The Future of Shopping is in that Smart Phone in your Super Consumer's Hands

The seminal invention of our era has been the mobile phone. All across the world it is fundamentally changing the rules of politics, commerce and manners. The impact of the mobile phone on politics has been profound. From Tiananmen Square twenty years ago, to the recent Arab Spring, the phone as a tool of modern networking has caught government by surprise. The immediacy of textings and postings have stripped the abilities of modern censors to monitor, much less control. It has given new meaning to “one man, one vote.” In that sense, it is the ultimate expression of democracy.

Across many parts of the developing world, the mobile phone is at the center of a new currency, which supersedes banking and coins and paper. That currency is minutes. It is easy to transport, and cheap to render. It lends itself to both to small transactions and complex trading. It is used by African farmers and by Japanese families that distribute the allowances to their teenage children in a form that they can monitor. That evolution has caught banks by surprise. Is the wallet and the credit card due for the endangered species list?

That the smart phone seems to have caught the digerati flat-footed is surprising. Facebook reports ad revenue is declining simply because more people are accessing social media not through their laptop computers, but their mobile phones. Smaller screens mean less room for advertising. In the first generation of e-commerce, one of the most common design mistakes was websites that were built to work and look good on the large monitors of web designers, which forced laptop users into uncomfortable scrolling. The move to portability and the shrinking of the scale of consumer electronics has been going on for twenty years. The first mobile phones got carried around in knapsacks and weighed fifteen pounds. Sound reproduction devices have miniaturized. The modern home or listening room no longer needs massive speakers to get good sound. Why should it be such a surprise that today’s mobile phone is now a portable library, entertainment system and shopping mall all built into one device? In a multi-tasking world, where time is at a premium and the modern consumer has learned to factor transportation cost into the equation, it makes perfect sense.

If we think about the emotional side, any parent will tell you that the first mobile phone has supplanted the bicycle or driver license as the first step to a young person’s independence. They go from clutching their teddy bears to their phones.

The Future of Shopping is about being Social, Mobile, Local and Female. The power is in her hands. We ignore it at our peril. Come hear two guys, one old and bald, the other young and balding, that think they have got it.

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