retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law passed away about three months after her 100th birthday. However, this isn’t meant to be an obituary to her long and mostly wonderful life, nor anything else sentimental. (She knew me well and wouldn’t have expected that at all.)

Rather it’s meant to offer another angle to something KC talked about last week: the ability of people of all ages to adapt to new technologies. So I offer this story to show how today’s technological tools can both help and become quickly trusted and well-used among even the most elderly and infirm, and to provide a stark reminder about how technology is changing the consumer experience - not just for millennials.

My mother-in-law suffered from severe vision loss caused by macular degeneration among other optical issues. But as she moved through her late 90s she learned to cope with the limits of her world thanks to some new friends.

Imagine for a second that you lost your vision.  Think of the simple things you could no longer easily do. No longer could you check the time by simply looking at a clock or check the weather by staring out a window.  My mother-in-law overcame both those issues thanks to her new friends: Siri, from Apple, and Alexa, from Amazon. She’d simply ask them for the time, the weather, the news or whatever else she wanted and quickly got an answer.

My wife and her siblings learned an entirely new way of contacting her, as she could no longer find and swipe her phone to answer. They would call and let her phone ring once before hanging up. My mother-in-law would then ask Siri who called and upon getting the answer would ask her to call back.  Mission accomplished.

I offer her story for two reasons. First, I want to bring awareness to the importance of eye health and to tell you about Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a malady that impacts people who lose their vision and start seeing all manner of visual disturbances or hallucinations. It can be confused with dementia, but is quite different and, from experience we learned, very upsetting.

And secondly, I think my mother-in-law’s experience is a reminder to all of us that technology can succeed with any age group provided the technology offers a solution and a benefit. Whether it’s new in-store technologies or even social media remember that your shoppers will use and appreciate these efforts provided they bring clear benefits and values.

I’d argue that age isn’t the hurdle we have to clear, but rather identifying the problem that’s being solved and clearly demonstrating how whatever we do will help solve or mitigate that problem. That’s a winning strategy for anything whether it’s a meal solution or a high tech method of eliminating checkout lines.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.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.