It takes more than a great idea or a brilliant concept to fuel innovation. Without the right support and proper funding, even the best ideas might never see the light of day. During the session, The Future of Retail: The VC Perspective, we heard from the sometimes overlooked, but always crucial players in the innovation process… the venture capitalists.
This panel discussion touched on some very intriguing topics including the future of near field communications, the integration of location-based applications and key differences between the use of Facebook and Twitter. The panel was moderated by Brett Hurt, CEO, Bazaarvoice and included Peter Fenton of Benchmark Capital, Joshua Goldman of Norwest Venture Partners and Aileen Lee of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers. The back and forth was fast and furious, but I managed to glean the following nuggets that are a must read for anyone that considering how the new technologies and strategies will impact the future of retail. Here are four technologies or strategies our VC panel suggested jumping on now.
Near field communication: Near field communications is about more than just conducting transactions with a smartphone. It is ultimately about creating an in-store personalization experience for customers based on examination of online and offline behavior. The iPhone 5 is expected to have this capability as are most Android devices, which could be a big help to retailers. While the cost of implementation is a concern, early adopters that do it right should reap benefits and gain more customer loyalty.
Location-based technology: Location-based apps like shopkick are helping retailers start the conversation with consumers when they walk into the door. This could finally be the solution that helps brick-and-mortar retailers create the same recognition experience that online retailers like Amazon.com have the ability to do. Consumers are more inclined to share personal information when it gives them access to special deals from brands that they trust.
The future of deal-of-the-day websites: A strategy that Groupon and LivingSocial made popular, this trend represents transition of the paper coupon into the digital world. These companies are going to have to improve how they targeting consumers for specific deals. There is still too much randomness in the process to measure the success and benefits of participating. Delivery of these types of deals will eventually expand beyond email and become perfect for delivery mechanisms such as Twitter.
Use of Facebook versus Twitter: Our panel of experts also discussed the differences in approach when retailers use Facebook versus Twitter. Overall the panel agreed, that the goal of a company shouldn’t be getting to a million fans – it should be developing a meaningful relationship and asking what your fans want and determining if you are prepared to deliver it. While Twitter and Facebook sometimes intersect in our marketing efforts they are two very different tools and need to be differentiated: Twitter gives individuals a global broadcast network; Facebook is a friend network that is used primarily for playing games and looking at photos.
Peter Fenton noted, “You’d be foolish not to experiment with these sites now to gain competitive advantage later.” In the video below, Fenton shares his views on the Facebook versus Twitter debate with practical advice about how to succeed within each interface.