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Articles I've Authored (published by others)

I'm not a reporter. I don't write corporate newsletters. I write about current or trending business/technology issues, considering and evaluating their effect on consumers, the marketplace, verticals, and of course, specific companies. More often than not, my writing is related to retail and m/e-commerce, yet I explore subjects dear to me, such as HUI (Humanized User Interface™) and UX/CX (user experience/customer experience) regularly too.

Biased? Opinionated? Absolutely. A futurist? Positively. My job is to put critical thinking and accumulated expertise into every topic, to benefit readers and those that count on me for insightful, candid guidance and counseling. If my positions make me a thorn in someone's side, get them to think, trigger a reaction, impact their business strategy, well... my work is done.


Are retailers selling their souls and giving away customers to Amazon?

In Jim Croce’s classic “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” he warns “You don’t tug on superman’s cape, You don’t spit into the wind, You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger, And you don’t mess around with Jim.” If he were with us to update the ditty for some of today’s retailers, the last caution might change to “And you don’t invite Alexa in.” ( full article )

BrainTrust throwdown: Is it inevitable that tech companies will dominate retail?

From its origins with the Dutch West India Company through numerous evolutions, commerce is the engine that has driven the global prominence of the U.S. economy. Still, the e-commerce revolution that caught on in the late 1990’s is so fundamentally different that the prior 400 years of traditional retail can be viewed as a prelude to the empowered, connected consumer age we exist in. ( full article )

Is a ‘DARK’ cloud looming for brands over GMO labeling?

Bill S.764, or “The DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act” as it’s known to many, which contains an amendment for federally mandated and defined GMO labeling, was recently signed into law by President Obama after a long, impassioned controversy. At issue: the nefarious language/mechanisms of the bill, the Senators that railroaded it through Congress without public debate, its usurping of state’s rights like Vermont’s GMO labeling law, and the food/ag brands in favor of it. ( full article )

Rivals need to up customer experiences to compete with Amazon

In the wake of Amazon’s stellar holiday season, including word that Prime added three million more subscribers in the third week of December and that $0.51 of every new e-commerce dollar spent in 2015 went to Amazon, it looks like competitors really have reason to worry. Sure, Fire Phone was a flop, they don’t get everything right, and some innovations are reaches, but overall, Amazon executes effectively on its core business, meeting consumer expectations and outperforming major competitors. ( full article )

Will UX methodologies bolster retail’s brick & mortar future?

With the never ending concern over the ever changing role of brick & mortar retail and debates on how retailers can stay relevant in a world of continued e-commerce growth and rapidly ramping m-commerce adoption, a lesson from the user experience (UX) designer’s playbook provides guidance to more engaging and fruitful consumer shopping experiences ahead. ( full article )

Are Amazon’s ambitions flying too high for comfort?

As eBay announced the end of its same day delivery trial, Amazon was grabbing headlines about its vision of controlled airspace for commercial drones, potentially unlocking its planned 30-minute-or-less U.S. delivery initiative. Stymied by FAA regulations, which are currently grounding Amazon’s Prime Air service, the company’s proposal would permit high-speed commercial drone operation at altitudes of 200-400 feet. ( full article )

Warning all megalomaniacs: There’s a precipice ahead

One way or another, the big players just keep getting bigger. Every large tech company has an M&A team that seem like they were reared on Pac-Man. They gobble up businesses at every turn, hopefully because they add value, occasionally so that competitors don’t do so first, and apparently, sometimes, because they can. In other instances, they study successful businesses and roll out their own flavor even if it does not directly correlate to their core business. Among the latest is Amazon’s new local marketplace and food ordering initiative. ( full article )

When it comes to retail tech, consider gray matter before gray hair

I don’t think it’s discriminatory to say something self-incriminating, so first, allow me to admit to sporting a few gray follicles myself. Secondly, I’m not against anyone of any ilk. Objectively though, when I look across the landscape of purveyors of in-store technology including digital displays or tablet solutions, many that offer either dated or "me too" concepts are represented by people of a "certain era." ( full article )

Retail tech’s most uninspiring achievement: the coupon

Mobile marketing, LBS (location based services), SoLoMo (social, local, mobile) — these are some of the hippest terms being bandied about in marketing circles and any retailer that doesn’t give them serious consideration (at least publicly) is chided. ( full article )

Are Retailers Ready to Own the Last Mile of Customer Experience?

