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Copying rivals

Few companies in any industry are genuinely focused on doing something new. Probably the most pernicious influence of that keenly felt competition is the need to keep an eye on what your rivals are doing. Any success they have must be emulated. That’s how we reach a situation where countless manufacturers are producing smartphones, but they all look extremely similar and have virtually identical features and functionality.

It’s a given that any successful product is going to dictate new directions and competitors will copy elements of it, or sometimes even rip it off wholesale. But at some point that copying habit goes beyond what has actually been successful with consumers. Companies can’t afford to be late to the party and so they start emulating everything their rivals are doing. They are being guided by their competition and spending huge amounts of money to try and gain an edge with incremental improvements to existing standards.

Instead of forging ahead with new innovations companies begin to focus on how they can protect what they produce. Time and resources plowed into patents and legal teams are diverted from the creative end of the business where you need huge investment to produce great products. But if you’re fundamentally risk-averse then it’s much cheaper to copy a successful idea and build on it than it is to come up with a new one.

Closed ecosystems

Set the interests of the tech giants aside for a moment and think about this from the consumer perspective. Why can’t we just buy the best products as determined by us and have all of our digital content work across all of them? Why can’t rival systems be synced together? Why can’t we have universal standards for accessories?

The idea that your library of apps and purchased content can’t travel with you to a new device looks increasingly like blackmail. You’re never going to get the best possible experience if you have to buy all your devices from one company. How much energy are these companies putting into closing their ecosystems down and avoiding cross compatibility?

Competition is supposed to boost quality and choice. Closed ecosystems seem like the opposite of that.

Where’s the creativity?

Companies get used to planning in terms of their rivals all the time and closing things down. These attitudes become deeply ingrained over time. The agility and creativity you need to come up with new innovations is stifled by huge, overbearing corporate structures. There’s a reason that most of the giants of tech buy in their new ideas now. They lack the atmosphere internally to come up with them and it’s easier to acquire a startup and assimilate them.

Most of the genuine innovation in tech today is coming from small companies and the growing crowd-funded movement that can catapult someone with a good idea into business. If they gain any measure of success then the lucky ones get bought out, the unlucky ones have their idea copied by a company with a much bigger marketing machine that rolls in, undercuts them, and takes over the market.

Without startups and crowd-sourcing where would the new ideas in tech be coming from? The very competition that was supposed to drive progress is now stifling it. The sad thing is that collaboration between rivals can be mutally beneficial. Perhaps instead of focussing on what the competition is doing, it’s time that companies concentrated on what consumers want.

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Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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Impact Of 5G Radiation: Is 5G Bad For Your Health?

5G cellular networks are already up and running in many regions around the world, including the US, Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, etc. We expect 5G to roll out in India by late 2023, although widespread availability might take several years. The 5G technology will revolutionize internet data with high speeds and low latency. However, many are worried about increased radiation from 5G network infrastructure and how that might affect their health negatively. And we are going to discuss just that today. Is 5G bad for your health? Is 5G causing the COVID-19 case surge? We will answer all of these questions.

Impact of 5G Radiation on Humans and Animals

In this article, we will talk about the radiation risks from 5G networks and whether it is bad for people, animals, and the environment at large. We believe such an explainer is necessary because of the persistent rumors, misinformation campaigns, and various conspiracy theories against 5G networks.

Following rumors of 5G radiation being the source of Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), people set fire to 5G cell towers in the UK last year in an attempt to curb the virus spread. And now, misleading messages online claim that 5G mobile towers testing is the cause of the gruesome second wave of COVID-19 cases in India. Well, let’s find out if that’s true or not.

What is 5G Technology?

5G refers to the 5th-generation of wireless mobile networking technology and marks a big leap over 4G LTE. While the initial rollout of 5G networks started in 2023, it is still restricted to a handful of countries around the world.

5G Raditation vs Microwave: Radiation Levels From 5G Networks

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the exposure from 5G network infrastructures at around 3.5 GHz is similar to that from 4G base stations. However, with the use of multiple beams from 5G antennas, exposure could increase based on the users’ location and their mobile usage.

