By Adam Forrest, Senior Director, Americas Marketing

The Girl Scouts have gone digital with their cookie sales. Smartphone adoption rates continue to grow, especially in China. And the cloud is listed as one of the top 12 most disruptive technologies, enabling organizations to gain flexibility and scalability without the hassles of on-premise, licensed solutions. Digital offers new engagement capabilities in even non-traditional channels today, and the growth opportunities for retailers are enormous.

Here are some of the top stories I saw over the last few days to inspire new thoughts for you this week.

1. Cloud computing and the changing role of the CIO: Which is best for your business?

Summary: According to a report by Advanced 365, cloud computing has been named one of the 12 disruptive technologies that will change the relationship between the CIO and the boardroom. This evolution of the CIO is a direct result of every organization’s changing expectations – and needs – for their C-suite to become more tech savvy.

My thoughts: It’s true that the board for most organizations does need to be a bit more tech savvy, but there’s more to the story than that. I also believe there is a great opportunity for CIOs – who essentially have been known for “owning” technology – to become more aligned to the board’s growth goals. Leveraging the cloud allows technology teams to focus on differentiators and innovation, aligning well with strategic business goals. As a result, organizations that adopt the cloud enable business and technical teams to more easily come together.


2. Is visual search the next big thing in mobile commerce?

Summary: According to Hubspot, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and this information is processed 60,000 times faster than text. Visual search technology is becoming a real thing, and retailers that look to bring this technology into their customer experience will introduce new opportunities for greater customer engagement.

My thoughts: Visual search presents a great opportunity for retailers because much of consumer interaction today is based on visuals and/or a social component. This is why social commerce and video commerce are two emerging trends I think we’ll see more of in the coming year. And visual search can extend to more than just taking a picture and finding results; it can also blend merchandising elements. Think about how great it would be if you could use elements of visual search to tap into color matching – you could check to see what colors match best with a rust colored sweater to ensure your outfit won’t clash. There’s a huge market for this.


 3. Online Sales for Girl Scout Cookies Are Approved

Summary: The Girl Scouts of America have introduced “Digital Cookie,” allowing each scout to have their own cookie website. Not only will this digital option expand the reach of cookie sales across the country, but the digital capability makes it easier to efficiently keep track of orders.

My thoughts: I think we can all relate to that situation when we see the Girl Scout troop outside our local grocery store and, as much as we want to support them – and let’s be honest, buy those extra boxes of Thin Mint cookies, too – sometimes we don’t have the cash or the time to stop. But by introducing “Digital Cookie,” we can now order from friends and family across the country. Digital capabilities permeating into the non-traditional direct-to-consumer purchasing options is the result of increasing demand for ease and convenience, two factors that drive consumer behavior today.


 4. In 2015, Technology Shifts Accelerate and China Rules, IDC Predicts

Summary: One of the big themes from IDC’s 2015 predictions is the growth of IT in China. As just one example, IDC estimates that nearly 500 million smartphones will be sold in China, 3 times the number sold in the United States and about one third of global sales.

My thoughts: It seems like every retail organization is trying to figure out how to expand into the Chinese market, and there’s little mystery why. The size of the opportunity is enormous, especially for retailers that refine their efforts around the mobile experience. A big question this article raises is around consumer behavior. If 500 million smartphones will be sold in China next year, how many of these consumers even own a traditional computer? Retailers need to make a real effort with mobile optimization and implementation in order to take advantage of the growth potential in China.


 5. How will China’s online boom impact e-commerce?

Summary: According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the country has the largest number of online users in the world. This is incredible, considering it wasn’t that long ago when there was minimal consumer culture in China. But today, that’s changed dramatically – millions of consumers are making daily online purchases, from electronics to apparel and even seafood.

My thoughts: As I mentioned above, it’s not just the traditional verticals that leverage ecommerce anymore. Consumers are buying everything online today – it comes back to ease and convenience. And in some markets, consumers have seemingly leap frogged the traditional use of ecommerce; it’s not just about buying clothes or books online. When you combine this type of behavior with the huge upswing in smartphone/digital penetration, it has the potential to change the entire way companies do business in the Chinese market.