicle that soon,” said Daniel Flores from General Motors’ advanced technology group. “Vehicles that can drive themselves are years — maybe decades — away. The technology will develop in steps to allow the vehicle to do more and act incrementally as sensors get more robust and costs come down.

That might be, but such talk isn’t about to diminish Google’s ambitions. Google is leading the charge on this one. It’s prodding the auto industry — not to mention regulators and the insurance business — to push the whole effort at a Silicon Valley pace.
via How Google’s robo-cars mean the end of driving as we know it | Cutting Edge – CNET News.

A key element is timing. Self-Driving cars will be very disruptive to business models and could radically change transportation planning. Fundamentally they will completely redefine Transportation and obsolete current “Intelligent  Transportation” frames of reference. Self-Driving cars are like comparing smartphones with dumb phones. Their launch date is just a few years away. If my perspective has changed in the last year (when it was 2020) I suspect it could now be sooner / earlier. These new potential partnerships suggest phase two is now in motion. The traditional automakers would like this transition to be gradual with all of them reaching the market at the same time. I think that increasingly unlikely. The wild card is one company will launch a self driving car in just a few years. It will launch at a higher price. (Tesla Model S is a good scenario model). The core challenge is. We have pre and post self-drive cars. Not much different to the dumb and smart phones. What it means for consumers is…. the more we know and expect the next generation of vehicles will be self-driving the less likely we are to plump down change on a new dumb car.

Indeed, one of the people with direct knowledge of the effort says Google wants to pressure major car brands to embrace autonomous-navigation technology, whether they partner with Google or not. This person added that Google already feels it has spurred carmakers to embed more self-driving features. Of course, car companies have been conducting research on self-driving car technology for years, well before Google unveiled its effort in 2010
via Exclusive: Google Designing Its Own Self-Driving Car, Considers ‘Robo Taxi’ – jessica lessin.

2017 is likely to be very limited although Uber or Zipcar could be a revolution at that point. The challenge is the price point. My guess has been 2x the price of a dumb vehicle. Example we can go to one vehicle or we can share it out like an AirBnB. However, I suspect Google ambitions are much greater than doubling the price of the current car. When self-driving comes for a 10 or 20% premium everyone buys one.

It’s an Inconvenient Truth, but vehicles capable of driving unmanned could be with us by 2017.  That’s based on what Ron Medford of Google said at the recent TRB Workshop on Road Vehicle Automation, and on what Sergey Brin (Google co-founder) said at the signing of the California Autonomous Vehicle Bill on 25 Sept 2015.  (Since confirmed on numerous occasions – and in particular by Anthony Levandowski of Google to a question that I asked the panel at the California Public meeting on the Friday after the main Workshop).

via Autonomous Vehicle Impacts.

Yep you can count the days for “dumb cars” and the current “feature cars” are just transitional. We still await the “smart car” which like the smartphone will have an iPhone like moment.

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Simplicity, the user experience, and location / context is why iBeacon increasingly looks better than NFC related solutions like PayWave.  This article (linked below) is a must read if you are a retailer. Proximity and Context Marketing are big areas to watch and start testing now. What I like is rather than wait to the end of the shopping experience  iBeacon turns it all around. It enables a better relationship and experience to happen from the time one gets close to the store. By encouraging smartphone use and interaction while shopping the seller may be one step closer to creating a more powerful relationship. Redefining how we pay can come a little later.

In the age of context, iBeacon can provide the information you needed when it is needed. Just like NFC, iBeacons even allow you to pay the bill using your smart phone. The best part? iBeacon can run for up to two years on a single coin battery and it comes with accelerometer, flash memory, a powerful ARM processor and Bluetooth connectivity. Also, you can add more sensors to iBeacon to provide better context.

via With iBeacon, Apple is going to dump on NFC and embrace the internet of things — Tech News and Analysis.

This video shares a museum example and becomes more technical. As they note you can buy beacons and also use your iOS devices as a beacon. What it allows is distance awareness and thus is much more powerful than NFC or WiFi solutions. Future examples will be interesting. Not just at the entrance to stores, even person to person type intros depending on proximity and context. And don’t expect adds to be served to people running past a store. Motion detection will know they are in a hurry.

See Estimote a company making iBeacons for retail deployment. They have some examples on their site. Importantly this technology can personalize offers to an individual. Over time this can change how products are displayed and merchandised. Example would include. This would look good with the jeans you bought last month. Today 20% off. While another person gets a completely different offer.

Forbes is also equally excited and AppleInsider refers to the Ad0maly ad network. So as these reports say – it is now iBeacon season. Note PayPal announced a solution too for development although launch is sometime next year.

