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Innovation

Q&A: Piers Fawkes of PSFK on the future of retail

What are the most promising trends in new technologies and digital platforms that are likely to influence retailers in 2012? Piers Fawkes, founder of consultancy PSFK, predicts the future of shopping.
Written by Reena Jana, Contributor on

Last week, timed for the shopping frenzies known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I posted a story looking into why hyped retail innovations don't often make it from the concept or trial stage to permanent usage at the local mall.

As I was researching the piece, I asked Piers Fawkes, founder of the New York-based trend consultancy (and publishing platform) PSFK, about what new technologies and platforms that retailers are experimenting with successfully. I also asked him what retailer he'd say is leading the pack in terms of re-designing the shopping experience. (Surprise: it isn't Apple--which PSFK lists as one of its clients.)

Our discussion revealed some valuable insight that didn't make it into my story, so I'm sharing it here. Fawkes refers to research that he and his colleagues at PSFK conducted for their "Future of Retail" report (which was published in August) as well as their on-going analyses for clients on how the retail, fashion, and digital-innovation sectors intersect--and how to create successful new design strategies using such information. Here's our exchange:

SmartPlanet: What top new technology trend do you see becoming more influential in the shopping arena in 2012?

I think the most progressive trend in our "Future of Retail" report is about Social Currency. Retailers are re-evaluating the value of the shopper based not only on the transaction history and potential to spend--but also on the individual's ability to spread marketing messages through their social networks.

Klout is an excellent example of a service that helps companies and people understand their social value. With the service you get a Klout Score and the higher it is, the more influential your messages are across Twitter, Facebook and other networks. Retailers are using these scores by offering influential people exclusive services or offers. A hotel in Las Vegas offers influencers access to their roof top, for example; elsewhere a shopping center invites local influential moms to a fashion night out.

SP: There's so much hype around how mobile devices can change the shopping experience in stores. Of course Apple is the gold standard at the moment. But how can other companies innovative the in-store experience using mobile gadgets?

The bigger idea here is how technology--and in particular, the mobile device--can create amazing, personal, relevant service environments within real world stores. There have been so many questions about the future of the store and whether they remain viable, but from our research, we're excited about the opportunities that can be created in the store.

But…how do you deliver? Design and digital firms are just tools to use in execution. To take advantage of the future, companies need commitment from the top--and senior execs need to break down the silos to allow different teams involved in marketing, service, merchandising and finance to work together to create new-retail solutions.

SP: What retailer do you consider as a model in terms of how it uses new technologies wisely while trying to re-design and re-define the retail experience?

I think a company like Burberry could be considered Best In Class in terms of how they've restructured around digital to create optimum retail experiences. At PSFK, for example, we've watched how Burberry launched a digital online ad campaign that utilizes social networks this fall, and how the company has equipped sales associates across China with iPads to improve how they access online and offline inventory.

Image: courtesy Piers Fawkes

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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