City Planning for a Better Future

The plight of elderly citizens tends to dominate news headlines. Topics like Medicare, Social Security, health care and long-term care are often referred to as “senior issues.” But as the larger population continues to age — and not die — many more issues will come to light, and we may even drop the word “senior” when referring to them. After all, when issues are large-scale and mainstream, they are seldom relegated to only one demographic.

Consider, for a moment, how a large population hampered by vision and mobility issues would be able to function in an environment dominated by cars. Urban cities can offer boundless challenges while rural landscapes may be marked by fewer resources and potential isolation. With America’s cities and towns facing a crossroads of serious infrastructure and public resource considerations, many are working on plans for a long-term safe and sustainable living environment.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Aging forces cities to rethink everything,” from LifeHealthPro, May 5, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How Will Boomers Reshape U.S. Cities?” from Governing.com, Sept. 2012.]

Given the attention sparked by the recent Amtrak collision in Philadelphia, transportation investment is high on the national radar. The seemingly unrelated issue of national obesity should also be part of that conversation, as the rise in weight gain is often correlated with fewer “green spaces” for daily exercise and the rise of non-walking-friendly communities in which families must drive for groceries, school, work and just about every other activity.

According to a new report by the Urban Land Institute:

  • 38% of respondents said their communities lack outdoor places for recreation
  • 54% said shopping and entertainment are not within walking distance
  • 48% said bike lanes are insufficient to make biking a practical mode of transportation
  • 25% said traffic makes it unsafe to walk in their neighborhoods
  • 21% said crime makes it unsafe to walk in their communities

[CLICK HERE to read the article/view the video, “America in an infrastructure crisis: Ray LaHood,” from CNBC, May 7, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “America in 2015: Bridging the Access Gap for Healthier Amenities,” from UrbanLand, May 7, 2015.]

Complex problems often lead to creative solutions, so this particular issue is bound to generate some out-of-the-box ideas. Many communities are trying to integrate city planning with social issues, such as income inequality, health care access and healthier living. Los Angeles has launched a plan with the objective of making 50 percent of all trips taken by city residents to be by bike, foot or public transportation by 2035. Other cities are considering how to incorporate technology and cloud computing so that all residents live in “smart homes” with the entire city interconnected. One activist has proposed urban planning with more narrow streets, like those seen in European cities, to address housing shortages and promote more Old World walking communities.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “L.A.’s New City Plan Will Make You Want to Move There,” from Our World by United Nations University, April 13, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “13 Urban Trends to Watch,” from UrbanLand, March 26, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Building streets for humans rather than cars could help solve the affordable housing crisis,” from Vox.com, May 5, 2015.]

Big problems that must be addressed by towns, cities, states and the federal government are often created by the millions of people who hopefully benefit from the solutions. Likewise, some of the individual problems that we each face are caused by those large entities. We are interconnected; creating problems and then solving them in turn.

We’re here to help relieve some of that everyday stress you may feel when tackling logistical problems. Let us help you address some of the issues that  may be of concern to you and your financial future.

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Digital Shopping

How much has new technology shaped our behaviors as consumers? More than you might realize.

Even if you personally do not use your cellphone to check prices and product availability while shopping, the clerk helping you inside a store may. A recent study by The Boston Consulting Group found that more and more, retailers are using in-store technologies for a wide range of tasks, from interacting with customers to managing inventory. For example, some merchants equip their sales clerks with hands-free mobile devices so they can call the storeroom to see if a size is available, or call another clerk on-site to help out with a waiting customer. If out of a certain product’s size or color, many stores can check the inventory at other nearby franchises via a computer at the check-out counter.7

Mobile technology also allows savvy customers to take advantage of online promotional discount codes, integrating online and offline sales channels for greater ease and value. Some retailers even offer in-store touch screens that enable “endless aisles.” In other words, in-store convenience paired with a full range of available products.8

Some high-end boutiques have even introduced a shopping experience that includes “magic mirrors.” These digital mirrors simulate large touch-screen computers with amazing versatility. An in-store customer can use the mirror to browse the content at the retailer’s website and social media. Customers can look for products they like, then place an order for selections in the preferred size and colors to be delivered to the dressing room. Once the room has been reserved with the choices, a text is sent. Once the customer is in the dressing room, that mirror can respond with stylist recommendations for coordinating pieces, such as a matching purse or shoes. The mirror also immediately scans and catalogs the dressing room items so that different sizes, cuts or colors can be requested on the mirror the same way they would be on a touch screen. Shoppers can store their selections, both purchased and rejected, in their personal data profile to access next time they’re in the store or online. The magic mirror also allows customers to check out right in the dressing room and provides a digital receipt; no more waiting in line at the check-out counter.9

Virtual shopping is no longer an either/or (in-store/online) proposition; customers are combining their experience to get Internet deals with the on-site tactile experience. For example, 10 percent of all of Wal-Mart’s mobile sales actually take place while the customer is in the store.10

The following are other ways new digital technology is shaping the way we shop:11

  • Personalized loyalty programs – Points and discounts are tailored to the specific desires and past shopping habits of each loyalty customer. High-value (and spending) customers receive extravagant perks, such as reserved storefront parking.
  • “Clienteling” – Stored data for repeat customers can be shared in real-time with store clerks, so they can greet the customer by name and make recommendations based on past purchases.
  • Customized planogramming – Today, retailers use “planograms” to position products in aisles, on shelves or “endcap” displays based on traditional assumptions about how customers shop. For example, a grocery store layout may accommodate shoppers who prefer to shop for fresh produce first and end their shopping spree with frozen foods. The high-tech version of this type of navigation may detect customer preferences and change in-aisle digital promotions and coupons for customers most likely to purchase certain products.
  • Digital shopping assistant – Similarly, a mobile app may help customers navigate a specific store’s layout by directing them to the aisles with the products they’re seeking.
  • Digitized cart – Scanners attached to shopping carts allow customers to keep track of what they have selected so as not to go over budget. By the time he or she checks out, the customer already knows the total cost of the items.
  • Recurring purchases – How often do you find a store is out of what you’re looking for? As technology progresses, a store’s mobile app shopping assistant may track recurring purchases and offer to establish a recurring purchase/delivery cycle so those products will be in-stock and set aside when you get there.
  • Social media integration – Some stores may offer real-time integration of previous customer comments and reviews to help an in-store prospective buyer decide what to buy and how to use it.

According to The Boston Consulting Group, brick-and-mortar retailers that currently utilize advanced digital strategies to enhance the customer experience and improve employee performance tend to outperform retailers that do not.12

7 The Boston Consulting Group. Feb. 24, 2015. “Four Digital Enablers: Bringing Technology into the Retail Store.” https://www.bcgperspectives.com/content/articles/technology_strategy_four_digital_enablers_bringing_technology_into_retail_store/?utm_source=201504TOP&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ealert. Accessed April 22, 2015.
8 ThinkWithGoogle.com. October 2014. “New Research Shows How Digital Connects Shoppers to Local Stores.” https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/how-digital-connects-shoppers-to-local-stores.html. Accessed April 22, 2015.
9 Marcus Wohlsen. Wired.com. Nov. 27, 2014. “eBay’s Plan to Reinvent Retail Shopping with Magic Mirrors.” Video: http://www.wired.com/2014/11/ebays-plan-reinvent-retail-shopping-magic-mirrors. Accessed April 22, 2015.
10 The Boston Consulting Group. Feb. 10, 2015. “The Growth of the Global Mobile Internet Economy.” https://www.bcgperspectives.com/content/articles/telecommunications_connected_world_growth_global_mobile_internet_economy/?utm_source=201504TOP&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ealert. Accessed April 22, 2015.
11 PWC. “The future of retail isn’t what you think.” http://digital.pwc.com/if-stores-had-a-voice. Accessed Apr. 22, 2015.
12 The Boston Consulting Group. Feb. 24, 2015. “Four Digital Enablers: Bringing Technology into the Retail Store.”