2011.15 | Shop by Touch | Shop by Image

Shop by Touch –  Pokeware offers the opportunity for consumers to touch an item on screen shown in a film or TV show and then see details on that item including the opportunity to purchase it online.  This is a very powerful idea.  There are infinite directions for this sort of technology and it provides tremendous opportunities for buyers and sellers.  It is quite relevant in an inflight environment, but would also work very well in a larger format street sign or even on an iPad or iPod touch viewing any video at all.  We all see the obvious product placements, but how many times have you seen some interesting item you might wish to purchase – a bag, a shirt, anything – and then immediately forgot about it.  These represent millions of missed sales opportunities that should be seized at the moment of interest.  I think of this solution as the equivalent of Shazam.  For years you would hear a song on the radio, and miss the title, or hear the wrong title, and then be forced to hum like an idiot to a teenager at HMV.  Now if you hear a song you like, you just use Shazam and it tells you what that song is.  Shazam doesn’t chase you with an ad.  Shazam says – here you go – here’s the song, and oh, if you want to buy it, just grab it on iTunes, we’ll save you the click (and take a small finder’s fee).  This is the same situation, but it is visual, and it can used to buy real physical stuff – not just bits and bytes.

Consider this technology from another direction.  With direct purchases from the screen, we could potentially avoid commercials completely and use a more powerful type of product placement.  More and more, consumers expect to be able to touch screens and have at least some part of the experience – not be completely passive .   This is a simple and logical step to provide that ability with the prospect of removing commercials but keeping the revenue flowing to purveyors of entertainment.

Shopping by Image – In the same vein as shopping by touch, using the cameras on our mobile devices to shop seems increasingly achievable.  Consumers can shop with cameras as scanners, and even by taking pictures of books, cd’s and DVD’s and more with solutions like SnapTell.  But this represents only a start.  Google Goggles (it is part of the Google App on iOS – it can be easy to miss, just select the camera button to use it) allows consumers to search based on images.  While the technology is still relatively rudimentary today, it allows users to scan text, logos, landmarks and various other items and can identify them via search.  Google has also allegedly tested out using this technology with facial recognition to allow users to identify people with mobile phone cameras so that you never have wonder who that guy is at the wedding.  While Google will probably not bring that product out any time soon for very real privacy concerns, these technologies represent the foundation for being able to recognize an outfit, a house, a car, a watch, or anything you like in whatever context you want, and then allow a link where you can buy it.  Both SnapTell and Goggles point in that direction.

This may sound far fetched, but imaging in the real world has come a long way.  Since 2003, police in the Toronto area have been using license plate recognition imaging technology to read thousands of plates on cars to search for those from stolen cars, identify wanted individuals and other useful tasks.  If imaging systems can handle tasks like this, it seems a reasonable step to take us to shopping with our cameras, but only time will tell.  Telling the difference between an old school Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket, and this stylish young gentleman’s shirt might just be harder than reading license plates.

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