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SXSW 2017: Right shoe, may I have a Hawaiian pizza?

SXSW, the largest tech festival in the world, presents us with the greatest innovations of our time and is therefore the compass pointing towards the future. Yesterday, I came across the physical proof of this: the Pizza Hut Pie Tops. 

By pressing the tongue of this sneaker, you can order a pizza, and in the app that accompanies the sneakers you can indicate what type of pizza you want. For those of you – like me – who are wildly enthusiastic and have already opened an extra tab to order them, I have bad news I’m afraid. The sneakers are a marketing campaign and are only available to a few lucky people. Although it is just a gimmick, it is symbolic for a development which is frequently offered on SXSW: the rise of devices and intelligence which will increasingly help us to do our shopping.

Most of us are familiar with examples such as the dash-buttons of Amazon and – often stupid – chatbots on Facebook which can help you for instance to book your flight. And although you may not yet use it yourself on a daily basis, intelligence receives much attention here in Austin, because developments do not stand still. Thanks to the increasing intelligence of software and the launch of devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, as we speak, intelligence is becoming common to millions of Americans, and in the future the Dutch too.

However, as a marketer, whom should you focus on if algorithms will buy your toilet paper and your shoe will order a pizza in the future? Whereas the past few decades were characterized by the ‘elastic shelf’ (the offer by parties such as Zalando appears endless), intelligence and smart devices will ensure that the offer will be very personalized and therefore narrow.

In that case, is there any point in aiming an advertisement for washing powder at the end consumer? Or will the battle for the consumer be conducted at the head office of companies such as Google?

There is the risk that in a few years a small number of companies will not only dominate the digital playing field but will also have a strong grip on markets such as FMCG.

Due to the increasing role of intelligence, the need to scroll through a large offer of products is disappearing. Why would you still google for various pizzerias if you could order a pizza by pressing your sneaker once? For you as a consumer, it is not a problem that this will mean that you only buy your pizzas from Pizza Hut. However, it does mean that it will be practically impossible for pizzerias to still compete with Pizza Hut, even though their pizzas might taste much better.

The convenience of smart devices and intense personalization which knows what brand suits you and orders this for you, in combination with low interest products, ensures that companies can prepare themselves for a battle which will perhaps only have a few winners. It will become more important than ever to be part of the personal preference of consumers. Once you are out of the game, an advertising campaign or a discount will probably not be enough for consumers to buy your products again.

At present, it is not yet known how this battle will develop. And who will ultimately come out as winners? I wouldn’t be surprised if they were friends of Google and Amazon.

Enjoy your Hawaiian pizza.