Expect this to appear in Starbucks soon at least in test. It could really help with grocery shopping too.  Safeway? In small stores it could present a wonderful way to capture and bring in new customers. It’s underestimated how much personalized service is wanted and desired. This is true in both big and small stores. The technology discussion here should keep focused on how it builds a better experience. Otherwise it will fail or will be ignored.

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Visa PayWaveHow does the phone become a smart wallet? The following description doesn’t appear to make life simpler. Seen referred to down under in New Zealand which has an advanced banking system and the small market means they can test some things other can’t. Still I read this description and thought….I’m not excited.

To make a purchase, open the app, touch the big button on the screen, place the phone on the tap-and-go terminal, wait a moment, remove the phone and touch the big button again. A PIN for the “virtual credit card” is selected when setting up the system and this must be used for transactions over $80. A separate PIN, for the application, can be used with smaller purchases if the user chooses to set it up this way. Have phone, can shop – NZ Herald News.

The solution being launched in New Zealand is led by Visa, Vodafone and three banks and will require a special SIM card and NFC capable phone with App installed. Using the SIM provides a different security system and keeps the payment solution away from the arch enemies Google and Apple.  Note Visa PayWave is here in the US too. It just doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of traction.

 paywave“Visa is absolutely key to this overall solution because they provide the payWave technology which enables all of the transaction processing around us,” says Vodafone consumer director Matt Williams. “They are our key partners along with the BNZ and it’s three of us, as a mobile operator, a transaction provider and a bank that make the system work.” via Vodafone introduces SmartPass app – Story – Technology – 3 News.

I count at least five steps in the transaction description above (maybe more with Pin entry). Touching phone in tap and go? (Just a wave.)  There’s also setup steps. These systems just don’t feel like the future of payments to me. Too many steps and nothing really new in the payee experience. So far these systems all appear to be about how to put the credit card into the phone and then make the phone a simple wave to pay. It’s really time to stand back and think about how service, cash registers and online payments are changing.

1. At the Register: The most common register we’ve seen for years is big and ugly usually with a bar scanner and a screen which the customer can see what is being rung up. Often the payment stuff – card swipe etc is separate – bolted on. Perhaps more recently you been served in an Apple store or Nordstoms or a coffee shop with someone using an iPod or an iPad. They are convenient, they put the register wherever the customer is and can change the service experience for the better and worse. Why worse. Well I can’t see what is being rung up anymore. (Note the PayWave approach is sticking to the more traditional POS devices.)

2. Where’s the wallet? Traditionally in a back pocket or purse. Pull out the cash or the credit card. Importantly, after the clerk had rung up the sale total. So the big question here is. Why in a register situation are we waiting for the customer to take out their wallet  when half of them waiting in the supermarket line already have their phones out doing mail, messages and games? When that big register is replaced by a small iPod or iPad couldn’t the “customer screen” be my phone? Then there is the self-serve, self-checkout where this is already effectively the case. So why aren’t all these new payment solutions “getting the future wallet” the phone out of my pocket at the beginning of the transaction? (PayWave is also not helping me with my receipt, it’s a total I approve.)

3. My Phone: Once my phone becomes my window into the checkout/payment process (or even ordering process as I’ve written before) what other options can the store, retailer, etc. add to my experience? While I may not want promotions, this remains an opportunity for adding to the experience. What we need is a story, a way of keeping the line engaged in the experience rather than opting out, or feeling like they are just waiting for service. I’m fairly convinced that when customer and seller own the experience together rather than the seller processing the customers money enjoyment will go up. I could push my order outside Peet’s from the parking lot and just go in and pick it up. That’s a better service not just a faster swipe of the credit card.

4. It’s mobile. Yes we see the mobile wireless visa card swiping things. They are even more important now when so often the waiter requires a pin so the bill can be paid. So really why do we need a separate machine for this. Aren’t we reaching a point where most waiters come to work with a smartphone. Can’t they just log in to their employers cloud and start ringing up the sales that way? Mobile is set to eat these old terminals. How long can they hold on?

At the end of the day the banks, and the telco want to stay the middleman. Whereas what’s required is a payments system that directly links buyer and seller and works more like cash and a receipt. It should open the window for ordering and speed pickup. I also want a payment system that is more “social”, more shared, more relationship bound. I also want it to be easier to use.

Each time I see an update on NFC, Banks, Visa, and Telecoms I think about two things. These aren’t our favorite organizations and they aren’t known for their customer service or value for money. I suspect many would like to see them disrupted?

