Online retail has transformed the way that we shop. And it’s easy to see why. In many cases, it’s simply easier, more convenient, and often cheaper to buy things online than it is in person. For one, you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for – that can’t be said of shopping in person. Combine this with the fact that it can be done from your phone or laptop, and it’s plain to see why online shopping is so popular. But desktop browsing is hardly the end of the road for the digital shopping experience. These technologies are set to rewrite shopping once again.
Augmented reality shopping applications do just what they say: they augment a shopper’s reality to help them better visualize a product’s use. For example, someone can, using a smartphone or tablet, visualize what a new piece of furniture will look like in their home. Better yet, they can do this in real time, from multiple angles.
The benefits of this technology are many; it gives shoppers a better sense of how a product might work in their everyday life, and provides a unique shopping experience that can’t be duplicated. Spearheaded by companies like Cimagine, augmented reality is likely to become more and more popular with retailers in the coming years.
If augmented reality brings the product to you, then it might be fair to say that virtual reality brings you to the product. Though not exactly common, VR shopping technology does exist. Chinese retailer Alibaba already has a trial VR shopping program, in fact. Buyers simply download the appropriate app and pair their phones with a suitable VR headset. They can then stroll the halls of American retail stores like Target and Macy’s right from their phones; if they see something they like, they can purchase the product online, and it will be shipped directly to their doors.
Suffice to say, with 5G technology right around the corner, we can expect to see more virtual stores in the future. With enhanced mobile broadband capacity, lower latency rates, and universal coverage providing a more uniform experience for all, virtual reality will soon be as commonplace as video streaming is today.
Have you ever come across an item that you wanted to check prices on, but you didn’t know how to look it up? Visual search tools, like Camfind and the Google App, solve this problem. Simply photograph the item you want to look up, and the application does your work for you. Needless to say, this technology opens all sorts of possibilities for shoppers.
Consider these possible use cases. Perhaps there’s a particular type of flower or tree in your neighborhood that you would like to buy for your garden, but you can’t identify the type. With visual search, you can simply photograph the flower, and find out the exact species or type. Or perhaps a co-worker has an article of clothing you’d like to buy for yourself, but you don’t know who makes it or what the style is called. Again, visual search can help. With visual search tools, finding items and buying them online is as easy as photographing them.
Retailers are constantly looking for ways to engage and incentivize buyers. One strategy that has proven effective time and time again is gamification. If you don’t know what gamification is, it’s simply the practice of applying gaming principles to the retail experience. Think of McDonald’s and its yearly Monopoly sweepstakes. That’s the old way of doing things, however; increasingly, the gamification experience is going online.
Companies like In2Win bring gamification to the masses by teaming up with retailers to offer cash prizes and discounts through their mobile app. For the consumer, there are no downsides – you can save money, earn prizes, and have fun while doing it. You likely play games on your device anyway. Why not play those same games but earn prizes in the process? That’s the premise of gamification in a nutshell.
Automatic and Mobile Checkout
The future of E-Commerce is arguably going to hinge on increased accessibility and usability. Companies like Sling and Square are already making that a possibility, by allowing micro merchants and small businesses to easily accept mobile payments, credit and debit payments, and more. This technology is only going to become more commonplace. Soon, paying your gardener with your phone will be as easy as online shopping is today.
Technology will not only open-up all new possibilities for small businesses and micro merchants, but the buyer as well. In the not-too-distant future, the long-promised cashless society may finally come to fruition. If you can buy food from a taco truck using your smartphone, or pay your pool boy with a simple money transfer, why bother with cash anymore? That could soon be the new normal. Mobile payments, automatic checkout, and mobile money transfers will soon revolutionize the way that you shop.