Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 9, 2011 8:43 PM

The New Disruption

When digital mingles with our physical lives, everything changes.

I'm a bit of a bookworm (#nerdalert). I'm doing my best to read one book every week (but failing miserably). The way I buy books has changed dramatically in the best few years. I used to love my book collection. I loved it so much, I would sometimes buy both the hardcover and paperback versions just to support the arts and the authors. After my last move, I stopped loving my book collection. The packing, the weight, the organizing, etc... seemed very antiquated to me. My current book reading is done on the Kindle app. I don't own an Amazon Kindle, I read books on my iPhone with the Kindle app. I hardly use my iPad anymore as I travel with the MacBook Air and I don't like reading books on the computer (just yet). While I often peruse the Kindle and iBooks app to see what's new and exciting, I still love heading into bookstores to flip through the books and wander the aisles. When I've made my purchasing decisions, I'll crack open the Kindle and iBooks app and buy my books - right then and there - on digital format. Being a retail creature of habit, I realize how bad this is for the retailer, but the truth is that reading, buying and storing my books in the cloud trumps all.

Retail is going to have to change. 

Amazon just released a new mobile app called, Price Check, that allows consumers at the retail level to use barcode scanning, their camera or speech to text search to price check and compare with Amazon (and their merchants). Imagine the possibilities here. Once again, Amazon is changing not only online shopping but the entire retail experience. I am a huge fan of Amazon Prime  because it not only allows Amazon to build a very strong and targeted loyalty and analytics platform, but it turns every purchase into an impulse buy. If you can have something shipped as fast as possible to you and can return it - no questions asked - then the retail game changes. Price Check does this as well. It forces retailers to pay attention to their pricing. It forces retailers to know that everyone now has a price gun on their smartphones, only this price gun is plugged into one of the largest and most aggressive retailers in the world. It also forces retailers to think differently about their in-store experience. If a better price can be had somewhere else, there needs to be more... a reason to keep on coming back. We can hold up the Apple retail experience as a Golden Child in this instance simply because they rarely put things on sale and their environment is not crowded with merchandise. Their retail experience is much more about creating a direct relationship with their consumers than it is about selling them something.

The gold is in the data.

Amazon is not hiding how they benefit from Price Check either (and it goes well beyond them selling another book). They are in it to capture data and this, particular, data set is pure gold. If millions of people start using Price Check (and if you have a smartphone, why wouldn't you?), imagine Amazon's understanding of the market, pricing (by location and down to consumer) in terms of which stores are not only selling a product at a particular price, but they're also better able to understand consumer buying habits and trends in real-time. Who else will have this kind of data and access? If Price Check takes off (and I think it will) it could change retail forever... or least force retailers to face the digitization of everything.

Disruption will continue. What brands do about it will be very telling.

By Mitch Joel