 

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iphone 5sWell fanboy blogs are full of  Apple’s iPhone announcements today. Apple stock price is down slightly. Generally most will yawn and then more iPhones will be sold than ever before. A quick review left me with a couple of questions and observations. Overall nothing much has changed.  Apparently, no deal yet with China Mobile, although Japan and DoCoMo was announced.

Questions: 

  1. What does 64bit in the A7 processor really mean for longer term development? From the presentation I understood it as graphics and thus gaming which creates a further set of potential questions re AppleTV, iPad and future products. Add to that how it might impact the longer term relationship between iOS and OSX devices. 
  2. What does the M7 Motion Chip really do? Health care, fitness? Other uses?
  3. What does the fingerprint reader really mean for banking and payment transactions? How does it match up with bluetooth, iOS based register solutions etc. Apple is again ignoring NFC which may be a good strategy. I’d also like to know how developers can put this reader to use.

Observations:

  • Camera gets another bump in power. I’ve upgraded each time for a better camera. Nokia understood the power of the phone cam first and Apple has clearly learnt from those lessons and the early criticism that their cameras were crap. Pictures are huge, period. I love the idea of the new slow motion video feature. I could have really used that a few weeks ago.
  • Battery: There appear to be marginal bumps in battery performance. We still need better batteries. Smartphones aren’t going to make it in parts of the third world without much better battery life. Or we need to see some new modes to extend it. Battery extender?
  • Development Cycle? The expectation is next year we get a new iPhone 5S casing and the 5C will continue perhaps with 5S innards. This cascading as a product strategy doesn’t seem to be all that effective. The 5C  is effectively a cheaper 5. It doesn’t appear to be enough cheaper to really expand in emerging markets.
  • Big Screen: It’s reported that Apple is testing larger screens. They better bring them on sooner rather than later. There are too many reasons why people like them. It was a big miss not to have a larger screen added at the same time.
  • iWork iPhoto iMovie: This is almost huge. I just don’t understand why they don’t provide it free to all iOS users straight away. Yes I bought them but really there is more utility in increasing the universe and number. It would be a small hit to make them free across all Apple devices. It’s Office, but free. And it works across your devices.  It brings an Office suite straight into the enterprise via iPhones and iPads. That really hurts Microsoft. A paid enterprise version could come later.

iWork:Free for all new iOS devicesBest-selling mobile productivity appsiPhoto, iMovie also included for free. via Everything Apple Announced At Todays iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c Event 

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Have you seen America’s Cup? If not you are missing out. I spent the weekend at the America’s Cup Village enjoying both the atmosphere and the on-the-water racing. Sunday was some of the most exciting racing/competition I’ve ever seen in any team sport. When the ETNZ lost the fourth race it was 8 seconds and they cruised across the line. The America’s Cup may not return to San Francisco and it may never again be in this format. Everyone in the crowd knew it and felt it was a once in a lifetime type experience. Events like these really don’t come along very often. It’s worth watching even better if you can get down to the village.

Afterwards I watched the races over on TV. For the first time there’s a sailing event that is made for TV. It’s hard to believe the production values that have gone into this event. Literally from setting the course, to the penalties, and on-boat cameras. The control room takes production to a completely new level setting a new bar for any sport.  While in the crowd half of us were trying to stream NBC or the America’s Cup app at the same time. Even that showed how technology is changing the experience.  Everyone was calling out details. Each time the boats went out of view – how close?, how close?. Being at the grassroots epicenter was a great experience and embeds the whole event in the larger than life proportions it represents.  They have come close to translating that to the small screen.

However the racing finally finishes up credit must be given to Larry Ellison and Oracle for designing an event that was impossible just a few years ago. While it might be seen as a big expensive exclusive party (sort of is) it brought both sailors and non-sailers out to the bay. It’s much more exciting than a Formula 1 race or Nascar. It’s also turning out to be about people and teams and perhaps less about the boat. That’s probably good for the future of AC.

It may be all over by next week. By then I hope the Kiwi’s will have it wrapped up. Still I hope that before they go and change all the rules again they reflect on the magic that they are part of.

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Nokia N95Over the last five years I’ve thought a great deal about Nokia’s fall from grace. I’ve participated in many forums and discussions around it’s strategy, and had a wonderful network of friends and people that have worked for Nokia. I tweeted yesterday:

“Ex Nokia now Microsoft Phone will be DOA. Balmer’s Trojan brings Elop affect next to Microsoft. Worlds biggest business train wreck.”

