business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got several emails about yesterday’s interview with Thornton May, executive director and dean of the IT Leadership Academy, in which he looked at how the industry should respond to a time of extraordinary change ( a subject he will address in depth at the upcoming FMI and MarkeTechnics Shows). We commented, “To be honest, half the time we have no idea what the hell Thornton May is talking about…but it sure does sound visionary.” That was a sentiment that seemed to resonate with some MNB users, such Brad Zemcik, who wrote:

I thought your interview with Thornton May and your response of not sure what he is talking about, are a shining example of one of the ills of our industry.

I started out in sales and moved into technology. Both need each other to accomplish the goals of sales and distribution however; most sales people don’t understand the technology side and vise-versa. Both sides are so focused on their jobs (accountability to keep their income) that they miss monitoring emerging trends until they show up on a syndicated data report.

Most companies have tunnel vision. They have many tunnels and never meld them all together to see the overall picture, because of costs. So in cutting positions like mine, they miss staying on the forefront and can’t see down the hall, let along around corners. I would go into different markets and walk stores getting a feel of the sections in question as well as also slowly looking at other areas to get ideas about cross marketing, new package or display ideas, or ideas about new items where other companies were not taking full opportunity to capitalize on them. The key words are opportunity and innovation, but it does cost and that is where most companies want out.

IT stands for Information Technology in most people’s minds but it can also stand for Intelligent Thinking if companies would embrace that. It took years for many companies to embrace Information Technology and until they embrace Intelligent Thinkers to do, what many will deem a nothing job, they will remain in their retail holes chasing their tails. Like Disney uses Imagineers, retail food, drug and mass merchants need Intelligent Thinkers in order to go beyond filling the shopping carts with everyday mundane purchases…

MNB user Deb Welf wrote:

With respect to Thornton May and Retail Technology Innovation…Having worked in IT for one of the largest wholesale and retail food distributors in the world I have lived through the changes in technology from 1985 to today. I was recently engaged in a most interesting conversation about technology and the need for vision and strategic business alignment and was hit with a most interesting comment, “our margins as so small that we can’t afford innovation, we must continue to strive for efficiency and focus on tasks at hand”, suggesting that innovation and efficiency are mutually exclusive.

I do believe there is a big block of past transgressions that technologist must carry around until they can prove that retail innovation can be cost effective and bring increased sales. As far as the future goes, if I were a large retailer I would focus on integrated technologies that make multiple services easy to use and cost effective.

Technologies in the store such as consumer focused coupons that are emailed directly to me, deposited in the right aisle in my store specific generated shopping list, that will auto redeem electronically at the store when I purchase the item. For me that is a shopping paradise, but maybe I am the exception to the rule, after all I’m am educated working woman with a family and little time, who is careful with her money and uses technology daily…. OK.. maybe I’m not the exception. Begs the question about how many women are driving technology strategies in major retail and CPG companies.

And MNB user Anne Evanoff wrote:

Kevin, I just wanted you to know that I make it a point to read your column daily. Today you made me laugh out loud with your comment about "...not knowing what the Thornton May is talking about". I am watching avidly all articles about the changes in innovation, IT, marketing, and trying to keep on the curve with bare minimal (but growing) understanding.

My kids are very comfortable navigating the IT, media, tech world, to the point where even I am watching the most recent YouTube postings, just to keep in the loop of what people are finding interesting.

My superiors have preached the "4 P's" for years so it was nice to have someone identify that a migration of focus is happening, since we have to admit that we all are scrutinizing our businesses, trying to keep abreast of what our customers want. The practical elements of the 4 P's will likely not go away, but will be a tool to implement the 4 C's in the future.

May said yesterday that “we are migrating from the ‘4 P’s’ of industrial age marketing - Product, Price, Placement & Promotion - to the ‘4 C’s’ of post-Internet/pre-cyborg customer service - Communication, Customization, Collaboration, and Clairvoyance.”

And that much we understood. And we agree.
KC's View: