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Inaction stations

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Last week’s triumphant Internet Retailing Expo showcased how vibrant the online world of retail is. It also proved how far retailers have come in three short years with mobile retailing – and how much further there still is to go between what consumers want, what the technology can offer and what retailers are actually doing.

But for once I am not going to bash retailers for dragging their heals on embracing mobile. Rather, I think Expo highlighted the run away thermonuclear pace of development in the technology sector and the dire need to start to sell masses of solutions to prevent a massive implosion in the space.

Check out Augmented reality tech provider blippar which has been showing off at the SXSW Festival of all things ‘beardy’ with its integration with Google Glass. Lord help us all…

AR on Google Glass aside, mobile payments is the ideal example. There is so much technology out there looking for a place to live that retailers are completely bewildered. In fact, several said so at the conference: outlining how, with so many different, incompatible technologies vying for their favour, they were simply sitting on their hands “waiting for a winner to emerge”.

And this categorises how the retail industry and the mobile industry interact. The technologists dangle all manner of lovely things before the retailers. The retailers watch other retailers to see who has embraced what. And in the meantime, a lot of tech goes unsold.

However, this stand off is something of a Catch 22, certainly with retailers and mobile payments. Retailers are waiting for ‘winner’ to emerge – a technology that they and all consumers will simultaneously embrace – before they commit. Which is fair enough. But, no winner will emerge if no one embraces anything. I have to say I am now at a loss as to who is going to win in the m-payments space. Maybe Zapp since they had free coffee on their stand at IRX?

Consumers, however, are largely driving retailers to do anything technical and it will probably be consumer pressure or some form of consumer groundswell that will lead to something happening in m-payments. Which way will they go? If I told you that then I’d have to share the money.

Leaving it to consumers to drive what kinds of technology proliferates is a good idea, largely because they are actually quite sensible: check out the news from the US that finds 80% of them don’t want to be tracked around stores using Bluetooth or wifi. That’s the end of that then….

But seriously, the worlds of retail and technology are at a point where some stock taking is underway: technology has moved so fast we now find retailers and consumers all taking stock of what they do and don’t want and how this is all going to work. IRX 2015 should be interesting – it will either chart a great leap forward or be a rerun of 2014.

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