Wednesday, the day before the US Thanksgiving holiday, was to be a quiet day of writing. I had no inquiries scheduled and definitely needed to get several reports completed as well as peer review several colleagues documents. Then the email arrived. It was a note from Timothy Kasbe, CIO of Reliance Retail, India describing his experiences in the then unfolding attacks in Mumbai. He was in the middle of it. The story is masterfully told by Joe Skorupa of RIS News in his recent blog post Terror in Mumbai so no need to repeat it here. But there’s a couple of points I’d like to add and also delicately provide some analysis.
I’ve gotten to know Timothy through our mutual efforts on the Retail ROI Initiative. No it’s not about technology payback. ROI in this case stands for Retail Orphan initiative where we both serve on the Board of Advisers. We both are avid bloggers. Timothy’s deals with the world’s orphans and you are reading my efforts. We’ve also connected on Linkedin as well as Facebook. I was just riveted to my mobile device checking Facebook again and again over Thanksgiving. That was the vehicle that Timothy was using to keep people updated on his status. OK Jeff so nice story but what does this have to do with technology or retail? Well Timothy and I have never met face to face or even been on the same conference call. But between all the various Web 2.0 connections we’ve established with each other we’ve exchanged an awful lot of information and have developed a relationship. I’ve spoken often to executives forty years or older about the need to understand these new communications channels. Some get it but many are far more skeptical. I always suggest they walk by any middle school to see kids texting each other. Hopefully they see what I do, a completely new communications strategy emerging. It’s my hope that retailers understand they will need to develop new communications channels to communicate with this generation. But it wasn’t until Mumbai did I realize that even curmudgeons like me have adopted these new channels of communication.
So if you are a retail executive or a technology and service provider working in the retail industry and are not experimenting with these technologies I would venture to say your view into the future of retail will be very limited. Retailers need to understand how this connected world we are all living in will impact their business, both pro and con. Imagine how one negative customer experience can literally roll across the world. The key here is it won’t play itself out on nameless faceless blogs but via very personal comments passed from friend to friend. That, I believe, is a very powerful 21st century version of word of mouth. I can personally vouch how quickly these virtual relationships can develop. How are you going to respond to these rapidly developing channels? I might suggest you start with a Facebook page.