Reading Minds: Enhancing Consumer Insights and Communication Networks

In a business world where there is an emphasis on driving innovation (and profits) through increased strategic insights, connecting with consumers never seemed to be more important. For a very long time, we all know that this conversation has involved the usual – data solicited from surveys, focus groups and other online and offline feedback processes. Over the past decade, however, the dialogue has included many additional technological factors that, in some cases, already have and could further enhance businesses’ capacity to connect with consumers in a way that is unique to them and optimize communication networks.

RFID technology is one such factor. First introduced as a way for businesses to optimize their supply chains, this technology continues to improve as satellite systems capabilities continue to become more sophisticated and technology undergoes further miniaturization. RFID allows the most efficient of companies, such as Walmart, that utilize it to connect with their home office, distribution centers and stores in order to get a near-perfect understanding of inventory levels (i.e., which products are out of stock, when is the ideal time to order more inventory given current quantities, etc.). Nevertheless, some companies such as Future Store, Inc. – a grocery store in Rheinberg, Germany – have made it clear that it would like to take RFID to an entirely new level. To date, Future Stores has only placed RFID tags in three of the many products it sells to its consumers. It has indicated that it would like to increase the amount of products with the RFID tags. In the meantime, however, all of its shopping carts contain a computer which scans all purchases and memorizes the lists of items that each individual purchased in his/her previous trip. Connecting with their shoppers has never been more exclusive.

Imagine this smart technology coalesced with RFID. The computerized shopping cart at Future Stores already allows the store to connect with every consumer who makes a purchase by saving every individual’s specific purchases and identifying their purchasing patterns. Coupled with RFID, there is the possibility that when a consumer arrives in the store, the computer can (1) identify the shopper and their purchasing habits or pattern, (2) identify if their favorite items in the store are currently in-stock and (3) automatically order those favorite items that are out-of-stock from a local distribution center and then inform the customer of the exact time the item will be arriving that day. The technology could even predict when a habitual Sunday-evening shopper will arrive and ensure that there are enough of those particular items on the shelves.

The prospective impacts on local, state-wide, regional and global strategic insights could be wildly unprecedented. Companies that offer various products can use the information they obtain to discover buying habits based on network demographics and target specific geographical regions, communication networks and outlets both small and large. Additionally, the insights obtained may allow businesses to better implement targeted social networking platforms that seek to stimulate or change shopping habits.

Overall, the world contains millions of different people with different taste preferences by age, gender, household, locality, personal network, region and more. Making connections with consumers involves getting to know about them in a number of interactive ways, in ways that have never been done before. Ultimately, being able to have various types of insightful “conversations” with different consumers is a challenge made possible through technology. Companies like Future Stores and Walmart both have the ideas and wherewithal to drive further innovations in customer interactions; these pursuits are changing the way we think about identifying and reaching networks.

’til next post,

Gavin R. Grant
Temple University

Resources:
http://www.sptimes.com/2004/01/13/Business/A_grocery_store_that_.shtml
http://www.future-store.org/fsi-internet/html/en/1779/index.html

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1 thought on “Reading Minds: Enhancing Consumer Insights and Communication Networks”

  1. Great post! I think it would be really interesting to see RFID used to maximize resource allocation in a large multinational corporation. With this kind of real time data it would be possible for a small central body to govern an extremely vast network with a lot more precision than was possible before. Sort of like Soviet central planning on steroids.

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