I’ve always been intrigued by technology. My favorite childhood Christmas was the year I was given an Apple IIE. That computer started my lifelong obsession with technology, design, and quality.

I’ve kept my eye on the worlds of retail, design, and technology since then. So 30 years after I received that Apple IIE, I’m making a list for retailers for 2015 and beyond. What can retailers learn from tech companies? What are they doing now that they should continue to do (or accelerate)?


Innovation, with a side of donuts

One brand that has kept up with and surpassed the consumer expectations set by the latest and greatest technology innovations is Starbucks. In the span of a few short months, I went from paying for my morning coffee with my phone, to being the first on my block to pay with my Apple Watch, to now—placing my order before I even get to the store.

New and innovative customer interactions are being enabled at a rapid pace—thanks to technology. Retailers should take a hard look in the mirror and start figuring out what can they do to leverage the latest and greatest now.

Innovation doesn’t always have to mean massive technical projects that require tons of time and engineering effort. The technical piece of Starbucks’ online ordering system was no doubt a massive endeavor. But it’s the outcome that matters. Customers can now avoid the least pleasant experience of ordering a latté: Waiting in line.

When you think of how you can apply the Starbucks approach to your business, ask yourself which experiences frustrate your customers the most. Dissect those frustrations and focus your innovation.

Keep omnichannel and carry on

Keep omnichannel and carry on

Retailers will put forward their best omnichannel face even if their businesses aren’t set up to support true omnichannel experiences. Even if the digital marketing team operates separately from the brick-and-mortar retail side of the house, retailers will make customers feel like they work together. Although cross-departmental silos may still exist at the corporate level, the consumer doesn’t need to know (or care).

The holiday rush is not the time to confuse your customers with different messages and offers about your online and offline capabilities. Instead, streamline the offers and messages you send so the customer encounters consistent interactions anywhere and everywhere they are. When I get that next store-wide sale email, make sure I can take advantage of those discounts at your local store or online.


Catch me where I am

Retailers should remember I am a mobile customer. I open a ton of my email on my phone but I am not very likely to actually convert on my phone.

Nonetheless, I do a decent amount of research on my phone. I may even be in your store when I’m researching a product. Keep that in mind.

Pressure cooker

I can handle the pressure

Retailers should remind me the clock is ticking. Yes, I’m one of those holiday shoppers that ends up making some occasional last-minute purchases. Nothing worse than finding out that last-minute gift won’t get there in time. Keep me informed of shipping deadlines, shipping options, last day for Christmas delivery, and more.

Try to strike a balance between empathy and creating a sense of urgency when crafting your last-chance messages. Because it’s not really about me—it’s about helping me avoid the misfortune of disappointing a friend or loved one.