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Uber uber alles?

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Across the digital world the concept of ‘Uberisation’ – which has really come to define something disruptive shaking up an established business model – has been banded about quite liberally. No conference is complete with out it. But in New York City, the Uberisation of retail has taken something of a literal twist.

In what is possibly one of the most interesting stories for a while, a tech company called Yext has created a website plug in that can allow retailers to offer their customers an online button that will order them an Uber to drive them to their nearest store.

On the face of it this seems like something gimmicky and more designed for capturing headlines rather than customers. But digging a little deeper it becomes clear that Yext has possibly hit on a silver bullet for linking the online and real worlds for retailers.

The service allows for three things to happen for the retailer: the button to order an Uber to get them to the store, allows extra information to be put to them via the Uber app while they are in transit, and the ability to be taken to the right entrance of the nearest store from the app.

So far all very gimmicky, but in reality this allows retailers to form a physical link with their online customers. OK, so not many of us have actually thought “if only I could be whisked to the store right now and then I would buy that…” and not may will, but it does open up the ability to link the store and the shopper in the real world.

What I see as more likely is that the service needs to be handled in reverse, with Uber being summonsed to deliver the goods to the shopper, but I think that there is also potential for Uber to unite with click and collect services to whisk the shopper to a click and collect point or to the store to get the goods.

I think it’s a fascinating development and something that, while not probably destined for mainstream uptake (though I did say that about click and collect: I never thought that would catch on!), is likely to perhaps spawn some interesting offshoots.

The Uber story comes along just as MasterCard are also looking to shake up online shopping by adding fingerprint and facial recognition to websites to make payments more secure. Paying by Selfie takes the idea of Apple Pay’s finger print recognition for online payments one step further and will make payments much more secure.

Again, this is another sudden step into the future with new approaches to old problems being dropped into the mainstream shopping world.

Together, these two minor developments showcase how transformative small bits of technology can potentially be on an industry. They may be small additions to what we can already do, but they could well become the norm if the public embraces them and suddenly everything has changed. Again.

This is the conundrum challenging retailers. Technology changes at a rapid pace, but those often miniscule technology changes can, if embraced en masse, have profound impacts on how we do things. Like click and collect, they can totally change how a retailer needs to operate.

This year’s Internet Retailing Conference (IRC16) next week will be looking deeply into how transformation can occur and how you can be ready for them. And the Transform track is as good a place as any to start. See you there… my Uber is booked.


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