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MCX and Smartphones: How Good Is the Support Network?
‘Let your fingers do the walking’ has been replaced by ‘Let your fingers do the buying’

Major retailers like Sears, Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Best Buy, Shell and others announced last week their focus on developing MCX, Merchant Customer Exchange, to enhance their sales and cover the growing demand for capabilities to buy things from the smartphone.

This is a great milestone in the area of wireless because it adds credibility to all those preaching that mobile wireless will create a huge paradigm shift as to how the average consumer will be purchasing goods and services in the future. When you get retailers that represent over $1 trillion in sales today talking about developing an app together and related support structures, you know that this is going to become a standard way of doing business.

This new consortium endeavor puts the stamp of approval on mobile purchases. Those retailers who were skeptics, or those who believed that making purchases over a smartphone was just a fad with a small segment of consumers, now have to go back and figure out a strategy in order to keep up with everyone else. Others, who are more in-tune with new technologies, are wondering if transactions made with Smartphones will help alleviate transaction costs for credit card sales.

Multi-Venue Centers: Resort Effect
Most retailers are looking at this new approach as a way to increase sales and reduce credit card transaction fees. What they are only beginning to understand is what effect does this have on understanding consumer behavior, demographics and micro-marketing to a target market?

Collecting all the information will provide new avenue to uncovering trends, target groups and other demographic information that before was limited or non-existent.

As stated in an earlier article, the idea of a "virtual resort" comes to mind. In retail shopping centers, if all stores are on the same network, there could be some cross-marketing and sharing of customers between stores as well. How important is that to the owner of the shopping center? Understanding all the data might mean certain stores are complementary to one another while others may not be a good fit to have both in the same shopping center.

Many shopping centers are dying because stores close down and it's hard to secure another retailer that may think the shopping center is in a downward spiral. Some centers have remodeled but is putting in a waterfall going to help all the businesses? Maybe they should be looking at putting in networks and new high-tech apps to help stores with traffic as well as demographics.

Where Do I Learn About This?
One glaring thing missing in all this unified momentum about smartphone apps are the courses in universities that should be addressing a lot of these concepts and multi-disciplinary approaches. Where are they? How do we get people who understand these capabilities if the schools are not even addressing these concepts?

It's not enough to know real estate, technology or infrastructure issues. The real skill set is knowing how all these concepts and individual areas converge together.

Some courses in this new area of merged Real Estate, Infrastructure, Technologies, and regional Economic Development should be offered. There is a lot to learn and a lot to leave behind.

Twentieth century solutions do not solve 21st century challenges, yet graduate real estate curricula are targeted to the 1950s at best with their worn strategies or the 1850s if they are really lagging behind.

How do I build a stronger real estate platform for electronic commerce? This should be answered in today's curricula.

With all this new technology comes the requirement of understanding how to use it and apply it in different venues including shopping centers, outlet centers and fashion malls.

The Merchant Customer Exchange will provide a lot of information to retailers about consumers and their buying habits, but you also should wonder what it might be able to do in predicting what combination of stores create the most productive shopping malls.

Is your shopping center or mall wired up to support this? That's the question retailers will be asking property owners before locating into shopping centers across the country.

About James Carlini
James Carlini, MBA, a certified Infrastructure Consultant, keynote speaker and former award-winning Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, has advised on mission-critical networks. Clients include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, GLOBEX, and City of Chicago’s 911 Center. An expert witness in civil and federal courts on network infrastructure, he has worked with AT&T, Sprint and others.

Follow daily Carlini-isms at www.twitter.com/JAMESCARLINI

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