Bridging the Physical and Digital Worlds

One of the most fascinating emerging technologies has been augmented reality because it combines the physical and digital worlds in a useful way. I can easily see AR being the future for digital signage in stores, and it could replace electronic shelf labels before they get a chance to go mainstream. Why invest in new hardware for the store when your customers are walking around with a capable computer in their pockets?

There are other good examples of the physical and online worlds crossing paths. Earlier this summer 7-Eleven and Zynga teamed to provide redeemable game content on the convenience store's products. Players of Farmville, Mafia Wars, and Yoville bought products from 7-Eleven such as Slurpees and then redeemed the codes on the product for virtual stuff in the game. I'm not a player, but I see lots of evidence of the popularity of the games with my friends on Facebook. While I don't know if 7-Eleven increased their traffic, I would be very surprised if they didn't.

Shopkick.png
Another example is the notion of check-ins. Check-ins are very similar to click-throughs in the online world. Retailers provide rewards for customers setting foot in their stores, knowing that the more often a customer visits, the more likely they are to buy things. The traditional check-in apps, like Foursquare, either allow check-ins to occur without actually visiting the store, or use GPS, which isn't accurate enough to know whether a customer really entered the store. Startup Shopkick is outfitting Best Buys with devices that emit audio signals the iPhone can "hear" to determine that a person has really entered the store, or even specific department within the store. Their application rewards shoppers with loyalty points as well as in-store offers.

As mobile phones continue to get more powerful, things we thought could only be accomplished online will bleed into stores. Mobile is a unifying force that brings the online and physical worlds together, further enabling consumers to shop in different ways.

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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