You’ve probably heard the term "last mile" in the context of wired phone service. It’s that last mile of wire that connects to a customer’s home and makes phone calls possible after all the complex infrastructure has done its job. ( full article )

Tablets for Sales Staff? Two Simple Ways to Make Them Effective

You get it: technology for technology’s sake is a bad thing. You want to help your sales staff enhance the consumer shopping experience and you know that tablets are a window into realizing that goal. You don’t want employees using tablets as a crutch or a means to avoid human interaction with precious customers. So how can these issues be dealt with so that shoppers get the best of technology-empowered staff? Here are two approaches to get you started. ( full article )

Is That a Visionary Product Display or a Product Display With Vision?

When the conversation turns to the latest in-store tech trends, it usually revolves around tablets for sales staff, location tracking for consumers or digital signage. While that is "technology," in the grander scheme, it’s not all that high tech. However, there is a new genre of retail technology that is transitioning from research to reality and it really does have potential to change the dynamics of what we’ve come to accept as shopping. ( full article )

Can You Say ‘Returns Harassment?’

The NRF reports that 62 percent of retailers require customers to provide ID, such as a driver’s license (to be recorded), in order to make returns without a receipt, even though 86 percent are legitimate returns.

Contrast that with retailers that provide "hassle-free" returns with/without receipts and you can quickly see how attitude towards customers is a defining business trait. ( full article )

Serial Returners Are Ruining The System For Everyone

Consumers beware: retailers have once again drawn a line and taken sides.

One group is championed by the likes of Zappos, Nordstrom, L.L. Bean, and a wave of service oriented start-ups, the other by merchants best classified as the KGB of customer service.

The first bunch sees their mission as fulfilling customer needs and creating user experiences that build lasting bonds, while the opposition seems to believe that increasing demands/restrictions upon consumers is somehow good for business.( full article )

Point/Counterpoint: Can Anyone Beat Amazon At Its Own Game?

Is Amazon.com an unstoppable powerhouse? As growth slows or plateaus at major chains, Amazon’s upward trajectory continues. The world’s largest e-tailer made the STORES Hot 100 Retailers list again this year coming in at #7 based on increased U.S. sales between ’10 and ’11. In fact Amazon has been included every year since STORES began the list in 2006. With worldwide sales approaching $48 billion, Amazon saw annual growth of 42.5 percent in the period reviewed. U.S. sales, in fact, accounts for only 55 percent of its sales volume.( full article )

A harsh reality for kiosks

Touchscreen interactive kiosks were first introduced to commercial and retail settings in the 1980s. The relationship showed promise—the kiosks were exciting, futuristic and publicly accessible.

In subsequent years, the concept slowly caught on, but never met its full potential. Problems lingered revolving around identity, reliability, usefulness and user experience. ( full article )

Can Mobile Break Retail’s Grip On CPG Sales?

Today, although consumers can buy CPG items online, physical retailers aren’t feeling much of a pinch from those sales. But what if a more enhanced/convenient form of selling in the m/e-commerce space was to arrive?

Is it hard to imagine that if CPG products became ultra-convenient to buy with a couple of taps on a phone drug/supermarket/discounter sales might truly get hurt? ( full article )

Will Google Shopping Force Small Merchants Into Oblivion?

Google Product Search is now morphing into a new pay-for-placement service called Google Shopping, changing a decade old organic search feature into a revenue based advertising tool. The move is in direct conflict with statements Google previously made against such practices. They claim the remodel will result in "a better shopping experience."

But will it? Or will it mean that organic (unadulterated) search results are that much closer to extinction? ( full article )

Will Tablets Usher in an Era of ‘Dumber’ Retail Sales Help?

The ubiquity of tablets is well underway with retail being one of the industries to begin roll-outs to customer facing employees. The idea is that a more empowered salesperson will provide shoppers with better information, personalization and service. But will it? Or will it mean the further dumbing-down of the retail sales force? ( full article )

Is Retail Quietly Trending Away From Bricks and Mortar?

Back in the late ’90s when e-commerce was coming to the fore, a fear pervaded among many retailers that they might be torpedoed by the new phenomenon of online shopping.

Over time, retailers relaxed and joined the fray in developing their own true web presences. They stood up to competition from mom and pops and Amazon and other big discounters, so it seemed that the panic was over and that they didn’t have to worry about closing stores due to internet competition. ( full article )