Friday, October 23, 2009

Technology Also Creates Jobs... Think About It

This week, the Wise Marketer featured a new position paper from Hawkins Strategic that dealt with the way retailers handle stuff as it flows into the warehouse and out the door in a shopping bag [or not]. "..what happens between products flowing into the warehouse and shoppers leaving with them is the retail equivalent of a black hole," Sterling Hawkins writes. "In fact, at best, retailers are able to measure only the periphery of what actually happens in-store."

Apparently, technology manages many retail functions – transactions, checkout activity, inventory, restocking, traffic measurement, etc. But when it comes to actually getting products onto the shelves, guess what? That takes people. The people point is where technology can go no further. Technology is good with numbers, but it's not so good with creativity or decision-making. For that brain work, so far we still need human strategists and executioners.

Marketing Brillo mulled over this thought and, yes, it seems accurate. For example, we have Adobe Creative Suite, but without a marketing genius to envision it and a graphic designer to execute it, CS4 just takes up space on the hard drive. It’s the same for website design. And for variable data printing (managing VDP takes an expert and an innovator). Even list ordering won't return a favor unless some creative soul connects the digital dots. Somewhere, someplace -- between the technology and the customer -- a human being still needs to gets involved. And that, my friends, is where the jobs are.

Technology does replace jobs, but it also creates them. As the Hawkins’ article noted, “Many retailers have tried to fix this problem, and several firms now provide promotional compliance services ... In the end, most of these are manual, labour-intensive processes (such as a person photographing certain categories, shelf sets, or displays).” Hawkins goes on to lament that, “While these [promotional compliance] services deliver value today, the whole area demands an automated solution.” Well wait, Sterling. Maybe not.

What's wrong with a redefined job for humans? The Promotional Compliance Creative Manager, for example? As technology takes over some of the more mundane human endeavors (like counting beans), apparently it leaves gaping holes that only human ingenuity can fill. That's certainly true for the new marketing favorite: Social Media Manager.

To wit (and as Hawkins put it): "Retailers also invest huge sums of money in store design and research to maximize the number of shoppers exposed to high margin products during their shopping trips but, at best, this is simply good guesswork ... The industry has no mechanism by which to accurately measure traffic flow around the store and conversion rates within aisles and categories on an ongoing basis." Meet The Promotional Compliance Creative Manager .. hello-oo!)

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

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