business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

We write a lot here about cool technologies and how they are or could remake the shopping process. And, truth be told, we get pretty excited by new apps and new methods to create a more frictionless and efficient environment.

But let’s all remember, that not everyone will see these changes wit h the same level of enthusiasm. In fact, there are very good reasons why some shoppers have a very different point of view and that’s a reality that retailers need keep in mind especially with the growing number of senior citizens.

This issue has apparently come into sharp focus in Spain thanks to a single senior citizen who has actively championed and organized shoppers against changes made by banks in his country.  The man is a 78-year-old retired doctor with Parkinson’s, who is struggling to adapt to how local banks have replaced staffers with technology. In short, his problem centers on his inability to use apps and even ATMs thanks to his infirmity.

He summarized his issue simply, saying, “I’m old, I’m not an idiot.”

According to the New York Times, the doctor is tech savvy enough to quickly galvanize a large group (600,000 plus) of supporters to his cause.

And what might really grab retailers is how astutely he focuses on how a service industry (in his case, banks) have used technology to shift onto shoppers tasks that once were handled by employees. It’s not hard to see how the same argument could be made about self-scanning checkouts and apps.  What some see as progress others see as a burden.

It’s impossible to consider this story and not ponder the incredibly challenge of being relevant and effective for a population as diverse as we find in virtually every American city, town or neighborhood. There’s good reason to believe that the only way to reach and delight younger shoppers is by constantly expanding technology, just as there’s ample cause for worry that the same technologies might distance us from older shoppers. And that situation will only grow more complex as the massive post-World War II baby boom generation continues to inflate the population of retirees and senior citizens.

The same challenge we frequently discuss about managing an increasingly diverse workforce is paralleled with our shoppers and to be clear, this isn’t a new problem. Just as the convenience of one-stop shopping delighted time-pressed shoppers in decades past, those same larger stores became a burden for older shoppers necessitating rest areas and motorized shopping carts.  No doubt, there was similar push back a century ago when self-service stores first competed with and then replaced full-service grocery stores.

But it also creates opportunity to educate shoppers on how to best navigate and use these new technological approaches—be they self-scanners, apps or even QR codes - and in the process possibly building yet another way creative retailers could build stronger relationships with shoppers. High tech is wonderful, but not without the element of human touch to help all shoppers receive an enhanced experience.



Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@mnb.grocerywebsite.com.

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.