Monday 9 September 2013

Will Smart Watches Make QVM Traders Better Retailers?

Smart watches are coming. It is often said that the fashion world has a repeat cycle. If you wait long enough the trends of recent history will come back and, if Apple and Samsung have their way, wearing a watch will become common again. Will this change the practice of some Queen Victoria Market traders who spend a large part of their day looking at their phones?

Of course these are not just time-keeping watches they are mini mobile phones on your wrist and they will tell you who is calling, texting, or emailing you, what the weather is going to be, and what is happening on social media. 
With a glance at their wrist, traders will be able to get the latest share price variation as they monitor their investments or perhaps just get the winner of the last race at Flemington. And they won't have to take their phone out of their pocket to check any of these things. Mobile phones are often seen as an un-professional distraction for traders who should be concentrating on their customers. Smart watches will be less obvious but probably still a distraction.

Perhaps the answer for traders lies in the new Google Glasses product which is basically a computer, and a mobile phone, in the form of reading glasses. With these computer glasses you will be able to look like you are watching your stall, perhaps even looking directly at customers, but secretly your attention is focused on the mini screen in front of your eyes and all the information it can give you.

This article has been a light-hearted look at new technology and how it might influence our engagement with customers. But it masks a serious problem, and that is that any distraction from our core purpose as traders is not good. We are there to give our customers the best possible service. Personal customer attention is our big advantage over impersonal department stores and even more impersonal online retailing. Looking at your phone all day doesn't help that process.

Of course mobile phones do have a role to play in giving good service. This is the technological age after all. We encourage our customers to telephone or email us and we engage on social media. If smart watches allow us to concentrate more on those functions and less on things like idle web browsing or playing games then they could be a useful new tool. Only time will tell (pun intended).

PS - To all those traders who are looking for an excuse to buy a new gadget - you can thank me later. - Ed.