Shopper Marketing – Top Trend for 2012 – Smart tech and human contact come together.

As I browse through 2012 trend articles, I look for threads that weave seemingly disparate trends together into something more meaningful.

This year, I see a distinct link between the breakneck pace of smartphone use and the growing desire even die-hard techies have for more human contact. This is especially evident in the world of shopping.

In 2011, smartphones gave us shopping convenience, pricing transparency, mobile wallets (review of Apple’s EasyPay app) and now Siri, princess of augmented humanity, a.k.a. the girl in the iPhone 4! Note the photo below, her face is a microphone!!

Our craving for humanity even within our technology has already superseded her reality. This is best described through videos on YouTube about “sexy” conversations with Siri, which if you must see, you can surely find! With Siri beside us on the couch, why would we ever stop clicking and get off our butts to go a store unless we’re showing off our Google wallets.

The way we use our smartphones will indeed continue to change the way we shop.  Need proof?  Walmart is ready to deliver a truly personalized “suite of products” directly to your smartphone (or tablet) based on what they glean from analyzing every bit of information they can access in your transparent digital/social graph.

The craving for technology and enhanced humanity in shopping seem like odd bedfellows, but fit like the circle yin and yang form together. According to trend watchers, we crave more sensory, exciting in-store retail experiences to offset the advanced shopping technology we’re so excited to have. I believe this has been in the works for much longer than just the past year.

Consider the quality of the experience shoppers must have had at what I’ll call the ancient marketplaces. No doubt, they were the true center of human relationships, exchanges, and social interaction, in addition to commerce. The experiences at the marketplace were tangible and fulfilling in a multi-sensory way. Smell the intense spices, taste new flavors and enjoy the rich conversation with those you see every week in town market square. Hear the high pitches of voices in negotiations, coins jingling as deals were reached.  Indeed, we crave this, more so now that it’s so far removed from that device in our pockets.

Even as today’s shoppers conveniently click around, they also flock to watch their meat ground fresh at the butcher’s counter, carefully and lovingly select the freshest veggies at the farm stands, congregate merrily at street markets and lunch with gusto at authentic ethnic food trucks. When they want service, they might crave a razor shave at The Art of Shaving, or the known, trusted sense of clean they’ll enjoy at a Tide Dry Cleaners.  Procter & Gamble obviously gets it, winning the top 2011 Excellence and Innovation in Retail award. These experiences create stories worth sharing, on smartphones of course, but also in face to face with those in our inner circles.

In 2012, I think we’ll see retailers and brands step up their mobile relationships with shoppers, while striving to connect their products and marketing efforts firmly to experiences that deliver multi-sensory benefits. Phil Lempert, “The Supermarket Guru” thinks food passion is still strong. I think that means knowledgeable experiential teams in stores should replace basic boring sampling.  If pupasas from El Salvador are the top new food at the Vendy Awards, the team that launches the packaged version in-store better look, feel and sound like they rolled in from that country last night. Think Heritage, real human style.

People gathered together with a common purpose share a sense of empowerment. Lempert says “Look for food groups to form that cook together, crowd sourcing in the kitchen” if you will. Add a savings focus and they’ll be couponing, shopping, cooking, eating and counting their saved dollars as a team.

My AHA! moment for 2012!  Bring top bloggers and followers together IRL (in real life) for shopping meet-ups. Digital promotes the exclusive human experience.

It’s a given that in 2012 Siri, on command, will text your friends and invite them to go shopping. The bigger question is – whose command? Will shoppers use Siri to extend invitation to friends? Or will a savvy retailer ask Siri to help them invite like-minded shoppers to an enhanced retail experience?

What are your thoughts?


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