Prioritizing Technology in the Gift & Home Industry

Happy New Year!

 

Between the time I was asked by Giftbeat to write an  article on technology and the publication of this newsletter, we all experienced the passing of a cultural and technological icon nearly without compare: Steve Jobs left us on October 5, 2011, and in his wake there were thousands of articles measuring his impact on the world, comparing him to the likes of Edison, Einstein and Ford. If we needed a statement about the importance of technology in our world, we need look no further than how the shadow of Jobs’ accomplishments took over the worldwide consciousness.

Are we even able to picture the world without iPhones, iPods and iPads? The question is rhetorical, but the point is there is no reason to imagine it and no reason to go back; technology always moves forward, leaving outdated methodologies in its wake at the same time that it enhances our lives. In an industry woefully behind the times, we all need to come to the realization that our world has changed forever.

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So the question becomes: Where do we go from here? If we know we need to adapt, how do we start? Simply saying “I have an active website” or “I provide my entire sales team with computers and scanners” is not enough; it is a baseline in today’s market.

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The solution begins with honest assessment of your companies’ status when compared to business in general — it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, vendor or sales organization. Here are a few questions to consider in your assessment:

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  • Are you taking advantage of current technologies related to your business?
  • Who owns your technology projects and how are they prioritized?
  • Do you consider future technologies when deciding the direction of your company?
  • Do you budget for technology?

If you can quickly and effectively answer these questions, you are certainly ahead of the curve. But chances are that you had difficulty responding to at least one of these thoughts. Quite frankly, I had difficulty with all four when they were posed at various times over the past year.

 

So in a world where information is no longer scarce, what adjustments have to be made? At the core, everyone needs to leverage the interactive world to communicate one’s message. The individual becomes much more important and can make a far greater impact. Independent stores can compete with the chains; small vendors can look big and individual salespeople or small groups can reach a larger audience.

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The following technology-related concepts, if implemented correctly into your business, will have an immediate impact:

  1. Tablets are a game changer on the sales side. The interactive sales process is completely different when using this type of device vs. a traditional laptop and/or a static catalog. We have just begun to see the effects of tablet technology on our business and the world at large. At the moment, the iPad is dominating this arena, but look for a huge number of competitors to flood in quickly. Viewing tablets and mobile computing as the pervasive technology standard should be your focus.
  2. Social media is not going away. In a world continually connected and in need of content 24/7, there will always be the need to interact through this medium. Regardless of who the dominant players are long term, the idea of “socialization” across technology platforms will only get stronger. A business Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and active Twitter account are the minimum acceptable standards right now.
  3. Your website is your home and most important address, so it needs to be treated as such. Get advice, tweak and consistently change your pages, measure your results through analytics and make sure you fully optimize to maximize results. Make it part of your daily review and make sure someone “owns it.”

It is quite common to get locked into a pattern of considering only what is currently in front of you, but we all need to work on looking forward. This is never more important than when we are assessing technology. Schedule time to consider some changes to how you look at this area of your business — it will be time well spent.

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Reprinted with permission of Giftbeat, copyright 2011, www.giftbeat.com

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Design & Style Trends 2012 – Part 1

Ahead of the Curve-Part 1

Anthony Baratta-Punctuation of black & white!

After the hustle and bustle of trade markets this summer and while working with our merchandising teams to set the Homestyle and Ivystone various showrooms, I took time to reflect on the current 2011 season in addition to looking ahead  to 2012 design trends. This fantastic webcast live from Las Vegas World Market Center with moderator Sussana Salk, fashion guru from NBC Today Show, showcases her creative discussions with  top designers; Anthony  Baratta,  Jeffrey Alan Marks and Nathan Turner.

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These notable designers toured Las Vegas World Market Center showrooms spotting  trends in texture, color and design as we head in to 2012.  The insightful views of these designers make this 3 part series a worthwhile stop as you plan your 2012 buying and market visits.

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