Live from the Global Retail Insights 2011 report release #ACRS

I spent the first part of this morning in the audience of the Australian Centre for Retail Studies (ACRS) Global Retail Insights report. The event started with a presentation from Dr Sean Sands from the ACRS, who discussed cross-channel activity and how spending and customer behaviour are moving from traditional channels to newer media channels. He also highlighted the propensity for consumers to undertake online research before making a purchase, using online services such as websites and search engines, particularly through mobile, before heading out to a shopping mall. In terms of purchasing, the physical store still reigns supreme, with retailer and manufacturer websites ranked third and fourth.

He also talked about mobile and the way that it was changing the game once more, such as through enabling consumers to do on-the-spot price comparisons in-store. The number of consumers who access retail websites through their mobile phone has grown from 24 percent last year to 33 percent now. He also talked about social media, and the fact that 40 percent of people who “like” a Facebook page do so to seek discounts and promotions, but many do so to learn more, stay informed, and get access to entertainment and exclusive content. Dr Sands also discussed location-based services, specifically Facebook’s check-in facility that enables people to redeem coupoons through their mobile phone.

Looking forward, he said trditional retailers saw integration of online systems with existing business models as being the biggest challenge, particularly for franchise operators. While 45 percent of investment will be in advertising and promotion, 41 percent of investment will go into enabling online selling. He also highlighted the use of video, particularly at Marks & Spencer, that has created videos about both its products but also the stories behind them, and French Connection’s Youtique video site. And he showed the Lego augmented reality experience, which uses AR to show what a toy looks like once its assembled.

The second presentation was from Andrew Eckford from Google Australia, who talked about the recent move by many Australian retailers to get online in a serious way. The growth of shopping related search queries hit 35 percent last year, and is much higher in some categories. On mobile devices the number of shopping-related queries as a percentage of the total searches grew from 2.5 percent in January 2009 to around 17.5 percent by December, and 50 percent of Australians will have access to a smartphone by the end of 2011. Mobile devices can bring consumers closer to retail content and services when they need them.

ACRS’ Carla Ferraro discussed specific research around green consumers, while Salmat’s Sean McDonell discussed multichannel strategies, and the fact that things are only going to get faster. He also touched on how traditional retailers can balance their new investment in multichannel strategies against their existing investment in bricks-and-mortar retailing. He said the first step was to recognise that there was a change, and some retailers contended that they would reduce their retail space, or re-dedicate it to collection facilities or other ways of supporting their online activity. Once again however, the key theme was the rise of mobile and its importance as both a mechanism for building a connection to customers and driving transactions.

B&T – The ABC of DSPs

Demand-Side Platforms (DSP) are one of the most confusing concepts yet to appear in online advertising. An DSP essentially enables a media buyer to operate its own virtual advertising network, acquiring inventory on a real-time basis to fulfill the needs of its clients.DSPs work symbiotically with another new phenomenon, ad exchanges, which enable the real-time buying and selling of the advertising inventory that is used by DSPs.

Confused yet? The March 4 edition of B&T carries my cover story on DSPs and tries to explain what they are all about. While the story is not yet online, it should still be in newsagents for a few more days.

While this may not seem like the most stunning topic, DSPs and ad exchanges are part of a broader movement that I’m referring to as the Era of Big Data. What makes DSPs effective is the consumer behaviural data that is fed into them from a myriad of sources such as BlueKai (whose chief executive Omar Tawakol is quoted in A Faster Future). Services such as BlueKai enable the buying and selling of anonymous browser data, helping advertisers know a little more about how to make the placements effective.

It is this kind of technology that drives the effectiveness of online advertising, and is helping planners make much more strategic decisions about where they spend their media budget. In some ways it brings elements of the one-to-one advertising model created by search advertising to the display market.

As Tawakol says in A Faster Future; We believe that data is becoming more valuable than media”.

Live from Cisco Live Melbourne 2011 #clmel11

Am currently attending Cisco Live, a gathering of 2600 partners and customers being hosted by the giant network equipment maker Cisco. The event kicked off today with a keynote presentation from Padmasree Warrior,

Warrior talked about a number of technology trends, focusing on collaboration and use of video on the Internet, along with the architectural shift that we are seeing technology models brought on by virtualisation and cloud computing. Many of her comments echoed themes that are discussed in A Faster Future, particularly in how we work.

“In the future, people will not be going to work, they will simply do work,” Warrior said.

She also talked about the merger of the Internet and mobile technology. She said the network is no longer about data transport, it is about enabling compelling experiences, and hence requires a lot of technological transformation as it moves from being a messaging platform to a real-time collaboration platform. Amongst the areas that Cisco is focusing on are enabling connectivity between data centres and other infrastructure resources, providing awareness of the context of end users, driving resource awareness within networks and better providing and managing service level agreements. Much of this supports the drive to cloud computing and is designed to help organisations innovate at the top layer rather than worrying about the infrastructure.

There was also a demonstration of the Cius, Cisco’s entry into the tablet computing marketplace. including a demonstration of how the device might be used in a hospital situation.

The most interesting comments however related to Cisco’s evolution from a products companny to an ‘architecture’ company focused on delivering complete outcomes for companies. It’s a big shift for an organisation whose considerations used to be about building faster and more powerful devices. Now it is more focued on how customers use these devices, lookingless  at the outcome of the device’s implementation and more at what the business was trying to achieve in the first place. She said the company is experiencing strong growth for this concept in the small business arena, where businesses don’t want to worry about architectures themselves, but just want to get on with the job.

 

ZDNet Patch Monday podcast – Trends for a broadband-enabled future #AFasterFuture

The article I penned for SmartCompany (below) on technology trends identified in A Faster Future caught the eye of a few folk, including prominent Australian writer and podacster Stilgherrian. Hence this week I was the subject of his weekly Patch Monday podcast for ZDNet, talking in more detail about some of those trends – particularly the rise of video and the need to equip both business and society with the tools to take advantage of the changes that are coming. Anyway, you can listen to the interview by clicking here or downloading it into iTunes.

Me featured as Australian Business Traveller’s Frequent Flyer

In the space of just a few months Australian Business Traveller has become an indispensable resource for many regular travellers, myself included. David Flynn and his team do an excellent job of pulling together useful and timely information relating to business travel, from news of service changes and safety advisories through to useful advice for seasoned road warriors.

Hence it was a great honour to be asked to feature in the site’s Frequent Flyer column, talking about my own life on the road. You can read more by clicking here.

A Faster Future featured on iTnews.com.au #AFasterFuture

For anyone not lucky enough to have seen Robert Tercek at Digital Dirctions 2011 or X Media Lab, you’ve missed hearing from one of the world’s leading thinkers on digital media. Tercek’s career includes being involved in numerous ‘firsts’ when it comes to creating interactive entertainment, as well as a stint as president of digital media at the Oprah Winfrey Network, and in 2008 he was named a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts in recognition of his achievements in social media for the benefit of society.

That list barely does him justice.

Tercek was one of the key speakers in A Faster Future, providing insights into both the digital entertainment industry and the changes being wrought by digital commerce generally. In this extact published on iTnews.com.au, he talks about how the Internet has made certain products such as music and filmed entertainment ‘weighless’ by reducing them to just information, and warns that many other industries face this same fate.

CarGrabber.com.au wants to level the playing field

Today I caught up with digital media entrepreneur Chris Noone. I first met Chris some years back when he was running the mobile division at ninemsn. After stepping out to set up local arms of international mobile games companies, he has now turned his attention to shaking up the online market for used cars.

CarGrabber.com.au takes information from dozens of other used car sites and displays the results together on one page. Hence a search for Nissan Hilux vans can bring together the results from many other sites. It’s great for the consumer, who now doesn’t need to keep track of the listings of different sites.

It may not be so great for some of the car sales sites, particularly the larger ones, whose legals teams have been pestering Noone since CarGrabber.com.au’s launch back in November last year.

The reason is simple. Larger car sites tend to attract more traffic, and hence charge more for listings. However, Noone’s site enables cars from a small site to be displayed alongside those from the premium sites. Should CarGrabber.com.au grab enough traffic it essentially levels the playing field and reduces the premium site’s ability to charge a higher price.

Noone is not yet ready to reveal how he is going to monetise CarGrabber.com.au, but expect an announcement around the middle of the year. That is of course if others in the industry don’t find a way to shut him down first.

BRW TV features A Faster Future #AFasterFuture

The latest edition of BRW TV sees co-authors Brad Howarth and Janelle Ledwidge interviewed by BRW’s Jean-Vida Douglas on the topic of the future of sofware innovation in a broadband-enabled society. In the interview we talk about the impact of broadband and the way that more and more of the actions we perform and the services we use are being mediated by software, and about the rise of collaboration software that is reshaping the way that businesses interoperate and manage themselves.

