Five Steps To Programmable Retail Forbes

November 11, 2013
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by Peter High, published on


So much is written about how digital retail is supplanting traditional retail, and there is much data to prove this. However, consumers still spend more time in physical stores than they do on individual websites, they purchase more often, and the opportunity to get to know a customer in a physical setting is better in many ways, potentially forging a stronger and longer-lasting bond with customers.

I recently spoke at an IT conference in Hong Kong. One of my fellow keynote speakers was a Spanish businessman named Ion Cuervas-Mons, who is the CEO of Think Big Factory, a Madrid-based product and strategic design consultancy that creates opportunities at the intersection between digital and physical realities. In his presentation, and in a detailed conversation he and I had later, he described what he refers to as “programmable retail” as a key to unlocking the power of the physical retail experience.

Cuervas-Mons indicates that the term “programmable retail” is “meant  to incorporate the characteristics of e-commerce – convenience, efficiency, and personalization – into physical stores, while maintaining certain aspects found in a traditional shop – the ability to generate surprise, discovery and the possibility of touching the products.” Comparable to the changes made in the physical retail format in the 1960s and 1970s with the ascension of big-box retail that was compelling for a couple of decades hence, this represents a great leap forward. The magnitude of change in the physical store space has not been so great since then, and at a time when formidable online competition has arrived in the form of, and other innovative e-channel retailers, it is important for stores with a physical presence to think differently to establish a source of competitive advantage.

Cuervas-Mons describes five steps in the process of developing programmable retail:

  1. Identification
  2. Differentiation
  3. Interaction
  4. Analysis
  5. Personalization

1. Identification

Traditionally, it has been difficult to identify customers before payment. As a result, they meander anonymously through the store without any indication of who the biggest potential customer is, who the most loyal customer is, or who proverbial window-shopper is. There is an opportunity to treat the best customers with the best service, but if one only finds out who each person is after he or she has selected what to purchase, an opportunity has been lost.

There are three technologies that are making it easier for customers to gain these essential insights earlier:….

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