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There was some debate last week about the Ikan system, which allows shoppers to scan at home the products that they finish and construct an online shopping list that can easily be sent to a local store for fulfillment. For some people, this seemed like a peek into the future; for others, it appeared to be a useless or even frivolous purpose for technology.

It is the latter folks to whom MNB user Glen Terbeek responded:

Your readers' views of the Ikan system are that it is a replacement to or in competition with a store. I argue that it should be complimentary, not one or the other, but both. Think of smaller value added stores that create a reason to shop, supported by an Ikan type system for replenishing staples, capturing shoppers’ interest in ad items. Maybe the shopper could pick up these pre ordered items when they do their in-store value added shopping at a convenient time to shop.

The industry needs to quit protecting the current way of doing business (started in the 50's) and start to accept new ideas that meet future shopper needs and technology trends.

I agree completely.

MNB user David Brewster, not so much:

Once upon a time I lived in NYC. Gristede's Supermarket then had a wonderful system for cliff dwellers, and anyone else, who c/wouldn't go out much ... Customers could phone their Gristede's with a shopping list. The clerk would write it down onto paper and read back. List checked, s/he would shop the store, load up bags into a big tricycle with a huge basket and have the order delivered to the customer's place. (The delivery guy hoped for a tip.) They did this without whiz-bang technology, and with great personal kindness and personal service, both good things, at no extra cost to customers. And it was a miracle for shut-ins and old folks.

That was then. This is now.

I KAN not help but believe that our primordial, pre-verbal hunting instincts are being insulted and further sublimated by this machined re-shopping. We still have some of the basic stuff, I hope, and we need the tactility and entertainment and attainment of the hunt. Call me a Luddite. In this case I'd be proud.

All that said, we really are deeply into a brave new digital world out there where our lives and our human physical reality have been largely reinterpreted in terms of new technological wizardry - whose digital language is foreign to and frightening for many of us.

As you often observe, our retail environments (our total environment, actually) is changing with stunning rapidity. While most of us can glimpse at these new technologies, we rarely understand the basic impacts, often unintended (for good and for ill), these have on the whole physiological make-up of most of us. Indeed, we are only recently beginning to accept that these fundamental changes exist, let alone that they are a basis of our new everyday reality.

Retail business evolves, changes each day - new retail components and formats entering the market, new product offerings being launched, customers being more closely defined, new channels being created… all of which change faster and faster. These pressures compel retailers to continuously redefine themselves to stay at the leading edge of their business niches, or lose market share. All these underpinnings, all of them potentially dimensions of customer-centric retail innovation and growth, are part of the now and future retail environments we live in. Can IKAN be part of this?!

Okay, you’re a Luddite.

Just kidding.

Listen, the Ikan system isn’t for everyone, and certainly won’t be targeted at people unfamiliar or uncomfortable with technological approaches. (I was going to write “technological solutions,” but I’m not sure what the specific consumer problem is that it is solving. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a cool idea that young consumers won’t cotton to.) It certainly won’t be targeted at what I would perceive as Gristedes’ core consumer. (Though I could be wrong about that…)

The Ikan isn’t a strategy. It is merely a tactic – a technologically adept tactic – designed to keep customers from shopping at the competition. Which strikes me as pretty smart.

MNB had a piece the other day about how hotel chains are coming up with entirely new formats to attract Gen Y travelers, on the premise that the things that appealed to Baby Boomers may be considered quaint but ultimately irrelevant by their elders.

This story generated a bunch of emails.

MNB user Al Kober wrote:

Print a list of these so I can be sure never to go there.

MNB user Jackie Lembke wrote:

Maybe I started traveling for business later in life than most boomers, but my hotel room doesn’t need to be more luxurious than home, I want the fun and comfort the Gen Y traveler is getting at a fair price. And I much prefer self check-out, would love self check-in.

MNB user Kevin Nolan was amused by one of the words used in the original Time story that I referenced:

Seriously, if they’re going to cater to the Gen Y crowd they’ll need to stop using the word “Hip”!

Good point. When I want to get a laugh out of my 14-year-old (or maybe it’s a chortle), all I have to do is refer to myself as a “hip, happening guy.”

I understand that not everyone is going to find these new-style hotels appealing…but I want to reiterate the point I was really trying to make – that food retailers need to be thinking about how to restyle their stores, their products and their services for the next generation of consumers. To not do so, I fear, is to risk being irrelevant when they become the center of the target for marketers.

MNB user David Minns seemed to concur:

I agree with your comments. You’re not alone. I’m in my 40’s, and I prefer that Gen Y experience, too. A good example I would recommend to try is the Hyatt Place. They currently operate about 100 of these hipper, comfortable and convenient hotels that are also priced competitively with a Marriott Courtyard type alternative. They’re also located in less urban, hipper type spots like Cincinnati and Sacramento, where you = won’t find a W (or could afford one based on what I want to pay for travel, for that matter).

Thanks for the tip.

And then, there was this email from MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf:

I have been waiting for years for the appropriate time mention these two subjects in the same context. I thought you were finally going to present me with the opportunity when I saw the headline. I like you am way past this target audience however my wife and I have found a way of combining your reviews and comments on various supermarkets with my love of cooking and travel. We stay exclusively at Residence Inns, Towne Place, Staybridge etc. where every room has at least a small kitchen. The main criteria are they must be located in close proximity to a supermarket that has been favorably reviewed by the content guy. Thanks to you we have discovered Whole Foods, (with a little help from Alton Brown) Trader Joes, Hy-Vee, Publix, just to name a few. I have a dedicated suitcase with various pans, spices, cutting board & knives (we don’t fly much) that is larger than the one for my clothes. I have often wondered if any of the other MNB followers have developed this strange travel habit. It has turned the boring drive to Florida to visit the family into an adventure along the Interstate in search of the exit with the best chance of “bed and dinner”.

One of the nicest emails I’ve gotten…and I appreciate it more than you know.

I made note on Friday of a Washington Post story about the apparent death of the sentence, and suggested in my commentary that companies ought to make the ability to communicate in clear and lucid English a prerequisite for getting or keeping a job.

MNB user Steven Ritchey responded:

I agree with the premise that we are becoming a society that cannot communicate effectively. While I was completing an MBA several years ago, I had more than one professor tell us that increasingly their students were not good at writing, and lacked basic math skills. That even with grammar check and spell check their grammar and spelling were atrocious, and these kids were high school graduates. I had a finance professor tell me personally that the majority of his students in his introductory, overview finance class couldn’t do algebraic manipulations, stuff I learned in 9th grade, and these were college Juniors, I’m not talking Calculus or high level Algebra here. When my girlfriend’s kids were younger I used to tell them that there were three skills they had to have, no option. They had to be able to write coherently, be able to do basic math functions without a calculator (add, subtract, multiply and divide) and be able to speak effectively. One of them just graduated from Virginia Tech, the other is starting her Sophomore year at Oklahoma State University. The older one has a degree in Political Science with a minor in Business Administration, the younger one wants to end up being a Child Psychologist. Both are good kids who are articulate and well spoken, I wish I could take credit for it but sadly I cannot.

Take some of the credit. Feel free.

KC's View: