Why Retail is using data the wrong way – ensuring the best customer experience for omni retail

mattress selection and computers

Today a sales associate tried to help sell my mother on a mattress through their special diagnostic tool.  They said that it compiles thousands of data points from sleep scientists, and uses thousands of sensors to guarantee the perfect fit.  This pitch is nothing new.  This approached is used in dating, shoe selection, and multiple verticals for the consumer space.  However their are several major issues:

1.  It assumes everyone is the same.  Statistically, a computer can compile that most people will like the same thing, but we all have personal preferences as well.   The take away should be that many people feel this way as a guide, rather then that this is the “right” fit for you.

2. Salespeople still have to treat people like people, not equations.  If the sales associate would have talked to my mother before throwing her in a machine, we would have been more likely to buy a bed.  Data is no substitution for customer service.

3. In Certain Data sets, Data only gets you so far. In many situations, tests can get you part of the way there, but after filtering out some basic traits, the rest has to be decided in person.  For example, an online search can tell me which cars might be a good fit for me based on price and preferences, but I still want to test drive them to see how they feel.   The issue is that retail associates mistake tests for absolute answers, rather then tools to help move someone down a funnel.

4. The Bell Curve is an outdated model in many verticals.  In our culture of abundance, we often look to machines and software to tell us the most efficient answer.  For verticals that are based on taste, the bell curve model is dead.  Content consumption ( videos, music, etc. ) is a great example where people can find the exact fit for them, rather then looking for the most popular item.  Digital goods is the easiest argument for this last fit. However, other physical goods cater to clusters of people or outliers in the equation – take Etsy for example.  It caters to the long tail of economics, finding custom goods for custom buyers.    Now for commodity good like a bed, the bell curve still may be a good fit.  This may speak to the cost and scale of production, but I imagine that the availability of options in the mattress industry is changing consumer expectations as well.


In any instance, as retail has the ability to be more digital, it’s important to maintain some elements of care and humanity. Tools can mutually help people be more efficient with sales and customer satisfaction, but its important that tools are used the right way to help out both parties, with a grain of salt for personal preferences and individuality.

As an overall generalization for omni channel experiences,  data and software is great for helping people work through areas of the upper funnel for customers, but often the later parts of retail need a high touch experience to fully ensure customer product fit and maximum satisfaction.  Both digital and analog need each other for certain verticals to be truly successful.



Why doesn’t my phone know it’s in my car ?

I love hands free, but apparently my iphone doesn’t know its in my car.  It seamlessly can answer calls, or play music through my cars speakers, but thats about it.  Everything else is just about it being mounted on my dash.

Why doesn’t the UI of my phone change when its connected to my car via bluetooth?

Let me first say that I love apple products.  However, as a driver, this most recent iOs update made is very hard to perform basic functions while driving. I am not talking about using Siri or playing a game, I am specifically talking about how the button to hang up the phone went from 2 inches rectangular to 1/4 inch circular.  Thats a big difference while you are driving.  I expect for the UI of my phone to become simpler and bigger while I am driving.   I do agree that is looks better, and is more cohesive, but that is not the point I am making here. I am talking about usability of a smart device during certain types of activities.

Ui elements – smaller buttons


Phones need to become more contextual to meet our needs.  Context doesn’t have to be magical, however connected devices should give clues to a phone about how it could work and behave.

My phone is beautiful, but I am waiting for the utility of it to catch up to my expectations.

Diminishing Return of Sci Fi Movies – Why we are no Longer Impressed by Robots

In 1987, Robocop was futuristic.  The new remake is a few degrees away from Asimo  or the bionic exoskeletons that have been showcased by the military/ research groups.  We now have robots for cleaning the floor, and Segways, and drones are almost an every day word on the news.

The problem here is that the gap between what we have previously imagined and are seeing prototypes of are very low. If Darpa wanted to make a Robocop, im sure they could in a few months ( or they have already !!?? ).  When I was growing up, their was some mystique about the future and tech.  Now with Moore’s law, the advances in technology are more about integrations and software, rather then hardware.  Thats why Apple’s updates have become less impressive each year. Still amazing, but no longer capture some physical design driven emotional appeal.

The same has happened with movies.  Sci Fi is increasingly becoming hyper fantasy, or closer to the drama genre. One is too close to real life, and the other is a bit too far fetched.  I love a good movie, as much as the next guy, but I wonder how the genre will have to shift to keep audiences engaged? Maybe we will have to move from technology and aliens being the focus, and go back to good old fashioned story-telling.  The gimmick cannot be a gimmick if its really just a commodity.

Here is the question I will leave you with – Now that technology has become accessible and open, what are the next great advances that we can be inspired by ( media wise ) ?

-Pd, 15 minutes.

Real Time Media & TV: Suits on USA network

When a Show says “sync now” you better have the mobile content and real time marketing to back it up.  Exclusive content is no longer just a few pictures or behind the scene content.  Give me a prize for taking the extra step to download your app. The stakes are higher, and we expect more. 

When you link your TV bumpers to a basic microsite with profiles about actors, I am left disappointed. Real time marketing/media can we amazing, but make sure you have the content to back it up if you advertise it.