The new Apple watch, Apple pay, and the various incarnations of the iPhone are all playing the same game and Apple plays to win. Retailers need to pay attention to the game as this device is just another step in an evolutionary process. In my 2013 Maverick* Research: How Invasive Species, From Burmese Pythons to Kudzu Plants, Succeed in Nature and in Business I cited Apple as having common characteristics with a natural invader known as Kudzu. Here is an excerpt from this research.
Species Trait: Combines deep roots with high growth speed, and the ability to twist and turn, to smother local inhabitants
Known far and wide for its amazing speed, kudzu has super long vines that can grow to 10 inches thick, and can travel many feet per week. The kudzu plant was originally brought here by Japan to honor the 100th birthday of the U.S. Appreciated for its beauty, gardeners across the country sought to add kudzu as a feature in their gardens. A truly multitalented invader, kudzu owes its success to several capabilities, including roots rich in carbohydrates that have the unique ability to tap water from deep underground sources. Kudzu plants survive in dry, hot conditions where other plants can’t. Kudzu leaves grow in bunches of three, and measure two to four inches (five to 10 centimeters) in diameter. These leaves twist and turn, depending on the intensity of sunlight that’s beaming down, to provide optimal shade for their vines and roots, while working intently at photosynthesis. Unfortunately for the native species, Kudzu is a killer that uses these giant leaves to cut off much-needed sunshine from, and to ultimately starve, its competitors.
Business Trait: Reaches deeply into the daily lives of customers, creating a dependency that overwhelms the competitors
The stream of innovative products and services developed and offered by Apple revolutionized the music industry, mobile phones and computers, and is now part of the streaming video and e-book markets. So, how was Apple able to unseat BlackBerry, which until recently was the go-to mobile device for business? One answer lies in the deep roots that Apple developed in the lives of music lovers everywhere. By creating a stream of innovative products that allowed access to digital music, Apple reached deep into the lives of customers. Further, the company understood the power of the touchscreen, and revolutionized technology design with clean, crisp and modern devices. In a deadly combination, the company was fast in developing reliable, new technologies, and — through the use of mobile apps, now numbering in the hundreds of thousands — it smothered the competition. By 2011, the overpowering speed, extensive leaves and deep roots of Apple had all but consumed the mobile device category.
Retailers need to pay close attention to the apple watch. While it is not perfect, it will further revolutionize how consumers are influenced to purchase and their paths to making purchases. Apple continues to find ways to connect and make itself indispensable to consumers. But what about retailers? While having not yet mastered mobile applications with stickiness to hold customers, now retailers will be challenged to interact on a tiny screen for a mere few seconds. I have talked extensively about the overarching need for knowledge, speed and strategy. Retailers must act now to be prepared for the onslaught of IoT and the digital industrial economy. Infocentricity (a.k.a. customer centricity) where data drives the business activities is the future of retailing.
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