This post is more about what has died with Nokia. It is told below as a story. As for a train wreck this simply isn’t the situation that was planned. Nokia wasn’t supposed to bleed money or lose so much market share. With Windows Phone failing Nokia had two choices. Adopt Android or sell to Microsoft. Microsoft had two choices. Buy Nokia Devices or give up on Windows Mobile and its devices strategy. Slapping Microsoft today on what was Nokia smartphones isn’t going to make them sell better. I suspect Microsoft just added a business that it will find valueless.

My Nokia Bedtime Story: Why Microsoft Will Never Find Nokia Love.  

I lost a friend yesterday. For years we were very intimate. I held her tight in my hand, I don’t know how often I reached for her, shared a meal with her, captured my thoughts or enjoyed the world around me. She wasn’t perfect in the years we were together, although we bonded as if one. Still she was both sexy and sharp although it took some time to get to really know her and some of my friends found that harder. When she was at her best she was both music to my ears and color to my eyes. In my part of the world (California) she was less known, and yet I was both proud of her and willing to keep renewing our friendship reaching for the next new thing. In those years we flew together, I was one of her evangelists.  I also provided some strategic input from time to time and I’d loved visiting her home in Espoo.

In 2005 my Nokia and I found ourselves in India for the first time. Now I finally understood what her motto and mission was. She’d always talked to me about “connecting people”. Now here in what was a strange and dynamic environment I finally understood her mission. She wanted to bring the world closer together and uplift the masses. My gal was world changing as I found out visiting the Amazon. She worked for a company that truly had a mission, values and cared. As I listened to friends of her’s in rural villages I came to understand how many lives she had changed and how deep her strengths and willingness to cover that last mile.

She saw and wished for better networks, connectivity and she found ways to go around constraints. How many people I’ve seen listening to FM radios, singing along with her. In many household I saw her take a role and place. Unless you have been there you can’t imagine how deep and intimate the relationships were. She seemed to be everywhere and with each change of clothes there was always someone who wanted the older hand me down. There in those rice paddies, dry deserts, or mountain villages she was finally overwhelmed. The potential was mind-blowing and heart-breaking. She lost track of time and changes and had grown arrogant and slow. She also took her eye off what was happening in America.

Then just over  six years ago we began to lose touch. We lost that intimacy although I’d carry her along from time to time as her eyes were simply sharper and my life felt compromised. We’d separated. I kept hoping she would come back. My new partner was more sensitive to my needs and was giving me a whole new big screen picture of the world. My Apple had lousy eyesight although played beautiful music and before long I could shop for her and we were just doing more everywhere.  For a few years I keep looking for Nokia to come back although each time we met I found her more cantankerous and slow. She still had that Finish beauty but inside there was something wrong. It felt like brain cancer although how am I to really know. When I did talk to her it seemed like on deaf ears.

Then in 2011 I heard she was going to have surgery. Her family had supposedly found the best and many hoped he could bring her back to life. I like many others thought they should have asked for a second and third opinion. Yet we had parted ways, our last real work together completed in 2010. Even then I knew she was very ill. Still many of us had to give the family the benefit of the doubt. Turns out the brain surgeon was a guy called Stephen Elop. He really had a mixed reputation before going to Microsoft. Apparently there he’d been the Office manager. I really wasn’t sure about either his bedside manner or how he might relate to my dear dear Nokia. He seemed to have the backing of the Balmer hospice who were willing to fund him to a few billion although I doubt for the betterment of the world. I think at first it went well. My friend despite her sickness was still printing money although had little love in the US beyond those of us that saw the bigger picture.

Then I read a letter. The surgeon described her as terminal. He was going to operate although she was still far from death. He had some choices although frankly unlike other surgeons never really considered the in-house solution and couldn’t stand those ogling the other open approach. He basically gave her an injection and set her afire. The Symbian fever was highly contagious and quickly escaped into the wild. By this time many were immune although those in emerging markets were completely taken by surprise and her mentors reacted as expected. They cut her off. First in China and then more slowly in India and Africa. She suffered while on the operating table as one by one her favorite shops and supporters closed or simply moved on to Sammy who was cheaper and ripping off everything she had once done.

The surgeon tried a full brain transplant although the equipment from Redmond was half baked and he had to go outside the family to create an impostor or doppelgänger.  Of course no-one was fooled. When Nokia had dressed as a communicator she was all powerful, while in the villages she still knew how to light them up and play music to them. The Lumia treatment was strange and totally unfamiliar. Still the surgeon carried on. When the family played their Meego card the surgeon quickly called a stop to it and then started tearing down the house at Espoo to pay the bills. Increasingly there was no going back.