Another cause for concern is that 5G will employ millimeter waves for the first time in addition to microwaves that have been in use thus far. However, given that 5G technology is currently at an early stage of deployment, the extent of any change in exposure to radio-frequency fields is still under investigation.

Potential Health Risks From 5G Radiation

According to the WHO, tissue heating is the primary mechanism of interaction of radio-frequency fields with the human body. Currently, the organization is conducting a health risk assessment from exposure to radio frequencies, covering the entire radio-frequency range, including 5G. WHO will publish its whitepaper by 2023, and it will likely include the scientific evidence related to potential health risks from 5G exposure as telcos worldwide deploy the network technology and as more public health-related data becomes available.

In the meantime, critics cite more than 500 studies that allegedly found harmful health effects from exposure to radio-frequencies even at low intensities that do not cause significant tissue heating. Citing this research, over 240 scientists, who have published peer-reviewed research on biological effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF), signed the International EMF Scientist Appeal, which calls for more stringent caps on 5G radiation exposure limits.

According to the researchers, “Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage goes well beyond the human race, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plant and animal life.”

Concerns Over 5G Network Architecture

Most concerns regarding the potential health risks of 5G stem from its networking infrastructure, which is different than 3G/ 4G. The 5G base stations have a different architecture than those supporting 3G and 4G cellular networks. Unlike existing 3G/ 4G cell towers that are massive structures and located away from densely populated areas, 5G base stations can be smaller than a backpack. Hence, they can be mounted just about anywhere, including utility poles, trees, or rooftops in residential neighborhoods.

That also means they will be placed closer to the ground, near houses, apartment buildings, schools, stores, parks, and bus stops. There will also be more 5G base stations compared to the number of 3G or 4G cell towers because of the former’s limited reach. A 5G millimeter network requires cell antennas to be located every 100 to 200 meters, which means thousands of these might be installed in populated areas, raising health concerns.

Debunked: 5G Does Not Spread Coronavirus

While conspiracy theories about 5G networks being the cause of Coronavirus were rampant last year, they were debunked. But several misleading messages and rumors cropped up in India recently. Many claimed 5G network testing is the reason for the widespread second wave of Coronavirus in the country. These claims are, however, false and not correct.

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has debunked this conpiracy thoery against 5G radiation. In an official statement, the DoT makes the citizens aware of the lacking scientific evidence behind this claim. “There is no link between 5G technology and spread of COVID-19 and they are urged not to be misguided by the false information and rumours spread in this matter,” it adds.

Existing Regulations About Cellular Radiation

Multiple international organizations have established safe RF exposure limits for radiation from 5G networks. One of them is the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which recently updated its IEEE C95.1 guideline to reduce the limits for local exposure for frequencies above 6GHz. Various countries, including India, Belgium, Russia, and others, have announced even more stringent limits.

“Mobile towers emit non-ionizing radio frequencies having very minuscule power and are incapable of causing any kind of damage to living cells including human beings,” says the Department of Telecom in India. It has prescribed norms for exposure limit for the Radio Frequency Field (i.e. Base Station Emissions). And, they are 10 times more stringent than the safe limits prescribed by ICNIRP and recommended by WHO.

The WHO has also called for further research into the possible long-term health impacts of mobile telecommunication. Its International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project has been investigating the health impact of exposure to electric and magnetic fields since 1996. The agency is currently assessing the health and environmental effects of exposure to static and time-varying electric and magnetic fields in the 0-300 GHz frequency range.

Concerns Over Millimeter Wave Radiation

Radio-frequency exposure levels from current technologies result in negligible temperature rise in the human body. However, as the frequency increases, there is less penetration into the body tissues, and absorption of the energy becomes more confined to the surface of the body (skin and eye). With 5G antennas mounted at every 100 to 200 meters, millions of people will then be exposed to millimeter-wave radiation, albeit at very low intensity.

