As we are approaching the end of 2010, I have noted a number of common themes in retail technology. While many of the progressions are not mainstream at this point, these are certainly areas that were discussed often and are maturing.
Social Media – Impossible to ignore, but rather touchy feely in the results department, you can’t escape social media. Now it’s a part of everything and you can’t escape it. While it’s been maturing for many years, it really feels as though 2010 was the year that social media went mainstream and became fully commercial, with users being able to ‘like’ things. The most common question from my customers is around how retailers are using and obtaining results with Social Media. My best suggestion is to watch what other retailers are doing. Expect social media to take matters into its own hands in the monetizing department moving forward. Facebook credits, Facebook based stores, Facebook gift carding, and a strengthening Facebook eCommerce platform means more transactions are likely to take place. None of this is really new, it’s just gaining traction.
iPad – The iPad is the Social Media of the device market. We can’t get away from it either. While still an potentially expensive an unproven long term tool, it has been embraced by retail at the consumer level and as a tool at the store. Combining social media and iPads is even an option some retailers are using. Naked Pizza is using Chimpadeedoo as a novel way to gather email addresses for email lists and special offers. One example of many.
Mobile Scanning – This goes both ways. There has been increased scanning of codes from mobile phones in 2010 for payments and offers. With better cameras, more powerful smartphones and better software, consumers are doing their own mobile scanning as well. Price comparison apps are the primary application, but gaming type apps that bring real life and the internet together have gained popularity as well. A recent addition called Fooducate uses the technology to allow users to educate themselves on the nutritional value of their potential purposes.
Location Based Apps – The GPS enabled functionality of smartphones makes them a great fit for shopping based on where you are. Localized searches are a boon to shoppers. I can’t remember how I lived without that. One great example – check out Zagat’s Food Trucks site to see if your favourite street meat vendor is nearby. It’s only NYC for now, but you can see how this could catch on in urban areas. Augmented reality really started with Yelp’s Monocle in August 2009, has also taken steps forward in 2010 with more iPhones able to use it and an increasing arsenal of apps. The GPS capability is only getting better, the technology purveyors claim, saying that we can now search within stores.
Mobile Payments – While we’re still not at mobile wallet nirvana, vendors can accept payments on iPhones, and now Blackberries. [Except for Canadians and Europeans – anyone see an EMV version yet?] Given so many payment schemes, the electronic wallet is looking more and more possible. Visa in Europe is even launching a service that will examine mobile location against credit card purchase location to minimize fraud and reduct false postive potential calls to users.