Nokia still undergoing Lumia treatment was released from hospital. Recently she was seen getting PureView supplements, and some of the old color was back. Yet I know from comments here and there that her brains were scrambled. She wasn’t the same and I could never have a relationship with her the same way again. She’d become a sort of evil twin, a mockery or something to be mocked. Her old friends didn’t want her back and the few that tried ended up frustrated and disappointed.

As of yesterday I learned the full truth. She had really died some time ago. Life is often weirder than fiction. She’s been Microsoft since that fateful day when Elop Osbourned the company . No wonder we could never really talk after that and that feeling was gone. My Nokia was a lost soul despite those deep inside that still hope to resuscitate her. Her new Microsoftian masters are not an organization that knows much about soul. They know about business. They don’t understand intimacy and don’t want to hear why I react the way I do. Yet I had years and years of Microsoft – always the blue screen of death – and then some reboot or more. Nothing ever got simpler. Microsoft will never understand the person (brand) I hold in my hand is unlikely to be them, that I don’t trust them, desire them or want any real intimacy from them. No I want total security and the partner in my hand to be reliable, long-lasting, loving and passionate. You see I left Microsoft before I left Nokia and my story is about the goodwill and pleasure that Nokia brought to my life. Those feelings are not transferable, they have to be earned.

Still I did not mean to make this story just about me. Back in the village the Nokia dumb phone is either still going, is replaced by a china phone, or soon to be replaced by a smartphone. The costs of always on connectivity continue to decline in emerging markets. In markets like India where 50% of the population is under 25 the smartphone is the single most important purchase they will make. The volume is in people, living lives and doing their business. There’s an expression that frames the emerging market experience with their first mobile phone. It’s “calls come to me”. It’s not that you can make calls, rather it is the value that the calls represent. The emerging world will shape the smartphones of the future. Yet real demand comes when one gets their first smartphone and they say “value comes to me” or it helps me save, get a better life. Smartphones are still unproven at the bottom of the pyramid and with illiterate owners.  Nokia was one of the few that really tried to make a difference everyday. She knew a $50 or $20 smartphone would ultimately bring us all together in new ways. Today we know she died trying.

There is a lesson and a difference between what Nokia was, “an intimate partner” and just talking about mobiles as “tools for life”. While Nokia was promoting Windows phone I had some hope the transplant might actually achieve the values my dear dear Nokia held at heart. Today I don’t believe that is true. Microsoft doesn’t have that heart, that soul. For even if Microsoft tried to define their vision today they would put it in terms of a Windows computer in every pocket. That’s why they will fail to change the course of current history and can’t unseat Samsung or Apple. It’s not about computers. It’s about people.  The secret that may have died with Nokia and I hope is reborn or has some second life sometime is the empowerment of personal relationships. Nokia’s connecting people was about empowerment. She strived for better lives possible even at the detriment to pure profits. For awhile she was queen of the world.

My current partner and I probably aren’t forever. Fact is at times I feel I’m straight-jacketed in this relationship and while I enjoy it I don’t love quite the same way. She’s a thing of beauty, a trophy, and yet slightly shallow. With Nokia I always felt we were reaching for a better world. One that was both more inclusive and more personal. One built on trust and empowerment. There is no doubt in my mind that is gone. I do have a good mate these days who I hang out with from time to time. His name is Android and many like him a lot. Still I have the feeling he want to eat the world and I’m never quite sure which clone I’m talking to. That’s soul thing is his problem too. We don’t know whether or not he really has a soul. Still he’s way more attractive and established than Microsoft and I don’t see anything changing that.

I almost wish I could turn back the clock, go back to school, or perhaps more realistically given my age encourage the next generation, the offspring to set to changing the world. Many of the pieces around next generation mobile are coming together. From context and location, to payments. Mobile is still a story for the people. There is no guaranteed certainty that Apple or Android will master the key dimensions as mobile takes on new roles in a fully connected world.

With 30000 employees ostensibly going to Microsoft I can see many dropping out and many more being let go. I trust they will fuel something new in Finland. Hard to believe that two companies and adjacent countries, Skype, Nokia and Finland, Estonia have fueled the communications revolution over the last 10+ years. These two firms (other than iPhone) have had more impact on changing lives than any other. Strangely they are now owned by Microsoft, both bought well past their peak. Let’s hope the cultures and the people that brought us both of these fantastic companies can still find a way to take society to the next level in communications. Nokia still has some key future pieces to reinvent itself and once again change lives. Perhaps its time to pull in the Estonians too. I’ll keep watching even if just for old times sake.

If you want to read two blogs – one short and one long by Tomi Ahonen on Nokia they will fill you in on many of the links and times related to my story above. There are hundreds of other reports out there.

