Is the Way of the Future In-Store or Online? Why not both?

Daniel Burrus
July 07, 2021

Daniel Burrus

One of the World's Leading Technology Forecasters and Business Strategists
Is the Way of the Future In-Store or Online? Why not both?

Whether we swipe our finger or ask Siri using our voice, smartphones have become a window to the world of information and knowledge sitting in our front pockets and purses.

Nearly all of us have access to this miraculous device that allows for constant connection to and communication with the rest of the world, and in the rare case that we are not with these smartphones or other digital devices, we are probably asking the person next to us to use theirs to check something for us.

A Paradigm Shift

As soon as businesspeople and consumers alike moved away from using devices like the BlackBerry and instead picked up an iPhone, a behavioral paradigm shift occurred.

We can now send a text or make a call with flawless precision, send high-resolution photos and videos, use an Internet browser to search for whatever we may need, and listen to an unlimited collection of music on Spotify or even stream television via YouTube TV, which caused us to become obsessed with using our time as efficiently as possible. This limits our patience for arduous or mundane tasks, making us frustrated with people who cannot move as quickly as our devices.

Does this make technology good or evil? To tell you the truth, it is neither. A smartphone is a tool, much like a hammer to a carpenter. It's not the tool, it's how we make use of it. So how can we use it to shape a better future for the world?

Thinking Exponentially About Smartphones

A smartphone's ability to reach into the cloud and give you access to these aforementioned virtual products and services is only one piece of the puzzle. As I teach C-suite executives and business leaders with my Anticipatory Organization Model, we must think exponentially about both software and hardware to stay ahead of disruption.

For example, the ability for our smartphones to function as supercomputers has begun to facilitate unlimited business possibilities. Think about the location services of a smartphone for a moment. How often do you consider what goes into the functionality and reliability of Google Maps? I'll bet you think of the mechanics of Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation on your smartphone as frequently as you consider how you'd go somewhere without it: almost never.

With voice commands on both smartphones and comparable features in our vehicles, many of us even skip typing an address altogether and simply say where we want to go. The app gives us the best route and even an ETA using A.I., and in a matter of seconds, we are on our way.

For consumers, this feature does its job perfectly; the point is for us as consumers to take it for granted. But to bring exponential thinking to this, as entrepreneurs and business leaders, understanding the functionality behind GPS and location services you so easily have access to, we can see an amazing abundance of new opportunities.

A small component in your phone facilitates the access you have to a large network of GPS satellites, which provide the device coordinates of where the phone or tablet is located at any given time. This is a pretty large-scale usage of both software and hardware, combined with geographic information systems (GIS) in the cloud to instantly capture and present spatial data that provides users with the ability to locate not only themselves, but their surroundings as well.

So understanding this process, how can we look at this technology exponentially and, as business leaders or entrepreneurs, start to solve a problem? Likewise, what industry has a problem needing to be solved by a smaller-scale version of a smartphone GPS app?

GPS-Powered Grocery Stores

Grocery shopping transformed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, when not only were customers required to plan ahead a little better when making their weekly trip for groceries, but just as many opted to use curbside pickup or grocery delivery where possible.

Following COVID-19, how will grocery shopping transform? For those customers returning to in-person shopping after using pickup or delivery, which was easily facilitated by using an online shopping cart and searching for a specific brand of product, it is likely that their patience for walking the aisles will be paper thin.

Organizations are already harnessing our obsession with instant gratification delivered by our usage of smartphones and tablets in many other ways, especially online shopping. But how do we get customers back in the door of brick-and-mortar locations and, better yet, combat the negatives of instant gratification and make it a desirable experience for them?

With this information, coupled with an understanding of the GPS functionality at play in our phones, it should be easy to find a way for a grocery store to both tap into the location-setting industry and combine it with the inventory technology already at play on their online store. Essentially, create a real-world user experience similar to an online store, where the shopper creates their list and, perhaps as they walk through the store, has the grocery store's app active and it pings when you get close to a specific product you're looking for, helping you find its exact location.

This Is a Both/And World

Individual consumers' desire for instant gratification increasing as a Hard Trend does not mean grocery stores, necessity stores, and in-person retailers are going to abandon all of their past operations. The level of connectivity this world boasts and the exponential increase in virtualization thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic have also created a desire in many to get out of their homes and physically shop.

Implementing an enhanced location awareness app in a grocery store merely improves the part of the grocery shopping equation that, prior to COVID-19, many found frustrating. Another exponential opportunity with this app idea is to build in a feature where it suggests to said customer another brand that may be more health conscious, perhaps tied in with stats from an individual's wearable like an Apple Watch.

Enhanced location awareness provided by in-building systems allows customers to take their time and enjoy something as tedious as in-person grocery shopping with the arduous part having been solved for them. It also brings the inventory of an online grocery store to the in-person shopping experience, as the app could also let the customer know if something is out of stock and that another brand is available.

Using Anticipation to Expand

Remember, the Hard Trend is people's desire for instant gratification in all situations of life, spurred about by the instant gratification of our smartphones. Knowing this, your opportunity antenna should be up as an entrepreneur.

Consumers want what they want, when they want it, and enhanced location awareness is increasingly being utilized by retailers large and small to fit these desires. By embracing this powerful tool and using it in an anticipatory way to pre-solve problems before they become problems, businesses can meet the needs of their customers in new and powerful ways.

Daniel Burrus

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