2012.07 | Carts, Pinterest & Registries

Kinect Shopping Carts – Check out this concept where your shopping cart can follow you around or lead you through a store to products via it’s Kinect Interface.  This goes into the “intriguing but probably a ways off” folder – like Google’s self driving cars.

It is a tremendous idea, but will take some time to work out the kinks in a busy store full of customers.  Also remember the usual questions around ROI.  Much as we all want magic shopping carts, and as much as technology is getting cheaper, will this technology double shoppers’ basket sizes?  Will it save on labour?  Can this thing keep up with people in the real world?  How much more will a shopping cart like this cost to buy and maintain?  How will they stand up to the beating they will take from the public?  I’ve seen a lot of tablets mounted to shopping carts in my time in one way or another, and much as I like the idea, it’s a tough solution on which to show a return.

I want my jet pack too, but I’m not sure if we’ll get it any time soon.  The media loves stories like this – with Jetson’s-like futuristic devices.  The public and store staff who have to deal with stuff like this in real life are generally less enthusiastic.   I hope it happens, but I’m skeptical.

Pinterest – Because we all need another social network to fill our hours of downtime, Pinterest is the latest to catch the imagination of the Internet and the media.  Basically it’s a bulletin board where anyone can pin any image that happens to catch their fancy – generally some object of shopping desire.  Others can jump in and like another user’s item, and that item shows who likes it.  Users can follow each others with similar tastes – like Facebook.

I personally don’t enjoy the social aspect of this as much as others seem to do.  Items that I want to remember to purchase later can go in my evernote or favorite on twitter via flipboard.  They also don’t have an iPad app, which seems a bit of an oversight that I’m sure will be corrected.  Either way, I don’t really browse the web as much on my desktop as I used to do, and I’m not adding another bookmarklet.  I’m bookmarkleted out with instapaper, delicious, and evernote already.   All that said, savvy retailers still need to be present and get their stuff out there for the masses who do love this thing.

Gift Registries – Long the purvey of chain retailers, gift registries are going rogue.  A recent Globe and Mail article outlined the changing demographic of those getting married, and how services like The Gift Network are springing up outside of retailers to fill the gap left by traditional registries.

What this article highlights is that the broad availability and relatively low cost of technology can enable solutions to compete with traditional ones that would not have existed in other times.  In the past, the gift registries were owned by the retailers – there wasn’t much choice available.  Now there is technology that reaches into every home to every friend, grandmother and child.  That kind of reach means that not all of the great ideas have to come from the retailers for a gift registry.   It does mean that retailers should find some way to accommodate potentially unrecognized needs from their shoppers, and perhaps shake things up in their own way to.  Expect more and more of these sorts of services to come into the mainstream.

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