Google Glass and the Retail Revolution - Part 1: An Introduction

My video, “Google Glass and the Retail Revolution”, was created to explore the possible ways that the augmented reality technology from Google could become part of our shopping experience. The video highlights the potential it has to drive personalisation, customer experience, insight and analytics. These topics are wide in scope and any attempt to address them all in one article will fail to give them the attention they deserve. My next few articles will be part of a series that looks to explore the opportunities presented in the video. However, I would like to begin with a brief overview in hopes of introducing the ideas and fostering some discussion and debate. As an introduction, in this article I will explain why Glass is the form factor to revolutionise retail and the potential value we can get from really utilising the immense amount of data we create for our benefit and convenience.

Why Glass is the right form factor for the Retail Revolution

My is a concept of some of the possibilities of Google Glass. Much of the technology that is required to enable what was demonstrated in the video does exist now but it is still very much in its infancy. iBeacon, Apple’s indoor proximity beacon, allows companies to push notifications to users in the beacon’s vicinity. It is these types of tech, after further development, that would allow for communication between the environment and the device. Various organisations are beginning to utilise the technology already. Apple has iBeacon in it stores and museums are also using it to push information to visitors about exhibits they are viewing.

Currently, the beacons push information to the users smartphone. But, for me, this leaves much to be desired in terms of its convenience. I have take my phone out my pocket and hold it to read the notification. My shoulders are slouched and my gaze points downwards at the display. Also, I am forced to hold my device which hinders me from playing with and experiencing the product I am view like it was intended. But Glass's form factor doesn’t have these drawbacks. As the Glass team puts it, “Instead of looking down at your computer, phone or tablet while life happens around you, Glass allows you to look up and engage with the world.” You can look at the product and still have any information you want about it visible. You can touch, feel and engage with the product because your hands are free. Retailers have long understood the importance of touch to influence purchases and glass facilities that alongside the information the customer needs. Whilst iBeacon itself has great potential and will likely pave the way for the technology that will facilitate what is shown in the video its benefits are limited because smartphones just aren’t the right devices to truly enhance the customer experience. Consumers will find the smartphone an invasion of the shopping experience and a violator of convenience. It will only be with the rise of wearable devices, like Glass, that beacons true value and potential will be realised.

Connectivity

In the coming years, we will see a change in how we use our apps. This evolution will be independent of the rise of wearable technologies but will lay the groundwork for the type of experience I depicted in the video. Apple coined the phrase, “there’s an app for that” and today it is more true than ever. It’s a phrase that could be uttered in response to most of our day-to-day problems. On my iPhone I have 4 pages of apps with a diverse range of functions: networking, news, fitness, organisers, travel, shopping and games. In using these apps I digitise a lot of information about myself – interests, activities, wellbeing. However, a lot of this information remains siloed in the individual apps and its real value and potentially cannot be utilised. That is where we are going to see a change happen. We will gain the option to allow sharing of information between these apps to unlock additional value. Many of the feature in the video are only made possible by this development and it will offer a mass of opportunities for retailers.

Connecting the information that is currently isolated in individual apps offers limitless possibilities for the retailer to improve their customers experience and untold benefits to the customer besides. Imagine the your fitness app being able to tell your grocer you’re training for a marathon – your grocer would be able to recommend products to you that would benefit your training. Similarly, if your health monitoring app identifies you have a slight vitamin deficiency, your grocer would highlight products to remedy this. Every day, more of our devices get the smart treatment. Smart fridges that know the freshness of theirs contents and can update your shopping list automatically ensuring you are never short. Yes there are privacy concerns if we begin to connect more of our data; there always will be when it comes to others handling our information. It is always going to be important that we are able to decide when and who we permit to utilise it but we shouldn’t balk at the potential benefits that our connected data can provide. Retail is essentially about connecting consumers with they want and need – why not help them discover those items? This idea of connectivity will appear throughout this series. It allows our devices and apps to really work to benefit us in a variety of ways and I hope to unravel more of its potential during this series.

Personalisation of our Shopping Experience

This leads us to the other concept prevalent in the video - superpersonalisation. Retailers wants to be able to offer you precisely what you want. To do this, they need to understand what makes you tick by learning more about you. Both physical and electronic retailers have been doing for years but ecommerce has always had the edge in how much it can learn about its customers. E-tailers have a record of your entire shopping session and are able to build a profile around that user allowing them to tailor offerings. The products recommended by Amazon are a result of heavy investment to ensure the algorithm features products to the consumer that have highest likelihood of conversion. Nectar points and club cards are traditional methods used by physical stores to learn more about their customers, track them over time and understand them. However, they struggle to offer the details such as how long a customer looked at a product or even how long they were in the store. All this big data (compulsory buzz word used) tied together allows the retailer a more complete profile of their customers and what their interests are. This allows offerings to be tailored to each shopper meaning the retailer can provide offerings of interest to them and react quickly as trends and interests change. The analytics and insight data that Glass can (with the users permission) feed back to the retailer would be invaluable to enhancing the customer experience and developing the strategy of the business.

The Wearable Debate

Wearable tech is currently hotly debated topic. People have very different opinions on the application of the technology. I wanted to really push the limits of some of Glass’s possibly uses in retail. There are obviously potential issues with area such as the user experience, the interface and privacy. These will all be things that need to be addressed to make the depiction in the video a reality. However, they are issues that are part of the wider discussion on wearable technologies and not limited solely to its application in retail (although I will consider direct applications in retail in the series). That said, The video was made with the aim of fostering discussion and ideas. I welcome comments and opinions that challenge me in order to fully explore the possibilities.

Conclusion

My video explores the potential of Google Glass in a variety of different areas. I hope this article served to outline my vision and provide and introduction to the series. I look forward to hearing your comments, thoughts, ideas and even concerns. As always, feel free to contact me through any of the usual means (Twitter, Linkedin, GooglePlus, hello [at] crstanier.co.uk).

Once again - the video link Google Glass and the Retail Revolution

This article provides an overview of the topics and concepts that were depicted on my Google Glass and the Retail Revolution video. It serves as a starting point of discussion.

2014/05/05

I would love to hear your thoughts, comments and insights about this article. You can get in touch with me through any of the options on the Contact Page.