Scientific Evidence Regarding Effects of EMF Radiation

Meanwhile, the WHO and the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) both assert time and again that guidelines regarding exposure are based on hard scientific evidence. Provided that the overall exposure remains below international guidelines, 5G infrastructure and the radiation from them won’t be a public health concern. That said, both the WHO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have classified all radio frequency radiation as possibly carcinogenic.

5G Radiation: Hype vs Reality

No peer-reviewed scientific research has definitively associated 5G with increased health risks in humans, animals, and plants. However, the lack of clarity suggests that we need more research before stating whether the 5G technology is entirely safe. One thing’s for certain, though. 5G networks will not help spread pandemics by facilitating electromagnetic communication between bacteria and viruses. That is merely a wild conspiracy theory. Meanwhile, since you are interested in wireless technologies, go ahead and check out our articles on wireless charging, Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth mesh technologies as well.

The Toughest Competition For The Latest And Greatest Airpods Is From Apple

AirPods 3 launched last October. With a brand new design, Spatial Audio technology, and a $50 price increase, these wireless earbuds try to bring the original AirPods experience to another level. But are they as magical as the first version was?

AirPods changed the way people use wireless earbuds. With instant connection and great sound quality, AirPods also got the impressive feature of understanding when you take one earbud out and also made it possible to connect your AirPods automatically with any Apple device associated with your ID.

With the AirPods 3, Apple was able to improve the sound quality, the instant recognition of whether they were in your ears, and so much more. That said, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently reported that sales of AirPods 3 aren’t as good as they should be, with Apple cutting orders for this product by over 30% for the second and third quarters of this year.

Kuo explained that demand for AirPods 3 is “significantly weaker” than AirPods 2 due to the “failed product segmentation strategy.”

AirPods 3 orders for 2-3Q22 have been cut by 30%+. Due to the failed product segmentation strategy, demand for AirPods 3 is significantly weaker than for AirPods 2. AirPods Pro may get discontinued after Apple launches AirPods Pro 2 in 2H22 to avoid repeating the same mistake.

— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) April 5, 2023

Different from the original AirPods and its second generation, which Apple only kept selling the second one, the company has a more diverse lineup made of the second and third generations, as well as Pro and Max models.

With great deals regarding AirPods Pro and AirPods 2, is it justifiable to buy AirPods 3 at the moment?

Are AirPods 3 worth the money?

So far, I have had the greatest experience with AirPods 3. I do enjoy AirPods Pro, but for casual listening and working out, the third-generation AirPods are a killer. I don’t feel them in my ear, they have a secure fit, and their sound improved a lot. With better bass and Spatial Audio technology, I can enjoy my favorite albums without losing a beat.

I also think AirPods 3 are great wireless earbuds for calls and virtual meetings. With extended battery life, I don’t need to worry about participating in lots of meetings throughout the afternoon. Another selling point for these buds is the MagSafe compatibility – it’s so much easier to put them down to charge wirelessly and know that they are really charging.

Last but not least, AirPods 3 also hint at a technology the future AirPods Pro 2 could have, which is the skin-detect sensor. This could be used for health monitoring on these rumored wireless earbuds.

What Apple should do to improve sales?

While I praise Apple for giving users so many choices regarding AirPods, I think AirPods 3 will feel like a better deal a few months from now. I strongly believe AirPods Pro 2 will cost more than the current model. Not only that, but I also think Apple will take AirPods 2 out of the lineup.


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When The Best Tool For The Job Is An Animal

After DARPA announced, somewhat sheepishly, that after $19 billion and six years of research, they had concluded that the best bomb-detecting device is a dog, we got to thinking: what other instances are there in which you’d reach not for a traditional tool, but for an animal? These eight examples range from the medical to the military to the culinary fields, but all have one thing in common: there’s no better tool for the job than an animal.