My simple summary is. The Microsoft surgery didn’t work and killed the Nokia Device business. Microsoft still hopes to make a go of it and rumor is Stephen Elop may be the next Microsoft CEO. There is no love for the Windows Phone and slapping a Windows or Microsoft label on it officially won’t change it and will guarantee that no other company will be willing to now make them.

Finally, think about whether or not you want Microsoft as your keys, your wallet, your media center, your papers and books, or more involved in your personal communications, relationships. In other words Microsoft must take any relationship with you to a more intimate level to be successful. I believe this is impossible as unlike Nokia they have never seen my life through my pocket.

A few old posts – from me.

 

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Meru CabsUber with an investment from Google (see earlier post)  is expanding into India and it recently launched in Shanghai. It’s worth thinking beyond the quotes and PR releases. What might Google/Uber (Goober?!) learn?

Uber has landed in India after the company recently strengthened its Asian base by debuting in Dubai (UAE) and Shanghai (China). A California-based start-up that connects Taxi-seekers with drivers of luxury cars for hire through their smartphone app. As per the blog celebrity artists Raghu Dixit and Vasundhara Das were amongst the first to experience Uber in Bangalore. ”Over the next several weeks, Uber will be in “secret testing mode” in Bangalore; availability will be limited as we work to make more cars available and test our pricing“, read the blog. via WATBlog 

To organize the rest of the market at a fast pace, the radio taxi market is moving towards the asset-light model, in which sites such as TaxiForSure.com lend their brand to drivers and cab operators in exchange for a fee. Meru, too, has become part cab operator, part marketer. However, as these sites scale up using millions provided by their PE backers, it is becoming increasingly challenging for them to consistently deliver high quality service. “While lots of companies have entered the sector, few have been able to scale up. Getting the right people and driving good service levels without owning inventory are big challenges,” said Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder of cab booking site TaxiForSure.com.  via Livemint.

What makes some of these new markets interesting is the number of cars available with drivers. A driver in India is almost mandatory for any executive car and most upper middle class families will have a car and driver. Both driver and car are often underutilized and or traveling the streets looking for a park. I suspect the right package from Uber could entice a number of these owner/driver cars into part-time service. The trick is to tie the car, driver and owner correctly into a package. The driver cost relative to the cost of running a car is minuscule and is effectively a sunk salary cost for the owner. This makes these markets very attractive for assessing whether or not individual “owners” will be willing to turn their cars into a crowdsourced service. That may also have ramifications in 2020 when robocars are expected to hit the roads.

 

 

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Sometimes known as Govinda Sport it’s now an excuse for a holiday and street party in Mumbai India

Update: According to papers today over 300 people were hospitalized including a few that were paralyzed as a result of falls. There were also a number of noise control complaints with db readings of over 105 – which is the equivalent to being close to a chainsaw.

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Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 8.15.28 PMHappy Birthday Skype. 10 years ago I became a “Skype Evangelist”, independently blogging about a product I believed would change the world. Over 10 years Skype did change  the world. Not just communications, that is almost an afterthought. It changed business, journalism, love and friendship, group chatter, and literally shrunk the world. In a nutshell Skype reduced friction by making calls free (effectively) and thus enabling long-distance exchanges never before possible. It also changed how we heard each other. The clarity of a voice call over the PSTN had never been as clear, and later the video call added additional nuance as we looked at each other  and shared the world around us.

This quote sums up my beliefs and the tragedy of Skype’s 10 years.

“I would suspect that [Skype] could have achieved more if it had been an independent company,” said Danny Rimer, a partner at Index Ventures, which invested in Skype in 2004.  via Skype’s first decade and a trail of missed opportunity – FT.com.

Today Skype is a feature, part of Microsoft. While it may generate substantial dollars it isn’t the company it could have been. Skype was one of those once in a lifetime products that today could have been revolutionizing how the world evolves. It was once secure, outside the reach of the NSA. It had the network and the membership so it could have been a Facebook, or a Twitter. It had strong developer support in the early days and it’s own store. Most of us still use Skype some of the time today. It is still the most universal free calling solution. It works across platforms including the PSTN, PC, Mobile. And yet Skype today is a brand without a “soul”. That’s what you get when you sell-out one too many times and lose a passion for changing the world. That’s can happen when founders move away.

In fact, early on Skype was too successful for its own good. I suspect today (on reflection) some of the early investors lament Skype was sold so young. The what if picture of how could Skype be in the world today if independent, still P2P at the core prevailed could be leading us into a very different world.

