Gary Schwartz

Gary Schwartz, tech investor, 6 times Deloitte Fast 50 award winner and Simon & Schuster author talks to us today about the "MESSY CONSUMER".

Technology evolves in fits and starts. Everything seems linear until it is not.More

In all your books and lectures you have focused on the evolution of the consumer. @ImpulseEconomy what is a consumer in 2017?
Traditionally, we did have a researcher, analyst, shopper insight director, etc. peering into the consumer’s head. But this has changed.
The 2017 consumer is different. However, more importantly, we (as optimized, well-oiled service or product companies) are different. Gone is the guessing. We do not hold finger-to-the-wind anymore. Now a machine or algorithm is peering into the consumer’s head.
If a computer is now the “human” interface to business, how do you bring the warmth back in retail, health, and other industries? We know this is a key topic in your last book “Fast Shopper, Slow Store”.
“DIGITAL WARMTH” It sounds like a contradiction in terms - and that is why it is such an important concept. The machine that peers into the consumer’s head needs to be innately human. That is a corporate challenge (and opportunity).
When Amazon scaled its commerce and fulfillment process, it would have lost its market share if they did not manage to emulate the shopkeeper trust inherent in a sale.
P13N is a skunkworks division of Amazon that automated smart filtering on searches and associated commerce cross-marketing (P13N is short for 13 letters between P and N in P-ERSONALIZATIO-N.)
Smart search, smart association allow consumers to feel as if their digital experience is as warm (if not warmer) than their real world experience.
Beyond “digital warmth” what makes technology warmer, friendlier? You write in your book, IMPULSE ECONOMY, about a seamless experience, a seamless journey across the consumer screens.
Any journey that has undue interruptions is not a friendly journey. As humans we act on impulse. If we place too many clicks, too many decisions between I WANT and I GET, there will be abandonment.
Going back to Amazon, Bezos patented the ONE CLICK checkout. (We all question how he got this patent; however, it underscores the value he and other tech leaders put on the seamless journey.) I call this counting CLICKS TO COMMERCE. Every click has precipitous consumer drop off.
So warmth, personalization, seamless experience? What else can connect us to the digital consumer?
Look can at tech history. Gates failed with the tablet PC because it had a clunky stylus. Jobs won with the iPhone because he realized that each consumer is born with ten stylus. He broken down digital barriers: made data warm and touchable.
We have a similar battle now with voice. Siri was a utility. Amazon’s Alexa become a platform that eliminated the need for touch and allowed for in-situ data on command. Kitchen confidential.
Now VOICE meets VISUAL with Amazon LOOK. Voice-activated selfies provide fashion tips become data on customer’s wardrobe choices. LOOK is a blend of Instagram and data targeting that will open up a 2.4 trillion dollar fashion industry to Amazon.
You talk about Amazon and Bezos a lot, why?
Bezos is the archetypal CONSUMER-CENTRIC business leader. Alibaba’s Jack Ma is another that always pushed for consumer design elevating Ali Wang Wang chat and other important customer tools front-and-center.
Uber, AirBNB, Instacart are all examples of technologies that are warmer than their non-digital counterparts: taxis, hotels, grocery stores ...
We started this discussion with the term the “MESSY CONSUMER”. What do you mean by this in the context of what you refer to as consumer-centric technology design?
If there was no human in the sales process, life would be fairly simple. We would build solutions that worked a predefined, cookie-cutter consumer. But consumers are a fickle bunch. They do not even understand their own behavior.
I always suggest to companies that I work with to stop fixating on future technology. Retailers (for example) should stop building the “Store of the Future.” The key is to understand the “Store of the Past.” What worked before in many cases informs what will work in the future.
Humans and the technology “prosthetics” that enable them have changed less than we think. 100 years before Steve Jobs stood on stage announcing the iPhone revolution, Punch magazine (1906) ran an illustration (tongue in check) of the connected person of the future.
Very little has changed ...