Dolphins of War

The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP), based in San Diego, CA, began in 1960 when the military examined the Pacific White-sided Dolphin, trying to figure out the secret to its hydrodynamic body with the aim of improving torpedo performance. (Given 1960s technology, the NMMP never managed to solve the puzzle.) That later expanded to other marine mammals of the Pacific, especially other dolphins and California sea lions, which led to the discovery that these animals are not only trainable but fairly reliable even while untethered in the open ocean. NMMP has been a controversial program, but the Navy insists that the program complies with all available statutes, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. The NMMP also states that, despite rumors, marine mammals have never and will never be used as weapons themselves. No attack dolphins. So what does the NMMP do now? Dolphins are used as undersea mine detectors, even finding more than 100 in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War in 2003. Dolphins and sea lions are used as sentries to find and alert the military to unauthorized swimmers and divers, and sea lions are used to retrieve objects from the ocean depths (at this they outperform human and robotic swimmers by a fair margin).

Mites in Your Cheese

Porcine/Canine Mercenaries

Truffles, of the black French variety from Perigord as well as the white Italian version, are renowned for both their enticing flavor and aroma, and the heart-attack-inducing prices they can bring. Considering they can fetch thousands of dollars a pound, making truffles one of the most expensive natural objects on the planet, you might expect that science has devised all kinds of amazing, high-tech ways to find the pungent mushrooms beneath the ground. But you’d be wrong. The two main tools used to find truffles? Pigs and dogs. Truffle hogs are have been the traditional truffle-hunting tool of choice for hundreds of years–their strong sense of smell and apparent deep love of truffles makes them ideal tools for the job. Studies have indicated that a chemical in mature truffles is also found in the musk of male pigs and boars when in heat, so sows will make a beeline for any mature truffles they can find. But despite the romantic image of a Frenchman walking his truffle pig through the forests of Perigord, pigs haven’t really been in use for quite a few decades. Dr. Charles Lefevre, president and founder of New World Truffieres and the Oregon Truffle Festival, as well as one of the foremost truffle experts in North America, notes that there are quite a few reasons pigs have been replaced by man’s best friend. Aside from the basic problem that pigs, unlike dogs, will try to eat the truffles before a human can snatch them up, “pigs don’t have all that much stamina,” says Lefevre, “and they’re less inclined to try to please their handlers.” Then there’s the modern-day oddness of transporting a pig around. “Truffle-hunting is always a surreptitious activity–you don’t want other people to know about it,” says Lefevre, who compares it to hunting for hundred-dollar bills in the forest. “It’s a lot harder to transport a pig around, and people will know what you’re doing if you’re walking a pig.” Dogs have taken prominence in truffle-hunting–they have to be trained, unlike pigs, but it doesn’t seem especially difficult. One breed, the lagotto romagnolo (which is related to poodles and water dogs), has been long bred for truffle-hunting, though the Oregon Truffle Festival offers training for all sorts of dogs. Essentially, you just have to imprint the dog with the smell, and reward them for finding truffles. “People use all sorts of breeds,” says Lefevre. “The individual dog is much more important.” But why, in 2011, are we still using dogs? Surely we can plant truffles, or at the very least use machines to find them, right? The problem, says Lefevre, is that truffles are “like a tomato: they take a long time to ripen, and they ripen at different times.” And an unripe–“immature,” in truffle-speak–truffle is “worthless in cooking.” So the dog’s role “isn’t really to find truffles, but to pick the truffles that are ripe.” There are some artificial sensors that can detect the chemical compounds in truffles, but they’re nowhere near as effective as dogs, which can calculate location based on wind patterns and strength of scent, and, best of all, take you right to the site of the truffle. Mechanical devices are used like metal detectors–not nearly so efficient.