Consider if Skype had:

  • Generated shareable detailed profiles and wall posts
  • Turned status messages into published short messages
  • Migrated Skype to being a Mobile Operating System
  • Enabled video recording and distribution
  • Launched a secure email alternative – DM private posts
  • Opened up their API
  • Enabled a marketplace

All of these were possible and promoted as ideas. In years to come the biggest loss we may feel is Skype’s capitulation to privacy and security concerns. In todays world that could have truly differentiated Skype from telecom carriers. Skype made the founders rich beyond any dreams and thus for a few is a success. Skype for a time has made the world a better place. Yet today 10 years on there is no apparent direction, no sense that Skype will impact the next 10 years like it did the last. And realistically most of that innovation came before eBay.

In Internet years like dog years Skype has had a good run. Still it’s aged some and I know it’s no longer my primary communication method. If I had one wish I’d love to see another Skype P2P like system take root although this time on mobile resetting the rules for the telecom stack. That’s still something I could promote.

 

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uberGoogle Ventures and Uber together will make Google’s next generation location strategies more powerful and personal. With the stretch to autonomous  or self-driving vehicles there may also be a link with Tesla sometime in the future. There’s also a potential link between users who want to get a better return out of their cars, and a future where sharing may also mean less driving. Uber is just one way the cost of car ownership might change. It’s also a great learning platform for Google. If they help Uber crunch data then we may see new forms of “driver certification”, insurance coverage, risk assessment, and service offerings. There may be other products too forthcoming. Example Trucks and truckers or challenges to Fedex and UPS.

Mobile taxi hailing service Uber got a new flood of cash from none else but Google. Actually, it was the search giant’s VC arm, Google Ventures, which invested in the company alongside TPG Capital. via Google Ventures invests $250 million in mobile taxi hailing service Uber.
It’s been just five years since Google announced it would begin manufacturing its own driverless cars, and just two-and-a-half years since those vehicles have hit the streets. But the company is already on its third car model, following the first-generation GX1000 two-seat “commuter” model and its followup GX2100 five-seat family sedan. via Dispatch From The Future: Uber To Purchase 2,500 Driverless Cars From Google | TechCrunch.

What’s the new strategy here? Understanding Mobility.
1. Relationship with Drivers before trips start. Future broker fast lanes? Traffic Management
2. Potential for identifying where drivers are most needed / wanted. Recruitment opportunities. Sharing Rides
3. Understand “service traffic/transport” versus “personal transport”. Risk factors, driver performance.Accreditation?
4. Start developing experimenting with API to integrate all transport services. Like Google Apps – save companies money.
5. A move to managing logistics? New Package delivery models?

Overall Google gets higher quality data. It moves one step closer to knowing where everything and everyone is and where they are traveling to. “Where do you want to go” takes on new meaning.

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Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 12.08.03 PM

Ok. I have no idea. Now perhaps a few months back I saw my first “Medium” post. Then a little later I read Phil Wolff’s great post on Personal Clouds. I asked him about it and curious put my name down to write a post too. I had to wait – don’t know why (beta?).  I certainly wasn’t sure of the benefits other than it might give a post I write more visibility or perhaps reach another audience when / if the invite was confirmed.  A few weeks ago I received an invite to write.

Over the weekend I knew what I wanted my first post on Medium to be about. It’s not on a subject I’d normaly write about. I’d been writing it in wordpress so when the time came I simply copied and pasted it into Medium. This didn’t really help me experience the “blogging” editor side of medium.  I did a share to ask for “comment” and suggestions before publishing although other than the link there seemed to be no real instructions. I published my post this morning.

We all know what a medium is. It’s a third party or element that helps share some message. The problem is I don’t know how it is helping to share my message or really likely to engage with me. In fact The Atlantic provides a pretty good summary. As I’m not paid to write for Medium my post “Indian Women — No Right to Say No!” takes apparently 7 minutes to read. I don’t know if 4 minutes is better, or 11 minutes. This is apparently what the founders believe. I understand stories. I understand the need for an editor. I also know some stories are time-bound and mine is an in the moment piece. In their “welcome” statement the founders outline 1, a nice blog editor (yes it is maybe), 2, the ability to get editorial input. Maybe I don’t understand this or how long one should wait. I gave it 12 hours and received no input outside those I sent it to personally. I do note at the end of posts I do see links to a post which I presume suggests I edit. Lastly 3, apparently I will find my audience. Maybe – but only if there are millions more people here.

