Archive for November, 2010

As we get close to the end of another year, walk with me into the not-too-distant future for a moment…

It’s taken some time, but mobile barcode scanning and comparison shopping is a common activity among consumers. Barcode scanners are a standard feature of most retail apps, providing access to in depth product information, reviews and immediate feedback from social connections. However, in-aisle comparison shopping  is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Future Isn’t Now, But It’s Soon

If you live in New York, you can now get a taste of the future of mobile payments at any Starbucks via the mobile Starbucks card app. After doing so since launch about a month ago, I put mobile payments in the same bucket as a DVR and RSS reader, you can live without it until you try it. Then life changes forever. Mobile payments are without a doubt a big part of our future. Starbucks will be the proof of concept for others as they roll out mobile payments globally over the next couple of years.

Combine the convenience and personal shopping assistance value of a connected mobile device with the growing self checkout trend at retail, and the future paints its own picture. We’ll see more stand alone apps like Aisle Buyer, and self checkout functionality being added to existing retail apps in the coming year. This should excite you both as both a marketer and as a consumer. Here’s a quick idea of how it works:

There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills

There are a number of companies vying for a piece of the mobile  payments pie ranging from banks to technology companies. Apple and other mobile companies are betting on NFC (Near Field Communication), a contactless data connection between devices within four inches of each other. This technology will be standard in the next round of mobile devices. Payments can either be connected to your mobile account or processed through one of several mobile payment providers. Mobile self checkout via apps could  use this functionality or bypass these mobile payment providers and use the merchant bank of the retailers’ choice, but potentially still make use of NFC for other aspects of the consumer experience. Either way, mobile payments are on the way. Of course,  the pace of  evolution is dependent on further smart phone penetration and a new round of phones (even non smart phones) with built in NFC technology in order for mobile payments to scale.

New Retail Technology Trifecta

Imagine a world where you can walk into a store, self checkout via mobile app, as you approach the store exit you bag your goods, swipe an NFC reader that scans your mobile receipt and works in conjunction with an an RFID reader that scans your bag for the corresponding RFID tags attached to all items or packaging to confirm that what you are walking out of the store with is in fact paid for. This reality is not more than 2 – 3  years away.


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Today I’m going to kick off a multi-part series that addresses some of the challenges facing the changing client/agency relationship, along with some solutions that clients and agencies can work together to implement. Let’s just call it – Client/Agency Therapy.

Since this is the introductory Client-Agency Therapy post, i wanted to set the stage with a few principles, disclaimers and caveats.

  1. My goal is to help clients and agencies establish better working relationships, not to bash agencies (or clients). There are plenty of agencies and clients who buck the trends, really have their acts together and should be an inspiration to their peers.
  2. We live in interesting times. We’re working in a difficult and quickly evolving business climate that has been less forgiving than in the past. We are all tasked with doing more with less. We need to cut each other a little slack sometimes and foster positive and motivating relationships that focus on improving the future rather getting hung up on past negativity. That said, due diligence should not be taken lightly, and complacency and inefficiency should not be tolerated.
  3. We must all strive to be the best at what we do and instill this characteristic in those we manage and lead; enter into relationships with the intention of a respectful partnership; and establish accountability and feedback loops that maximize business performance and ensure that expectations are being exceeded.

Here’s just a sample of some of the topics we’ll be exploring together in Client-Agency Therapy:

  • Collaboration
  • Culture alignment and culture clashes
  • Agency organization challenges
  • Client organizational challenges
  • The role of specialists and generalists
  • The vital role of process
  • The implications of efficiency, or lack thereof
  • Importance of the right marketing technologies
  • Accountability
  • How people make all the difference
  • Client expectations
  • Agency proficiency
  • A new era of procurement
  • Agility

I’m excited to address a number of topics that tend to get swept under the carpet or ignored because they are either difficult to deal with, nobody has the time to think about, or sometimes we just don’t know what we don’t know. As a veteran digital agency executive who has led and sold a successful digital agency,  managed the integration into a large agency culture, and moved on to train and consult agencies and clients, including some of the largest media agencies in the world and several leading brands, I have a variety of hands on experience to speak authoritatively on these topics. However, I also have enough humility to reach out to the community and ask you to chime in and augment and debate some of my concepts and statements. In fact, I very much look forward to the intellectual discussion and journey.

I hope that Client/Agency Therapy will also spark conversation within your organizations on how to become better digital marketers and partners.


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