Confessions of an aging technojunkie

Confessions of an aging technophile (iStock)Ok, I admit it. I love new technology. I love getting new devices, figuring out how they work, learning what they can do for me. But increasingly, I find integrating new technology into my life harder and harder.

I need a new PC for my home office, but I keep putting it off because it will be such a pain to reinstall software, update drivers, connect to my network. I want to switch to a new carrier for my portable phone, but the idea of actually going to the carrier store to switch service irritates me. And my multi that drives my home theater recently died – the thought of buying and reprogramming a new one seems ridiculously complicated, even though I have done it before.

In short, the lure of new technology and the realities of life integration seem increasingly more difficult the older I get. And it seems I am not alone. While Baby Boomers are significantly more likely to sustain the entertainment activities of their youth , they are also less likely to maintain early adopter behavior as they age, according to eMarketer.

This idea that technology integration becomes an increasingly difficult behavior as Boomers age means we need to think about what it takes to bring high tech into our everyday world. New tech-learning curves that increase in difficulty as we age. This means they new tech needs to also be simple tech, if we want this increasingly larger percent of the population to remain connected, stay engaged and keep buying each new wave of high tech toys.

I am partially deaf in one ear – seems I played in one too many rock and roll bands in my youth. I don’t want a hearing aide. The very idea of purchasing one makes me feel OLD. But if my Bluetooth earpiece was also a noise canceling, “environmental enhancement device,” sign me up.

My glasses are high tech for the category – slim, tri-focal design with no visible lines. But the very idea of wearing them versus contacts also feels clunky and old fashioned. I’d so much rather purchase “reality augmentation” eyewear that could zoom in an out, pass product data, shopping reviews, maps into my field of vision, act as a screen for my smart phone.

Think about your computer keyboard – my grandmother made her living clacking on plastic keys. But natural interfaces, like Microsoft’s Project Natal allows me to control my entertainment experience with a wave of my hand, or a nod of my head. The next round of technology will adapts itself to how I behave, not the other way around.
The IPG Lab predicts that the combination of natural interfaces using sound, voice, motion, even bio-feedback will be as revolutionary for the high tech industry as almost any advancement since the Internet. Combined with the promise of fully connected 4G data access, and our world is going to radically change.

So what does it all mean to marketers? Just like their demands of new technology, consumers are increasingly expecting information, content, data to integrate into their lives. The Lab’s research shows that shoppers today want retail stores to offer more in their shopping experience – they want product reviews, deeper product information, previous purchaser recommendations and more brought into the retail store: The Amazon shopping experience applied to physical retail. As the high tech world is moving towards “natural” interfaces, the marketing world needs to move towards ”natural communications.”

What seems simple is often very hard – getting real time, Internet posted previous purchaser reviews printed out on static sales tags in a retail store involves connecting systems together that were never designed to integrate. New in-store digital technology will help. Lower costs, WiFi or 4G enabled micro screens can allow digital data on to be displayed on an end cap or at a shelf without requiring retailers to invest in expensive legacy signage systems, or rewrite their POS pricing systems. And smart phones themselves offer retailers and brands the opportunity to provide layered product and marketing information whoever the shopper goes.

Natural communications means shoppers will be able to access whatever layer of data they need to smarter, more informed at the point of purchase. A confident, educated shopper buys more often, and spends more per purchase than consumers who feel timid in the face of all the choices available at retail today. What an incredible opportunity for marketers who get this right.

OK, so let’s see – Bluetooth enabled audio enhancement device? Check. Smart glasses? Check. 4G enabled smart phone? Check. Golden years here I come.