I liken Medium to some of the early content creation / editing engines. Memepool and I think “Scoop” was the name of another platform although 10years ago. All I really remember is writing articles and getting ripped to shreds and publishing control really was elsewhere. For now I can’t see a real benefit for writing for Medium. I’d be better off writing for a more established online publication. Example Gigaom or just sticking to my blog.

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Noise WatchLast year I was again in Mumbai for the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. The noise levels were deafening and harmful to health. I’d downloaded an app to track noise and began getting readings. Unfortunately, they exceeded the 110db max of the app/iphone to register. My ears hurt and the newspapers were reporting readings from around the city. This year the NGO Awaaz Foundation working with other NGO’s like Sprouts and Sanskar India are collaborating to engage the citizenry in tracking and mapping noise control.

This group is promoting NoiseWatch as the Ganeshotsav App ( iOS Download) for both Android and iOS. They hope to use the data to track noise control violations in different localities across the country.  The article says participants can also upload collated date on Citizens’ Noise Map page on Facebook. I don’t actually see the link although I’m sure in a few weeks time this city will be the nosiest on earth.

GaneshDuring the final day of visarjan last year, members of Awaaz Foundation, an NGO which campaigns against noise pollution, had recorded an all-time high reading of 121.4 decibel (dB), produced by a tasha, a traditional instrument in which a metal hammer is beaten on a metallic plate. The noise was amplified through cone-type loudspeakers. via Mumbai: Ganesh Visarjan revelry on final day likely to go quiet after midnight – Hindustan Times.

App announcement seen in HindustanTimes on August 27th, 2013. Actual app provided by Eye on Earth.

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ebay ios homepageI started this post wondering whether eBay will be a Player in Pocket Retail. I buy the point that many small retailers won’t win if they are not part of the broader retail landscape. And yet, I’m skeptical about the claim below by eBay that joining the world’s largest marketplace is the winning or best strategy for a retailer down in my local village today.

The research provides a compelling argument for retailers to look for a trusted partner when it comes m-commerce. eBay offers consumers access to the world’s largest marketplace from just one app, which is why smart retailers and brands are using eBay as part of their mobile strategy. We partner, never compete, and offer a platform where $20bn of global mobile commerce is expected to be transacted this year alone. via Mobile retail: five years after eBay’s first e-commerce app | Media Network – Partner zone eBay | Guardian Professional.

We are moving to a world where the local retailer is no longer just trying to manage participating in an online global market. Rather they are trying to get noticed locally and build relationships back into their customers’ pockets. That’s something customers now want and increasingly expect.

From Online to Local and Social. Many a small business has looked for additional sales via eBay and Amazon. In many cases this relationship and broader footprint kept the proprietors in business while local business slipped away. However, these online marketplaces don’t help with the promotion and management of  local business. As a customer I can’t go to the eBay iOS app and do a location search to see which sellers are available or nearby. While I can tweet or facebook my purchase off Amazon this provides little additional information for the retailer who’s looking to take a customers need seriously to the next level. It also excludes retail opportunities for services like painting, haircuts or getting a coffee.  There’s a synergy that could exist between local and online and my customers that is currently out of reach for the small business.

From Item sales to Business platform: While  eBay or Amazon can pitch my goods (and perhaps one day services) globally, they aren’t well equipped  to help me in-store, and on location. Here we have the two major shopping platforms with limited support of real world shopping. Both have benefited (I’m sure Amazon more so) from customers doing price comparison shopping. To my knowledge neither of these drive a customer back to a local shop if their query puts them nearby. In Amazon’s case a store in store strategy may not be attractive. In eBay’s case it could take them to the next level. Putting eBay retail on the  map may also provide additional credibility for sellers. It could also provide new shopping experiences. Example I go into a local store and bid on items – if I win they are shipped to me. To get there Amazon and or eBay need a “register” product. The reality is it may or may not need to completely tie-in with the retailer’s own cash register at the moment. If the item is listed then the “register” in my pocket can take care of the business. Apple stores can do this. Why can’t an eBay/PayPal enabled business?

There are other potential players in this business. From Square, to Apple and Google. The big shift that is coming (here already for some) is we expect our local businesses to be in our pocket and that may make the difference between going to the shop to buy, and buying it online and waiting for delivery. Many times I’ve wished my local Ace Hardware shared their stock with me. My Bakery might also get more business if I could just check what they might have.

In a country like India, the local bakery and cake store or the grocer still thrive on personalised and localised service. You would think nothing of calling the local cake store to see what they have. They will also deliver it for free. In the US I’d be highly unlikely to get such service and that local bakery may well have gone out of business years ago. We have lost the personalisation and localisation that made small businesses thrive.

Pocket strategies present an opportunity to bring them back.

 

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