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Man and machine in perfect harmony

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It has long been said that the mobile phone is the ‘remote control for life’; the central point of contact with the world for an individual. Well I am happy to report that it is officially just that. No I am not talking about how consumers really want to interact with retailers, nor am I looking at how mobile is the key to finding balance between commerce and engagement. No, it’s way more simple than that.

Having done what I vowed never to do, I found myself out and about Christmas shopping in real shops and I noticed something peculiar happening around me that can only be described as cybernetics in action.

Around the stores I squeezed myself into (all this talk of the high street being dead hasn’t reached millions of people, clearly) I saw men with mobile phones clamped to one ear and a trolley or basket in the other moving around, stopping, changing direction, and generally heading backwards and forwards randomly round the store as if guided by some unseen force, or more likely, an unseen voice.

Yes, the phone had become the remote control and man and computer (and wife/mother/lover/partner) were working as one in perfect harmony.

The penny dropped when a man who had been erratically bouncing hither and yon in the store with no clear pattern pulled up beside me at the gifts section in a well-known super market and said into his phone:

“They have blue or pink.”


“What? I don’t even know what ‘aquamarine’ is!”.


“OK, OK I will ask.”

And he sailed away in the direction of a lady dressed as an elf holding a “can I help you?” sign.

Here, I thought, is the very distillation of all that I have written about this year: omni-channel retailing, customer engagement and mobile’s central role therein all clearly laid out before me wearing a natty Christmas jumper.

The mobile phone was playing a vital role in the shopping process in store, being used by a real-life shopper (probably a woman, but I have no real proof of this, but typically they seem to be in charge) at home or elsewhere using the mobile phone (and the hapless male in their life) to do proper in store shopping.

And it was beautiful to behold. Man and machine in perfect harmony; mobile being used in store to make the shopping process precise and effective; someone managing to do their Christmas shopping remotely while probably doing a million other things; and men being able to feel like they were actually useful.

Behold! This is the beginnings of the cybernetic revolution. The next step in our evolution is likely to be the melding of humans with computers and the Internet of Things becoming the Internet of Everything and Everybody – this clearly is where that all starts (I assume Stephen Hawking, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan et al have all had the same supermarket based epiphany about this: if not, guys do get in touch, we have much to discuss).

It seems like a fitting way to end 2016. Mobile has proved itself to be an ever more important tool in the retail process, but still surprises me just how. We also see the beginnings of the science fiction future we have to look forward to. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings. So have a Merry Mobile Christmas and a Happy New Year one and all and bring on the future.

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