(via Frank Lantz)
So. These IBM smarter planet ads. Wherein IBM promises that if computing technology advances enough, it will be able to successfully emulate everything the proverbial mom and pop in their store already offer, thus somehow miraculously reviving physical stores in five years.
“Advances in augmented reality, wearable computing, and location-based technologies will give shoppers richer in-store experiences. And as shoppers share more personal information, they see retail stores transform into immersive shopping destinations personalized just for them.” – Only that when it comes to buying a bike or bike equipment, I couldn’t imagine a richer experience than actually, you know, touching and riding bikes in my pure, un-augmented meatbag, and no more personalised an experience than having an ongoing conversation with the guy who owns said bike shop down the road who knows me as a person, has done so for years, has hours of shared conversation to go on to assess my biking wants and needs on the spot, and ‘auto-aggregates’ all his knowledge and conversation with other customers into one trust score called his recommendation with the ultimate hard-to-forge trust indicator that if I don’t like the bike, he’ll take it back, and apologise. You see, human store owners come not only with a 30 day return guarantee, but a genuinely distressed look on their face if they have failed you. At least the good ones.
“Store staff meanwhile will be expert on every product in the store” thanks to just-in-time access to personalized digital information (making them screen reader software with a better voice modulation). – Only that the owner of the bike store across the road is in fact already an expert on all the products he sells.
“Buyers will tap cloud-based cognitive systems to get a clear understanding of their customers and plan store inventory more precisely.” – Only that my store owner already knows every single one of his customers and their bikes by heart, and buys his inventory accordingly.
“Honey, does this future make me look fat? Not at all.” Only everything it purports as the advantage of computing - the “richness and personalisation” – is what every actual small store not yet turned roboticised chain already offers. It promises that the dehumanisation caused by computing-enabled mass automation will be fixed with more computing power. It doesn’t say why one would want to replace what humans already do well with future computing technology in the first place. Nor why although small stores that already offer all of this are still killed by online retail.
Nowhere does this ad address the real advantages of online retail – lower prices due to economies of scale and pricing power thanks to a global reach: test-drive in the brick-and-mortar store, buy for 200 $ less online. What drove out “richness and personalisation” is not a lack of access to big data and sophisticated computing, but globalised mass production that know hires service designers and data scientists (i.e., statisticians with trendy glasses) to emulate as best they can a faint semblance of what they drove out with shareholder orientation, massification, globalisation, and automation.
And even if we grant the weird, implausible idea the ad presents – who will grant those bike store owners put out of business by 2018 the financing to open up a store again and buy all that fancy new computing equipment?
Curiosity 2 came out a few weeks ago. Nobody has seen it but you’re all playing it right now. Thanks for playing!— petermolydeux (@PeterMolydeux) November 25, 2013
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