TECHNOLOGY UPGRADES NEEDED TO IMPROVE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
The construction industry, which faces a critical labor shortage, has too much waste and inefficiency, says Dustin Burns, the information technology director at McCownGordon Construction. He suggests taking advantage of technology and learning how to use data and analytics to become more efficient. He believes the industry will move to business-intelligence dashboards that present complex data simply and concisely and workforce management that allows construction managers to track where people are on the site, along with the step-by-step process they use to handle tasks. As older, more experienced workers retire or transition out of the marketplace, younger, less-experienced workers will need more data to make informed decisions.
MOBILE DEVICES IN PHYSICAL STORES
Only 21% of shoppers use mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, to assist their in-store buying experience, according to a new survey from Bizrate Insights. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of online buyers use mobile devices to shop online. When mobile devices are used in-store, it’s not always to the benefit of the retailer. The study showed that 63% of those who use mobile devices in-store look for competitors’ coupons and prices and 58% compare a retailer’s in-store and online prices and coupons. When interviewed, those shoppers say that it is very important for retailers to offer consistent discounts and pricing across channels. However, 39% of consumers use mobile devices to check to see that an item is in stock before heading to the store.
MOBILE APPS CHANGING RETAIL
The “appification” of shopping promises to transform the retail industry by creating new shopping habits, reshaping sales tactics and carving out winners and losers, according to The Wall Street Journal. Instead of placing one big order from their computer, people are increasingly making smaller purchases in short bursts of shopping throughout the day, a phenomena retailers have dubbed “snacking.” Last year sales from mobile devices jumped 56% to $49.2 billion, doubling the previous years growth, although desktop sales are still much greater, reaching $256.1 billion last year. However, the annual growth rate of sales from desktops slowed to 8.1% from 12.5%, according to comScore. Successful retailers are training customers to think of their smartphones as an all-day impulse aisle and buy whenever they have a spare moment. Amazon has the top-ranked app, according to Apple. Selling merchandise on phones still poses problems for retailers and fulfillment can drive up shipping costs. Nearly 40% of desktop transactions in the fourth quarter took place after a customer had visited the retailer’s app or mobile site, according to consulting firm Criteo. According to an eMarketer study, smartphone and tablet users spend three times longer within apps than they do surfing the mobile web.
TOP RETAIL TRENDS ARE TECH-DRIVEN
Of the top ten retail trends for 2016, eight are ITfocused, according to consumer financial services company Synchrony Financial. Among the more interesting is the trend to use voice-enabled searches, which are up to four times faster than searching via type-and-click. Synchrony predicts innovations in language recognition will give voice a bigger role in online commerce, retail search strategies and shopper engagement. The use of virtual reality experiences can immerse consumers in sensory and personalized experiences and enable them to interact with products and services. Growing video-on-demand traffic and the increased likelihood that someone will purchase a product after watching a video provide opportunities for retailers to consider online streaming video for product demos, display or customer service. Social Network Buy buttons make it easier for shoppers to purchase while within a social app.
NETWORKING 3D PRINTERS
A network of printers forms what is essentially one big 3D printer that can churn out projects at high speed, much faster than is possible with tediously slow conventional methods that print about an ounce an hour, making 3D printing impractical for big or heavy projects. The software for Autodesk's Project Escher divides a large printing task into parts and assigns each part to a separate 3D printer arranged in a network that can be expanded to any size to accommodate the object being printed. This method is said to be 90% more efficient. Uses are seen in the construction, aerospace and automotive industries.
TINY HOUSE TREND
84 Lumber is producing four “Tiny Living” lines of custom tiny houses at their millwork facility. A company spokesperson said that they’re the first major retailer and only large building materials firm tapping into the market for custom-built houses no larger than 200 square feet. A typical home in the U.S. is 2,600 square feet. The American Tiny House Association says that they consider homes between 400 and 1000 square feet to be small. Packages start at $6,884 for a DIY project and go up to just under $50,000 for a fully-outfitted home. A typical home can be built in 8-10 weeks. The line is being marketed to gas well employees, mobile nurses and outdoorsman. Right now tiny houses on wheels are generally required to be in RV parks and sometimes must be RVIA certified. Some cities have minimum requirements for the size of homes while others do not.
GOOGLE ENCOURAGES ENTREPRENEURIAL EMPLOYEES
Google is building a startup incubator called Area 120 in hopes of preventing entrepreneurial employees from leaving Google in order to start their own business. Teams of employees will be able to submit business plans to join the initiative, according to insider reports. Those accepted will work on their projects full-time for a few months, after which they'll be able to pitch Google on creating a new company that the parent firm would take a stake in.
MICROSOFT’S SMART TOWN
Microsoft has teamed up with development specialists 22 Capital Partners to create a 16-acre smart town in Ashburn, Washington. Integrating technology with construction, smart buildings will be at the heart of the $500 million mixed-use community with apartments, a hotel, retail and high-tech space. Microsoft will help build the blueprint for what is described as an intelligent living platform that will be aligned with, if not directly a part of, Microsoft's CityNext program, which focuses on neighborhood management, smart buildings, operations management and sustainable land use. The full extent of Microsoft’s involvement has not yet been disclosed.