Prompted by econsultancy’s recent research into the digital retail space, I wanted to look deeper into this new opportunity, and what retailers need in order to realise the potential within digital retail.
Five years ago, the buzz topic on every digital marketer’s lips was augmented reality (AR). In practice though, its clumsy implementation and limited awareness never gave it the visibility and usage it still deserves. Whilst Blippar continues to lead the way, the logo and icon on a piece of print or a shop window mean little – if anything – to the everyday consumer. Sure, trade magazines give coverage to the ‘great campaigns’ using the technology, but if we as marketers and communications professionals are not hitting our target audiences and engaging with them, then essentially we’ve failed
AR and similar OOH digital activation routes are great concepts, but they are hindered dramatically by the infrastructure behind them. From having to download and update AR apps on a regular basis to ensure can access the latest creative which you may just so happen to stumble across, to the inordinate amount of time it sometimes takes to load rich mobile apps, our mobile networks remain the bottleneck to success.
The high street is struggling (as media coverage and statistics suggest); online retailers meanwhile offer greater choice, easier browsing and above all often a better price. But there are two aspects of online in which it can never compete with the high street: tangibility and instant gratification.
The problem is that these two factors are not sufficient on their own to bridge the ever growing-gap. But what if we could make that offline experience a digitally harmonious one? Store layout, outfit matching, live stock levels, personal checkouts and interactive environments are just of few of the opportunities awaiting us.
4G has been a varied deployment, confined to a few operators and available on select devices – but it has shown just what mobile connections can be capable of. As devices evolve and technologies accelerate, we will hopefully see a more consistent offering and capability, making the justification for such rich in-store experiences a no-brainer. Considering the offline shopping experience as merely offline is a blinkered view – consumers are already using smartphones to compare prices in-store and scan QR codes to watch DVD trailers (which incidentally load too slowly to be of any use)… all we need is to transform the experience into something more beneficial to the high street.
The obvious solution might be to put Wi-Fi into stores, but in reality, everyone will have to take time and effort to log on and networks may become sluggish, marring the user experience. The only means to achieve all this smoothly is through a faster (‘5G’) mobile network.
So will we see the renaissance of the high street? Only time and imagination will tell, but I’d like to think that the age old concept of window shopping may become more literal and widespread than it was ever presumed.
Digital Account Director
One of the benefits of being married to a nurse, apart from coping with the deadly man-flu, is that I’m always able to put my own stress and strife into perspective – especially with the age old saying that floats around the industry: “remember, it’s PR not ER”.
It’s also really interesting to hear about the latest developments in the healthcare sector as a whole. Technology innovation is not something that you tend to associate with healthcare and the NHS, with local practices currently looking at how they can implement Jeremy Hunt’s paperless initiative and some struggling to even digitise patient records.
So imagine my surprise when the word gamification was uttered over dinner the other night. It was certainly a welcome break from Made in Chelsea and TOWIE.
For those of you not accustomed to the term, gamification is a concept that is hugely exciting. It effectively applies game thinking and mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.
The always-on digital and smartphone age has expanded opportunities for gamification and it’s already being used across a number of different fields, such as human resources, education, e-commerce and health and fitness. According to M2, the market for gamification apps and services rose to about half a billion dollars in 2013, and could rise to $2.8 billion by 2016.
Gamification has now been introduced as a way to help children with type 1 diabetes better manage their condition, especially important as they’re expected to take on increasing responsibility for testing and logging their own blood glucose levels. With only 15% of young children managing to achieve their blood glucose targets, Sanofi Diabetes has developed an app with Ayogo Health and Diabetes UK in an effort to encourage children to test and record their blood glucose levels more regularly.
The concept is simple. Monster Manor provides an engaging experience for children by rewarding them with gifts and prizes within the game when they test their blood glucose regularly. Research has shown that just one extra test a day for teenagers leads to a 0.4% reduction in blood sugar levels, which could be very significant for their health.
I’ve witnessed first-hand how children are finding regular blood glucose monitoring very hard to accept within their daily routine, sometimes leading to a lot of tension in families. By turning testing into a game, the early signs show it’s helping young children achieve tighter blood glucose control, which will help them reduce the risk of developing the serious complications associated with diabetes in later life.
While it’s still early days, it’s great to see that gamification is leading to real benefits on the lives of those suffering with a medical condition, rather than simply achieving financial gain.
And with the UK Government this week backing the Year of Code campaign, we’re sure to see more budding developers emerge with innovative new ways to solve the world’s most common problems.
Technology is evolving at a rapid pace and its impact on the education sector is undeniable. Given education is a key market for many of our clients, including Microsoft, Xirrus, Intrinsic and Trend Micro, it puts BETT as one of the biggest events in our calendar.
This year, the show must have set a new record for the largest amount of screens ever housed under one roof. These devices, the services that run on them and the infrastructure that supports it all, are revolutionising the learning experience.
Even since Apple launched the iPad in 2010, the use of IT in the classroom has completely changed. Today it’s not just the IT manager who calls the shots, but teachers, pupils and their parents who all come to school expecting the same levels of connectivity as they get at home.
Opening the show this week, Education Secretary Michael Gove shared an update on the new curriculum, which is set to be delivered by a network of 400 ‘master’ ICT teachers. Including things like coding, programming and digital literacy, Gove pledged this will teach children “not just how to work the computer, but how to make it work for you.”
Gove even admitted the new curriculum was being built by academics, because Government cannot keep pace with technology. Whilst encouraging to see Government is dedicating a team of experts to ensuring the school system equips children with the digital skills they require for the future, it is clear that a little more guidance for school staff on how to approach technology wouldn’t go amiss.
Speaking to IT managers and teachers at the show, I learnt that some schools are setting up partnerships in their local areas to share best practice on implementing technology. Sudbury Primary School, one of the largest primaries in the UK, actually invited other schools in the area to come and see how wireless technology had created a more flexible and collaborative learning experience.
Use of touch-screen devices, mobile and social apps and cloud-based learning systems have enabled schools to break away from the constraints of the traditional classroom – giving teachers and pupils more independence as they work.
Innovation in education doesn’t stop in the classroom. As university applications continue to rise, distance learning and having 1:1 time with tutors via video conference is becoming a viable alternative for many higher ed students. Some institutions are experimenting with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), allowing those that enrol to either take courses from a far or learn a new skill – when they want, how they want.
The Government may be allowing educators some autonomy, but it should keep a close eye on how technology is fostering an open and innovative culture, and apply some of that thinking back to how it itself operates, ensuring all of society benefits from this period of huge technological change.
Senior Account Manager