Its that time of year to roll out the predictions for next year. I can't say I've really nailed it in the past, but feel free to look back at my 2012, 2011, and 2010 predictions. I'm not expecting anything earth-shattering this year; just continued maturation of several technologies that are finally taking hold.
1. Next day delivery -- Amazon finally decided it wasn't worth fighting state taxes and instead decided to place distribution centers everywhere so they can potentially offer next-day deliveries. Not to be outdone, Walmart is looking to leverage its huge physical presence to offer the same. Clubs like ShopRunner are pushing delivery barriers as well, so the norm is shifting to free shipping in a few days or relatively cheap shipping overnight. Retailers need be thinking about how to ship from physical stores.
2. Bring your own device -- Earlier this year Intuit bought AisleBuyer, a mobile self-checkout start-up, at least somewhat validating the BYOD approach. Grocery stores, especially in Europe, have been supporting in-aisle self-scanning for a while and I'm betting it will find a home in certain verticals in the US too. There's also the BYOD concept for employees. Some retailers are considering issuing mobile devices at hiring along side the shirt and name-tag. Employees become responsible for the hardware until they leave.
3. TV shopping -- Will Apple finally release a TV product in 2013? Who knows? But the industry isn't standing still. Companies like QVC and HSN are already successfully combining the TV and online experiences for shopping. Comcast is partnering with Tivo to allow viewers to interact with ads with Paypal handing payment. This will be a slow maturation, but expect TVs to get smarter and eventually become a new selling channel (pun intended) for retailers.
4. Privacy backlash -- It only takes one big incident to stir the public, and I'm betting we have one in 2013. Facebook, Google, or Apple will test the boundaries of what the public is willing to accept. It could involve a retailer using geo-location technology, or possibly video analytics. And as is always the case, the offender will apologize, temporarily remove the technology, and wait 2-3 years for it to be generally accepted. Privacy is a moving target.
5. More NFC -- I've come to the conclusion that adoption of any banking technology is going to be slow. It was slow for credit cards, ATMs, and online billpay so why should it be any different for NFC? Maybe, just maybe the iPhone 5S will have an NFC chip, but we're not going to see mainstream uptake for years. Next year we'll continue to see incremental improvements from Isis, Google, and Paypal and a plethora of new startups, but don't toss your magstripe cards just yet.
6. In-store location -- The technologies for tracking people inside stores is really improving. Retailers can track people using video cameras, infrared, and by the WiFi radios in mobile phones. We're getting closer to the point where accuracy could be a shelf-facing, which will help retailers understand how people shop, where they spend time, and what displays attract them. Expect CPG companies to get involved and partner with retailers, since the data benefits both parties. Consumers will benefit by being directed right to the products they seek. (In 2013 ARTS is forming a workteam to develop new standards in this area.)
7. M&A -- Looking back at 2012 there were some really big deals involving IBM, Oracle, JDA, and NCR and I expect that trend will likely continue as vendors add assets to bolster their portfolios. Many retailers are due for an IT transformation to support anywhere, anytime shoppers, and one-stop-vendors can minimize complexity and costs.
Predictions from other sources: