Vodafone's Jon Buckthorp takes the reins for this guest column, as he explains how a trip to Vodafone Egypt completely changed how he used his mobile...
The guest blogs just keep on coming! This time, it’s the turn of our very own Jon Buckthorp – Vodafone UK’s Head of Retail Food for Enterprise business.
Jon started his Vodafone career as a Christmas temp 17 years ago, and since then he’s done every single sales job there is to do here at Vodafone, not only in the UK, but across the globe too. So you could say he’s something of an expert in the field. Over to you, Jon…
Jon Buckthorp | Head of Retail Food, Vodafone UK Enterprise business
Food Retail is not something people readily associate with Vodafone, so let me explain a little bit first. In essence, I look after a team that works with food retailers to help them run their business and connect with consumers. I have always considered myself an avid user of mobile tech outside of work too, and the idea of shopping from your mobile is pretty well-established now.
And yet, last Christmas, I still found myself trudging around my local supermarket doing another monotonous shop. Supermarkets are a minefield of social and financial dangers, each more tedious than the last, and I regularly get dragged into what Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm would call ‘stop and chats’, where I’m forced to have dull conversations with people I barely know.
There’s a pact that we all sign – if you’re in a supermarket, you have to approach everyone that recognises you, even if you have nothing to say.
Then, having escaped that rat race, one of my bags promptly split on the way back to the car. And I stood there, in the middle of the car park thinking, “What am I doing? I can’t keep wasting my life doing this!”
The Egyptian way…
The whole point of doing that shop was because I was heading out to Egypt on business the following week and I had a whole list of things I needed to take with me. But when I arrived at Vodafone Egypt and sat down at my desk, there was one odd thing about the office that immediately struck me…
The wall opposite me, was covered in pictures of groceries. Imagine a supermarket in your mind’s eye, but instead of all the shelves and products you’ve got pictures, each one with a QR code underneath. Scan a code with your phone and that item will go into your shopping basket, and when you checkout, everything will be sent out to your home or your work. It’s totally frictionless, and it’s absolutely brilliant.
It doesn’t take long to realise that almost everywhere in Egypt is a retail store; you can walk outside your house and buy anything from fruit and veg, to livestock, right on your doorstep. People work 18-19 hour days to try and sell their wares – if we think we have a customer-focused culture, people in Egypt are superhuman when it comes to putting customers first.
“There was me thinking that I understood how to use technology in my life, and I wasn’t even using it for basic shopping!”
And that’s when the penny dropped: these men and women have the time and ability to work those hours, because they’re streamlining other parts of their lives using mobile technology. They’ve swapped ‘stop and chats’ for ‘stop and snaps’, and there was me thinking that I understood how to use technology in my life, and I wasn’t even using it for basic shopping! I wanted to know how to stop wasting time, and the answer was now staring me in the face, from just across my desk.
When I got back to the UK over Christmas, I registered for every online shopping service there is, and I’ve never looked back. Not only am I saving loads of time doing it, but using every supermarket service means I can pick and choose all the best offers really easily, and the supermarket services now have a far better understanding of me as a shopper. When I reach the checkout, they’ll often remind me of something I normally buy that I’ve completely forgotten to put on my list. With the best will in the world, no-one working on a checkout at your local supermarket can do that.
The real beauty of digital shopping is that there’s a whole mobile eco-system on hand to make life even easier. Supermarket magazines for example are full of great cooking ideas and highlighted offers, but instead of having them lying around the house, I just download them all to Apple Newsstand. There are mountains of apps for making lists, storing vouchers, reminding you to pick up necessities – everything you could possibly need to make shopping into less of a chore.
And the best thing about the online shopping experience is that it’s allowed me to have a more personalised experience in store as well. With most services nowadays, you earn some form of reward every time you shop online, so you’re always equipped with points or vouchers when you do physically go into a store. The ‘bricks and mortar’ have connected to the ‘clicks and sorters’, if you like.
“I probably spend as much time shopping as I do before. But the difference now is that I do it on my own terms.”
Here’s the irony, though: I probably spend as much time shopping as I do before. But the difference now is that I do it on my own terms. My local area has been redeveloped recently, so there’s a specialist wine merchant, a local baker, and a local butcher too. Because of the time I’ve saved using tech to do my big shop, I can build a relationship with my community shops and put my money into them – something I would never have imagined I’d be doing a year ago.
“It has changed the way my life works…”
In that sense, mobile and tech has allowed me to segment my life, and choose when and how I want to do something. And the best thing about that is, I actually enjoy shopping now. I get a degree of pleasure from the retail experience, and from going to see my local shopkeepers. It’s the mobile that has done that for me – it has completely changed the way my life works.
The final irony is that, as I write this, I’ve just had some shopping delivered, and one of the bags split all over my floor. Some things will never change I suppose, but my personalised shopping experience definitely has.
More guest blogs! Jon is just the most recent of many of our guest contributors, check out more of them here!