Pest Control

What’s the best way to get rid of an animal? To ask Dan Frankian, owner of Hawkeye, the answer is…another animal. Frankian is a licensed falconer and pest control expert, with four offices in the Toronto area. His main customers are city governments and airports, and they go to him for two main reasons: his methods of getting rid of animals (most often birds like seagulls and geese, but also skunks, beavers, raccoons, and more) are frequently more humane as well as more effective than other methods. And his methods rely heavily on raptors–birds of prey–and other animals. Pests aren’t just annoying; as we all learned from the Hudson River emergency airplane landing, birds can be a legitimate hazard, especially overpopulated species like gulls and geese. Parks and bodies of water can be swiftly polluted by geese, which excrete more than two pounds a day, and they often cause auto accidents. Modern methods of ridding areas of these pests often fall back on killing en masse with nets, which is kind of unpopular and gruesome, or using mechanical devices, often audio-based, to scare pests away. Frankian does, in a Bond-like way, have a rare “license to kill” from the Canadian government, but says it’s more effective to scare. “You can kill all of them, if you want,” he says. “They won’t learn. Scaring them is faster.” Frankian has an arsenal of more than 100 raptors, mostly hawks and falcons but also including a few owls and even three bald eagles (which he refers to as “the big bang in bird control”), as well as five dogs. He demonstrated his technique with Clara, a five-year-old Harris hawk, in this slideshow. Basically, he stakes out territory, flying the hawk around the entire area to be monitored (in this case a gull-infested landfill). “This basically tells every gull out there that this is no-no territory,” he says. Once a gull sees a raptor acting this way, marking its territory and even hunting a bird or two, it’s unlikely to come back–whereas a simple kill trap would remove gulls but not discourage them from coming back.

Sniffing Bombs

Human innovations are pretty good at replacing some of our senses, especially sight and hearing, with mechanical or electronic equipment. But one sense in which natural, organic versions outstrip human inventions by a laughable degree is that of scent. The Pentagon recently announced that after six years and a whopping $19 billion in spending, some of the world’s best scientists and engineers concluded that the best bomb-sniffing device is…a trained dog. The most sophisticated detectors ever invented can detect maybe 50% of IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. But a simple soldier accompanied by a trained dog can detect 80%. Dogs proved so efficient, in fact, that the Pentagon shifted this team’s focus from detecting bombs to simply disrupting them–radio jamming to mess with the frequencies used to detonate bombs, aerial sensors to scan bomb-heavy areas, that kind of thing. Dogs are ideal for this kind of work in the field, thanks to their physical endurance, easy trainability, and eagerness to please their handlers. But they’re not the only animals found to be far better at detecting explosives than anything we humans can come up with. In Israel, bomb-sniffing mice are being tested in airports, and early tests showed them detecting bombs 100% of the time.

Laboratory Testing

The Nose Knows

Sniffing isn’t restricted to bombs. As it turns out, the schnozzes (scientific terminology, look it up) of some animals are so delicate that they’re capable of smelling all kinds of things far beyond the reach of our puny proboscises, let alone any robotic sniffers we could create. It’s true: animals are capable of smelling disease. Earlier this year, we reported on the Gambian pouched rat, a giant rodent (about three feet long, including a long tail) that looks more like a hamster, with its cheek pouches and white tummy as well as its intelligent and friendly disposition. But, as Belgian Bart Weetjens figured out, the pouched rat’s amazing sense of smell and trainability would enable it to do much more than serve as an exotic pet (or, if we’re being honest, an occasional invasive species). Weetjens started APOPO, an NGO that uses these rats as both bomb sniffers and disease sniffers. As bomb sniffers, the rats (or as they’re known in-house, HeroRATS) are well-suited: they’re native to sub-Saharan Africa, where they’re often deployed; they have a long lifespan at 6-8 years; and are trained to work for food, rather than a bond with a handler, as dogs do, which means they can be swapped to different handlers without losing efficiency. They also are light enough to walk over buried land mines without triggering them, unlike dogs. But it’s their abilities as disease sniffers that’s most amazing. Tuberculosis, a widespread and destructive disease, is especially prevalent in the developing world, and the only detection methods available are nearly a century old and notoriously unreliable. Typically, TB is found using a microscope to a stained sample of phlegm. But this method misses as many as 60 to 80 percent of cases, because there needs to be a very high number of the offending bacteria in the sample to spot. Even worse, microscopy is very slow, only able to sift through about 40 samples per day. The HeroRATS are better than this option in every conceivable way. Trained to spend longer at infected samples and scratch at them, they can test the same 40 samples in less than seven minutes. Not only that, but the rats were able to detect 44 percent more positive cases than microscopy. Plus, rats are cheap, especially compared to the newer, admittedly more accurate models endorsed by the World Health Organization. But the rats are affordable, far better than current options, and, come on, kind of adorable.

