2012 Predictions for Retail - Part 2
By David Dorf on Dec 06, 2011
I think the first four predictions are pretty likely, so let's look at some things that are a bit of a stretch. These next four predictions are based on emerging technologies making inroads but not widespread adoption. Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments.
5. Usable Augmented Reality
The first usable augmented reality app I used was Yelp when they had a semi-secret backdoor to access Monocle. The concept has been accessible to us since Apple combined the camera, GPS, and accelerometer in the iPhone, but I haven't seen anything I would use on a regular basis. Amazon's Flow is certainly a step in the right direction as is Tesco's subway store, and I think we'll see some more useful applications of AR next year.
And AR isn't limited to consumers. It can be helpful for store
managers to be able to get information about sales and inventory as they
walk the store. If a manager wants to know how many transaction per
hour a checkout associate is doing, she need only point her camera.
6. Accurate Indoor Location
GPS has saved my marriage in several situations, and I can't live without it anymore. Its perfect for driving, but its not accurate enough to help me navigate my local Lowes and Home Depot. That's because GPS doesn't work well indoors. Smartphones typically use a combination of GPS satellites and WiFi access points to triangulate your position. The WiFi part is getting more accurate, and some systems leverage closed-loop security cameras to help. This year will be first rollout of accurate in-store directions for a big-box retailer. Not sure which one will be first, but I think the home improvement chains have the most to gain.
Imagine standing in an aisle and pressing a "help me" button on
your phone, and a clerk walks right to you for assistance. Or getting
turn-by-turn directions to find the garage door openers, for example.
Accurate indoor location also helps with geo-fencing that I mentioned
earlier. You might receive location-specific offers and product
information as you walk.
7. Shopping with Siri
Apple's Siri is bringing to light the augmented humanity concept, the collaboration of humans and machines in transparent ways that enhance our everyday lives. A subset of the concept is using natural user interfaces that are easy to manipulate. In the case of Siri, voice response systems that understand questions and provide useful answers in context.
As smartphone adoption continues to grow in 2012, so will our dependence on them for providing information. New mobile application that take advantage of voice response, computer vision, and even eye-tracking (remember, while you're using your iPhone, there's a camera pointed at your face) will begin to emerge.
This means it will be even easier for consumers to get any and all
information about products and brands. Look for Google and Apple to
take the technology lead, and Amazon to capitalize on the advancements.
8. Behavior Profiling
When I shop, there are certain things that persuade me to buy: free shipping, good reviews, great price, perceived quality, easy returns, etc. But those things vary by person and situation. What if a retailer had a shopping profile on each of its customers and knew how to efficiently market to that customer? While I don't that we'll get to that point in 2012, I do think significant progress in that direction will occur.
Take myLowes for example. Lowes is collecting valuable information about each of its customers and will be better able to tailor offers that are more likely to be of interest. Lowes will sell more, and its customers will have a better experience.
2010 was the year when mobile went mainstream in the retail industry. 2011 marked widespread adoption of Facebook to drive sales and engage consumers. I think 2012 will be the year that cloud computing gets serious. Look for lots of acquisition in this space, and more retailers to dip their toes in the water.