Technology Will Change Retail Shopping – But It’s Not What You Think: Taylor Romero at TEDxMileHigh (Transcript)

Taylor Romero

Taylor Romero – TRANSCRIPT

In August of 2014, my wife Becca decided she was going to quit her job and open a boutique. Her idea was to combine a clothing store and a barber shop. It would empower men so they felt great and looked great from head to toe. A totally cohesive, transformative retail experience. And I said what any sane, rational, business-minded husband says when their wife proposes a completely insane idea: “Let’s do it.”

So June 5th of 2015 at 44th & Tennyson, we opened. And right out of the gate, we decided we were going to use technology to its fullest. We were going to blur the lines between online and offline because, you see, in the future, the Internet’s going to be all around you. You won’t be able to escape it. It’ll connect everyone and everything, and we’re going to lead the charge.

And one day, we were vetting our vision with our friend Drew, and he said, “Well, bro, like, you know, I don’t know, I don’t really like- I hate technology, man.”

“Hold on, Drew. Firstly, you’re a millennial; it’s illegal for you to hate technology. Secondly, you really don’t hate technology. Everybody loves technology, and the only way I’ll accept the, ‘I hate technology claim’ is if the person making that claim came here today naked on a horse without a saddle! And if you did, I’d tip my hat to you except I don’t want to risk bringing manufacturing into this. It’s not that you hate technology; it’s just that most people just follow the law of technological adoption. And I know this is a real thing because I read it on the Internet. It goes like this: Everything invented before you were born: it’s just how it’s always been. Everything invented before you turned 30: innovation. Everything invented after you turned 30: Satan.”

This is science; you can Google it. Okay, alright, where were we before Drew interrupted? Oh yeah, Internet of the future. It’s best illustrated with a little story I heard. There was a period of time where you could count the things that you owned that had a motor. Maybe it was an electric fan or a washing machine, or, if you were an early adopter, a car.

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But, as motors became easier to manufacture, they became more accessible. You lost count of the things you owned that had one. Introduce: the microchip, and for a period of time, you could count the things that you owned that had a microchip. Maybe it was your brand new calculator, or your digital alarm clock, or the family PC. You guys remember that; it sat on the floor and was the size of a washing machine, and came with, like, 20, 40 AOL discs?

But, after enough time, you lost count of the things you owned that had a microchip. I bet right now, every single one of you in this room can count the things that you own that connect to the Internet on one hand. You’ve got your laptop or your PC. You’ve got your smartphone- it’s like the same thing, right? You’ve got Xbox or PlayStation, or some entertainment device.

Mark my words: In the next ten years, you all are going to lose count of the things that you own that connect to the Internet. No exaggeration: Everything will be connected. It will be washing machines and refrigerators and mattresses, or even things totally decoupled from the things they control, like levers and switches, or even just buttons. “Oh bro, like, buttons? Uh, you know, who needs Internet-connected buttons, man?”

“Are you going to do this, Drew, the entire time? Because look, if you’re asking that question, it tells me you don’t know how innovation works. Because it’s not like someone’s going to come up to you and say, ‘Hey, look, I have a button. What do you want to do with it?'”

“Hmm, we should connect it to the Internet.”

“That… that doesn’t make any sense.”

No, you see, desperation breeds innovation. My wife’s shop is very much a reservation-based business. You can book with a barber for a cut and a shave, or a clothing consultant to help you pick out clothes, and, oh, oh I see, you totally thought I dressed myself this morning. I get that a lot.

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But for cereal, we’re a startup, which means we can’t afford to be turning away walk-ins because we’re understaffed. So what do we do? Got it. We’re going to take that button, to connect it to the Internet. Then, every time we turn away a walk-in, we’re going to press it. It’s going to generate a report telling us the days of the week and the times of the day we’re turning away the most business. It’s going to give us intelligent scheduling. We’re going to gain insights, and oh, my favorite part: It’s going to be real time. “Oh, bro, you know, like, real time? Everybody’s got ADD these days.”

“Oh my gosh, Drew, you’re still here! Look, it’s not that everybody has ADD. It’s that everybody loves instant gratification.”

“Phbbt, nuh uh, man, not me, you know, I have patience.”

“Oh yeah? Oh yeah? Tell me Drew, how does this make you feel?!”

You’ve been there. Buffering makes you want to punch everything. But you’d be surprised how much you put up with buffering every day without complaint. It’s true. For example, let’s say you’re on your favorite shoe website, you’re browsing around, you find a pair you like, you want to see if they have it in your size, so you click it, and wait a full minute for the page to load. Oh, it gets worse, it gets worse! Because once the page loads, you see they don’t even have your size. You would never use that website again!

So why is it when you go into a shoe store and you find a pair that you like, you’ll wait up to five minutes while an associate rummages in back to see if they have your size? I’ll tell you why. Because it’s the way it’s always been. For my generation, buffering is unacceptable. So, we built this app right into the shoe display. You browse, you find a pair that you want, you tap it. Name, vendor, size, and quantity in stock. Buffering destroyed!

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Here’s something interesting: Each one of you brought in today the ultimate buffer-destroying device. It helps you stay in touch, get breaking news, see if anybody else in the theater today is single with just a swipe. It’s your smartphone. Smartphones: awesome. “Nah, bro, like, smartphones are ruining society. They’re turning everybody into zombies, man.”

“Oh, I see, you think cell phones are socially-isolating devices. You say that like it hasn’t been the case since the beginning of portable media!”

“Nah, man, that’s different because they’re reading local news so they’re still connected with their neighborhood, man.”

I’m watching what my best friend is having for lunch. Doesn’t get much more connected than that! But ultimately, it comes down to how you use it and a smartphone, used effectively, is the most empowering device in human history. For example, you book an appointment at my wife’s shop, and just before you arrive, the team is sent this notification. It’s got your name, your email, your phone number, number of visits, how much you like chit chat, because sometimes you want to be left alone, right? The service, the time, your photo, notes the team has left about you, and notes you’ve left for the team.

And one day, a notification came through from a gentleman who’d never booked before, and the note that he left the team, it said, “I’m deaf.” So Dee, his barber, she runs up to me and says, “Did you see?”

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