Medical Maggots

Maggots, which are actually fly larvae, earn a morbid reputation, as they feed on dead flesh. But before you pass judgment, remember that sometimes that’s exactly what you need. Maggots have been used for medical purposes since antiquity, and they’re still used today in certain cases. Maggot therapy, as it’s called, involves introducing maggots to an exposed area of flesh, where they will clean the area of necrotic, or dead, tissue while leaving the living tissue intact. Most recently, maggot therapy has received attention for its effectiveness in treating MRSA, a bacterium that’s resistant to most antibiotics and which often includes flesh-eating types, which can cause serious injury or death if untreated. Without the benefits of antibiotics, this bacteria can only be removed through invasive surgery, and that surgery is often imprecise; surgeons are simply not as good at identifying dead from living tissue, and any surgery to debride, or remove necrotic tissue, results in an unwanted loss of living tissue. As Professor Andrew Boulton of the School of Medicine at the University of Manchester, said at the time of that 2007 study: “Maggots are the world’s smallest surgeons. In fact they are better than surgeons. They are much cheaper and work 24 hours a day. They remove the dead tissue and bacteria, leaving the healthy tissue to heal. There is no reason this cannot be applied to many other areas of the body, except perhaps a large abdominal wound.” Even better, maggots actually secrete certain antibiotics that serve to disinfect the wound, and maggot secretions also include allantoin, a substance used in many cosmetics and toiletries as a skin-soothing ingredient. Modern use of medical maggots was reintroduced in 1989 as a last-ditch option to remove newly antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A type of green bottle fly (pictured) larva is often used, marketed under the name “Medical Maggots,” and can be prescribed by any physician. The maggots are placed in either a cage or a ventilated pouch–they need oxygen to survive–and feed on the necrotic tissue. It’s a remarkably safe procedure; the maggots have no interest in living tissue, will stop feeding when full, and cannot reproduce, as they are of course in the larval stage. They do have some drawbacks; medical maggots have a short lifespan, cause what is described as an “uncomfortable tickling sensation” (though you have to believe that’s better than the alternative), can only be used in certain cases (a moist wound with available oxygen is essential), and of course some patients find the idea of medical maggots distasteful. In a 2008 study, maggot therapy was found to be just as effective as leading hydrogels used for debridement, and debridement was much faster. Morbid? Maybe. But it’s proven to be more effective than our best surgeons.

Retail Innovations Making Shopping Easier For Three In Five Consumers

Chart of the Week: More than three in five consumers say that retail innovations or solutions have made shopping experiences easier, with online shoppers seeing the biggest benefits

More customers now expect a seamless, personalized shopping experience. Whether they are buying in person or online, people want a quick and easy experience, something that is being made more possible with retail technologies.

In fact, more than three out of five consumers say that technologies used in retail and retail innovations have led to an improved shopping experience, according to the latest research from the National Retail Federation (NRF). When it comes to shopping online, 80% of customers say the same compared to 66% shopping in-store.

Despite the fact that there is an increased focus on mobile shopping experiences, only 63% said that shopping technologies and innovations improved their experience when shopping on mobile devices. This suggests that more retailers need to look at the experience they offer on mobile.

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However, technologies, in general, are improving the consumer experience, but what do companies need to take into account?