Other topics include online outsourcing and mobile broadband communications, and exploration of the opportunities for new entrepreneurs to enter the market. For the full interview, click here.

A Faster Future is also referenced in Jean-Vida’s story “It’s the maganificent seven” in the March 10 edition of BRW, along with profiles of A FasterFuture-featured companies Aconex and MyCyberTwin.

Notes from FST Media’s Future of Security conference

The third annual FST Media Future of Security in Banking and Financial Services conference took place this week in Sydney and Melbourne and featured a wide variety of speakers from across Australia’s financial services organisations.

The opening address was from ANZ Banking Group’s head of alliances and emerging payments, consumer cards and unsecured lending retail products, Greg Drumm, whose presentation covered the issues of securing financial transactions and information in a mobile environment. After running through a brief history of the mobile industry to set the context, he described a world where mobile devices have become a mainstream mobile financial services tool. The newness of mobile payments mean few risks have yet emerged, but Drumm said you can guarantee that they would, especially as fast and reliable identification methods are not yet available in the wider world. He also cautioned that identity fraud costs Australia $4 billion each year, while in the US it is apparently more lucrative than the drug trade. Voice verification shows promise as an authentication tool, but is still not a perfect solution in all situations. Drumm also called for a re-energizing of the partnership between the private sector and government to ensure that issues of security are handled in an effective manner.

The second session was presented by IBM and delivered by Paul Watters, a research director for the Internet Commerce Security Laboratory (ICSL). Watters led the audience through a thought experiment where he asked them to put themselves in the shoes of those on the ‘dark side’, to think about how criminals actually run their business. His presentation demonstrated how cybercrime organisations have many of the same attributes of legitimate businesses in terms of having budgets and targets. They will go after the richest targets but follow the path of least resistance, and many have developed specialisations. They also tend to keep business hours as well.

The third session was the Leaders Panel, where four industry specialists discussed trends relating to electronic security and fraud, under the leadership of Fortify founder and CTO Roger Thornton. Amongst the numerous discussion threads was the notion that cyber-criminals will tend to be opportunistic and will move to different markets and organisations as weaknesses are detected and remedied. They will always target the path of least resistance, but as the defences become more complex, so too do the complexity of the attacks. Threats are also evolving quickly, leading financial services companies to have to increase their research and intelligence work to better anticipate what is coming. But even relatively unsophisticated attacks can get past complex security systems in the right circumstances. While fraudsters are getting cleverer, the panel agreed that to date the good guys are one step ahead, and may have even increased the gap slightly in the past year.

After the morning tea break Suncorp’s executive manager for group financial crimes, Marty Latimer, talked through the details of how Suncorp deals with online fraud. Latimer said that in almost every case the fraud involves a new IP address and a larger than normal amount transferred into a new account. But recent attempts are becoming more complex. He said his team was constantly battling ‘speed’ in responding to new threats, while man-in-the-middle attacks are emerging that get around two-factor authentication, and social media is also becoming a more prevalent attack vector. The big question is whether fraud detection systems can keep up, as he pointed out that the next generation of users live their entire life online. He said the key was in developing fluid analytics that could model on-the-fly to intervene only in high-risk transactions, with real time intelligence sharing to detect more complex fraud indicators such as authentication bypasses.

The final presentation was from Zlatko Hristov, regional head of IT security at MF Global. He opened with the statistic that 65 percent of web surfers had fallen victim to cybercrime, and then took the audience through a possible scenario involving a business user being infected while on a public WiFi network, demonstrating how the malware package could perform functions from key-logging bank details to acting as a router when it connects to a business network and alerting a command and control host to create a breach through which an attack could be launched. He also took the audience through a live hacking demonstration, where a computer was exploited and a malicious payload uploaded. What was most surprising was how easy he made it appear. “User awareness is the most powerful weapon, but it is the most difficult to implement,” Hristov said.

Live from Digital Directions 2011 – Tan Le from Emotiv (@TanTTLe) #DD11

The final session of the day was from Australian-born entrepreneur Tan Le, president of the brain interface control device maker Emotiv. Tan Demonstrated the EPOC, a device that reads brain waves and interprets them in such a way that thought can be used to drive actions, such as moving a virtual object on a screen.

“There are so many possible applications of this new form of interface,” Le says. “You can imaging a character being naturally and intuitively controlled by your facial expressions. Or to move objects with your mind. Or you emotional experience can be used to dynamically change the game environment.”

Both Tan Le and Robert Tercek are quoted extensively in the new book, A Faster Future.