This Week in Business and Brands: Check-out Changes, a Surplus of Solutions, and More

cash register

Retail Revolution: Non-Stop Shopping at Amazon Go

Cashiers beware: Amazon is out for your job. With Monday’s grand opening of the very first Amazon Go convenience store, it looks like the future of grocery shopping doesn’t include a check-out line or any store employees. Shoppers simply scanned their phones upon entry and exit, grabbing whatever they needed in between, and the store’s smart cameras and sensors took care of the tally perfectly. So what’s the catch? Well, with cashier being the second-most-common job in the US, this could be another beginning-of-the-end for the human touch, just as Uber and Tesla’s self-driving lorries threaten the careers of truck drivers around the world. But it will be some time before the futuristic corner store becomes ubiquitous: even a regular supermarket self-checkout kiosk costs $125,000, and Amazon’s new hi-tech system is surely more. Still, if the job listing for Amazon Go’s Real Estate Manager is any indication, there will be plenty more non-stop-shops in store in no time…

Innovation Investing: “Unileveraging” Brand vs. Bandwagon

Between artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain technology, it’s easy for companies’ strategies to get swept up in the latest tech trends out of mere FOMO. But canny corporations like Unilever will tell you that brand will always be the arbiter above any bandwagon, which explains their cautious, calculated capital in both voice and visual recognition initiatives. Sure, some estimates show half of all searches will be conducted through voice by 2020 – but as Global Media Director Ben Johnson asserts: “It’s about trying to tailor it to the category specific solution, the consumer need.” So while it might be fun making a new skill for Alexa, the real challenge is making sure she doesn’t order any old detergent, but those brands consumers really know and love. Aside from sound, the opportunity for sight is strong, too, with opportunities to engage with Unilever’s packaging ubiquity. When it comes to the clamor for craze control, it looks like slow and steady may still win the race…

Talking Tactics, Tête-à-Tête: Navigating Network Effects

It takes much more than mere word-of-mouth evangelism: to build the marketplaces that will thrive in the fast-approaching future, VC James Currier knows you need the whole network:

  • On the power of the platform: “This creates a lot stronger lock-in because the services offered by the providers are intrinsically linked to the platform. You cannot reach these specific customers in any other way, or sell the same exact app anywhere else.”
  • On leveraging loyalty: “Virality is about growth: people refer your product to others. Network effect is all about retention and defensibility of a business. Once you’ve built a strong network effect, it’s really difficult for others to compete with you.”
  • On B2B bids: “There’s a trend I call enterprise gateway marketplaces. Big enterprises still have a tough time coordinating with people outside their firm. I believe there’s a whole new class of companies that help them with this challenge: a marketplace with thousands of small service providers and large enterprises that need these services.”

Information Overload: Digital Solution Saturation

In the midst of our technology “big bang,” the rose-tinted read is that we have more technology-fueled marketing solutions than ever before, providing answers to those eternal questions of real customer desires, true profitability, and actual effort efficiency. But such abundance can cause confusion and concern, as many executives admit to doubting their own expertise in the face of literally thousands of tech tools. So how can you keep your cool and confidence? First, zoom out to see the big picture and ask the essentials: what do your customers really need? And what’s the business’s biggest opportunity? Only after answering from the 50,000-ft view, zoom back in to identify the tools that will truly help. Then, be sure to partner with those providers that share your visual flexibility to foster a commanding collaboration. The devil’s in the details, but the real power is in perspective.

Stunt Success: Burgers and Bandwidth

That’s all for this week! We’ll leave you with Burger King’s latest powerful prank, explaining net neutrality with a “Whopper” of service slowdown…