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A week ago, I had the pleasure to open the FutureVision, “an invitation-only event designed for the industry’s retail leaders, is an exclusive relationship-building event packed with industry insights.” I shared the stage with some pretty impressive visionaries!

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It’s a small, intimate 50 CEO level event held in Sonoma County, California, with the focus being “the key trends coming over the next three years for retailers. This exclusive format allows retailers to listen and connect with industry visionaries and elite manufacturers — through exceptional networking, business meetings and strategic information sharing sessions. These featured speakers will address critical shifts that will impact your business over the coming years”

Here’s an excerpt from Technology Integrator Magazine on Day 1.


The inaugural FutureVision Conference’s first day in Sonoma Tuesday was a forum for three visionaries – futurist Jim Carroll , ShopRunner CEO and former Yahoo and PayPal executive Scott Thompson , and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone – to present their views of how technology has shaped and will continue to shape the retail industry, the consumer and the content that is delivered to that consumer. Some of the comments were colored by anecdotes from the speakers’ personal experiences.

Carroll spoke about consumer technology’s “furious rate of change.” He cited statistics to the effect that 65 percent of preschool children today will work in a career that does not exist today, and that half of what they learn in science will be obsolete by the time they graduate. These realities pose a challenge to CE product-production and marketing cycles as never before, he said. “Sixty percent of Apple’s revenue comes from products that didn’t exist four years ago,” he said, to drive home the point. Crucial to survival in this new normal, he said, is flexibility, and the ability to react to fast-paced change – to the “fast future,” as he phrased it.

Furthermore, he said, “the consumer is increasingly in control. The control of the speed of innovation is shifting from individual industries to technology companies. You need to turn those trends into opportunities and redefine the future.”

Three trends he identified were:

  • the rapid emergence of new business models and new competitors (warning listeners to be careful that what happened in the livery cab industry doesn’t happen to them: “don’t be Uber’ed”);
  • fast-changing media-consumption trends where consumers can get whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want;
  • and the shaping of innovation, which is increasingly occurring on the fringes rather than from established sources (“R&D is being changed by crowd-funding”).

He warned against clinging to routine, paraphrasing Steve Jobs, who never worried about cannibalizing his own business because “if you don’t do it, someone else will.”

He told the audience, “Think big, start small, scale fast. What to do? Observe, think, change, dare, banish (as in banish innovating-killing statements like, ‘That’ll never work’ – which create ‘organizational sclerosis’), try, question, grow, do – and enjoy.”

You can find the full article here.

I’m in Las Vegas Thursday, as a keynote speaker fo rhte Multi-Unit Franchising Conference at the Venetian.

"Time to market and corporate agility are the new capabilities to focus on"

I’ll be speaking to  a wide variety of consumer, technology, demographic and other trends as they impact franchise operations.

Multi-Unit Franchise Magazine just ran a small article in which I comment on some of these trends.

This should be a great crowd and fun audience – it’s a very entrepreneurial group, with a lot of success under their belts. But they live in interesting times — cost inflation perhaps being the biggest challenge they are faced with.

Not to forget the impact of mobile technology – a good portion of the folks in the room are going to be in the restaurant end of the franchise industry, and they are being impacted extremely quickly by mobile coupons, and other location intelligence technologies. Online ordering via mobile devices is a tidal wave of change coming into the industry at a furious pace. Then there’s faster evolution of consumer taste trends.

Whatever the case may be, there’s a lot of change going on, and plenty of opportunity for innovation. This event comes after I had keynoted the global Burger King franchise conference for about 5,000 people in Vegas, and a keynote for the global leadership team for Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut) on the same themes — which also led to a keynote for VIBE 2010 (Very Important Beverage Executives), the individuals who run the refreshment end of things in chain restaurants. Lots going on in Vegas!

Tracking the Future

Jim Carroll keeps his finger on the pulse of the world around him and particularly, the future. He is, after all, a futurist who identifies business and cultural trends ranging from technology and business model change, to innovation, global challenges, and growth. Carroll’s list of
clients includes Northrop Grumman, Visa, Rockwell Collins, Lincoln Financial, and the Walt Disney organization.

Prior to his speaking at the Multi-Unit Franchising Conference in April, we asked Carroll for his take on the ever-evolving consumer, technology, and the franchise business marketplace. He outlined five key – and critical – areas for multi-unit franchisees to be aware of when considering new brands and concepts to add to their portfolio.

Paying Attention. Consumers today face more stimuli around them than at any previous time in history – computers, Internet, cell phone, video games, etc. He says today’s interactive world demands that franchisees to be engaged in all mediums. “Marketers must work harder than ever to capture the attention of the consumer and make a connection. Brands must keep up with the pace of consumer change in order to stay relevant,” says Carroll.

Changing Family Dynamics. There’s a new definition of family in America and it’s no longer nuclear. Successful franchise brands must acknowledge and respond to this reality. “Hyper-nicheing is the new brand reality as the market becomes more specialized and fragmented. Marketers can no longer rely on preconceived segmentation strategies, but rather need to think differently about who they are trying to reach and how to reach them.”

Under the Influence. Celebrities and peers are influencing consumers more than ever. These peers are sought out for advice and brand recommendations. “Social networks are the new brand influencers and marketers must find ways to connect with consumers who are highly influential in their peer groups.”

Shifting Behavior. Socio-economic shifts are affecting consumer behavior. Consumer tastes and preferences continue to change and evolve. “Faster-paced preference change is the new reality and brands must be nimble to keep up with consumer demand.”

Rapid Deployment. New products and innovation are being brought to market much more quickly. Brands, products, and services must keep up. “Time to market and corporate agility are the new capabilities to focus on.”

But in this case, CNN gets it wrong.

CNN notes in a story that DVD players are coming to replace CD players in homes. No problem with that : DVD players are the fastest growing consumer technology ever in terms of adoption rate, and since all DVD players can play CD’s, they’re replacing them.

But DVD’s are just a transitional step. The real home of the future will be just like mine today — with a central server storing thousands of MP3 or other format music files, accessible through a home-ethernet from a consumer audio device. You’ll have a network-based jukebox through which you’ll access your vast music library; will change the tunes that you play through your Web browser or palm-like device; and will find that CD’s have become a relic of the days of old.

The fact is, that is a future that is already here today.

I’ve been doing this for years, as have thousands of other people, with a magical device known as the Turtle Beach Audiotron.

I wrote about this in my article, “Is This Guy Crazy or Just Way Ahead of His Time?” which appeared in Link Magazine, July 2002. There’s also a video on the page that links to this article which explains why my 8 year old son thinks that CD’s are from the ‘olden days.’

[ My article ]

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