Jonathan Chippindale, CEO of creative technology agency Holition, visited GDR last week. Innovation researcher Lamorna Byford listened in as he discussed technology, creativity and the challenge of genuine innovation; here are our favourite thoughts.
On technology –
“The most profound technologies are the ones that disappear. It’s difficult to build tech, but harder to get people to change their behaviour to use it. Tech should insert itself into people’s lives in an invisible way, making their lives genuinely easier. Anything that involves explanation, downloading an app, learning to use something new doesn’t do this.”
On innovation –
“Big retailers aren’t traditionally at the top of the list of innovative companies. The difficulty with doing something entirely new is that you don’t have statistics or ROIs to prove your gamble is going to pay off.
“Sometimes you can show a brand something spectacular and they aren’t interested. The AR app that Holition developed for beauty brands was turned down by many big names. When L’Oreal decided to take a chance on it two years later, it became the most successful piece of technology the beauty industry has seen so far. That showed that it was the right technology, but when we first showed it to brands it was the wrong time.”
On the difficulties of in-store technology –
Jonathan has words of warning for retailers who are trying to find ways to use technology in physical retail.
“Eighty per cent of in-store tech isn’t supporting the customer journey, but putting barriers between people and purchase. There are three ways that it’s doing this.
“Firstly, tech can actually drive disengagement with the retail environment. When customers are walking into a real store and looking straight at an iPad, rather than the store, they aren’t getting the full experience. Analogously, it’s a bit like standing in front of Niagara Falls looking at a postcard of Niagara Falls – making something 3D and multi-sensory into something far flatter.
“Secondly, most technology is unintuitive. Asking consumers to download and then learn how to use a new app or a new device just to shop in your store is a big thing to ask. Good retail experiences should reduce friction, not create extra work for the consumer.
“Finally, and this is coming from an early adopter, a lot of tech is just awful. It’s still in an embryonic phase and it’s not good enough to be effective yet. The digital version of something physical has to at least deliver what the original does. It really it needs to deliver more than the analogue version, and there is very little tech that can do that right now. Perhaps as brands have realised this, the pendulum is starting to swing back. Rather than designing stores with tech for tech’s sake, digital and physical elements are slowly starting to fuse into something that, once the technology catches up, might be better than the original.”