Customers want tech solutions early in the buying process

According to the report, customers get most frustrated at the start of their shopping experience, with 37% of consumers saying they get frustrated when first researching features and reviews. This is perhaps why 47% are most interested in trying tech solutions at this stage, with innovations and solutions likely to reduce the frustration at this stage.

Consumers are also interested in tech solutions just before purchase, with 25% saying they would be welcome when checking prices or availability. Just as with at the beginning of the shopping process, frustration is also fairly high at this point, with 24% saying this stage of shopping is the most frustrating.

Interestingly, only 12% of respondents said they would be interested in tech solutions after a purchase when they are leaving a review or processing a return, despite this having a high level of frustration (24%). This suggests that processes rather than technology might be the roadblock at this point, with consumers needing simpler processes for returning products and providing feedback on their experience.

Online and in-store working together

In terms of customer satisfaction, the ability to buy online and pick up in-store is a welcome option.

Over half (56%) of consumers are aware that in-store pick-up for online purchases is an option for some retailers. Of these, 71% have tried it, with 67% of those who have tried it being satisfied with the option. This supports the idea that shoppers want their experience to be easy, with being able to pick up their order when it suits them avoiding the hassle of missed deliveries.

Another solution with a high satisfaction rate among those who have tried it is mobile payment. A greater proportion of consumers (59%) are aware that this is an option, although only 57% of those who are aware of it have tried it.

However, of those who have tried mobile payments, 69% were satisfied, likely due to the fact they are able to pay without needing to carry cash or a bank card.

Availability, price and location are important

Consumers are keen for companies to adopt technology that make life easier pre-purchase, helping to take the guesswork out of shopping. Options that make it easier to decide on a purchase are sought after by the majority of respondents.

Over half (55%) are very interested in tech solutions that allow them to see whether a product they’re interested in is in stock or available, with 52% saying it is important for retailers to offer this option.

Just under half (49%) are also interested in technologies that better enable them to compare prices or reviews in order to narrow down their choices, while 47% want to be able to find a product or location easier.

In contrast, just a quarter (25%) or respondents are interested in technologies that recommend items for purchase, which may well be because this form of personalization has been available for quite a while now. It seems that people want more solutions that enable them to easily purchase a type of product they have already decided on, which e-retailers need to bear in mind.

Emerging retail solutions are targeting customer pain points

When it comes to the next set of retail and e-commerce trends, consumers are interested in those that provide solutions for their main pain points.

This includes visual search, which enables shoppers to search for products using photos they’ve taken or found online. In fact, 86% of those who have tried visual search are interested in trying it again, while 60% of those who haven’t tried it would like to.

Consumers are also interested in trying smart dressing rooms, which can allow them to see how different outfits will look on them without having to deal with the discomfort of using a real fitting room. In fact, of those who have used this technology, 88% would be interested in trying it again, with 57% of those who haven’t tried it being interested in doing so.

However, some solutions are popular among those who have tried them but not among those who are yet to try them. While 78% of those who have tried social shopping want to give it another go, only 29% who haven’t tried it but are aware of social shopping are interested in trying it.

Similarly, voice assistants are not overly popular among those who are aware of them but haven’t tried them, suggesting that certain solutions are only suitable for specific audiences. This is where detailed audience research will come in handy, as you can ensure you’re developing the right solution to suit the needs and wants of your existing and target customer base.

Final thoughts

Technology can help provide the personalized and easy shopping experience that customers want both in-store and online. While the majority of consumers have found tech solutions to be beneficial, brands still need to do some work to make mobile catch up with desktop and store experiences.

Making the beginning of the shopping process, which is where customers experience the highest levels of frustration, as smooth as possible is likely to increase your conversion rate and reduce cart abandonment. Making features and reviews easy to find, as well as compare, will enable customers to find the product they want while offering real-time stock levels and different delivery methods will help them get to the checkout.

However, as with any solution you look to implement, you need to ensure it is what your customers want. Research your personas, ask your consumers what they want and look to provide solutions for their real pain points rather than their perceived pain points in order to improve experiences both in-store and online.

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