Retail: The future of Telco

Most service providers have a multi-channel strategy, or a digital channel strategy, or some strategic objective to achieve “the right channel mix”.  In a typically inside-out view of the world, each new channel that emerges (social media is a “new” channel, for example) is added to the others, and attempts are made to leverage unified processes so that there’s an integrated view of the customer, or a 360 degree view of the customer.

Meanwhile, the entire retail industry is digitizing.  Just as IBM (who, in the interests of full disclosure, pay the wages of your correspondent) is talking about the increased importance of the CMO, Forrester have come out with some new research about how eBusiness is moving to the c-Suite.  Apple has revolutionised the mobile phone business, the telco business, the consumer electronics business, and – crucially – the retail business.  Everyone is racing to catch up, and while the traditional retailers have been lumbering into the online world ten or more years since mainstream internet adoption became real, suddenly they are being overtaken once again by an integrated digital mobile ecosystem that is further eroding retail conventions.  So different retailers have done different things.  Tesco and Walmart developed the online channel but both continue to struggle in a world that moves too fast for their scale; Best Buy still writhes in anguish; and Borders went bust.  Quoting from Peter Sheldon over at Forrester, “In tomorrow’s  Wi-fi connected, digitally enabled store, fixed checkout aisles and cash registers will fade away; instead the entire floor becomes the point of sale.”

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The Tao of Usefulness

Don Norman's Unusable Teapot

Telcos around the world – and you know who you are – have a habit of being really not very useful.  Matter of fact, they get into a habit of deliberately constructing cumbersome, poorly priced, stupid products that some people use only because they have to, because there’s no alternative.  Innovation in telecom is almost entirely redundant – over and above core connectivity and network engineering, there is almost nothing that the industry has come up with in the last fifty years that anyone could call innovative.  Text messaging happened by accident.  Mobile telephony should have taken off ten years before it did, except that the telecommunications industry was the one doing it.

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