2014.14 | yo | modiface | buy it now

Photo 2014-07-04, 8 39 44 AMyo – In the age of texting and electronic communication, many of the phone calls we still make and take are not optimizing our time.  Why do we still wait for a phone call from a mechanic to tell us our car is ready?  When the call come, nobody answers, and now there is a voicemail that says: “Your car is ready”.  This process has way too many steps for both parties.  Wouldn’t it easier to just get a text?  At the same time, we don’t want to share our mobile number with absolutely everyone.

Yo is a ludicrously simple service.  Install it on your phone and you can send one message that says Yo to a selected user(s).  That is all.  Famously, the World Cup has an account that will send a Yo every time a goal is scored.

The service reminds me of days when long distance actually cost money and one of my room-mates in university used to call his parents when he got to the dorm from home after a long drive and let the phone ring at his parents twice.  They knew he was home and no long distance charges incurred.  Yo is similar – a message service where both players already know what the message is and a very simple vehicle is in place to support the message.

On the surface this seems silly and far too basic, but effectively it puts into place an arm’s length notification engine.  You tell your dry cleaner your yo handle, and when your stuff is ready, you get a Yo notification that pops up on your phone.  No spam, no additional mailbox, no app for every retailer, nobody knows your mobile number, and it’s a one on one message as opposed to a broadcast.  Retailers don’t need anything other than a pc or mobile device and a handle.  Simple is good.

While the system only says yo right now, nothing stops Yo from building additional standard statements beyond yo -service complete, pickup ready, it could be anything.   Social media service Path has already implemented a service called Pathtalk to enable texting with businesses, but it requires retailers to maintain yet another social media service.

Texting is so prevalent, that notifications by text for retail services must happen. It’s just a matter of when and how.  Yo is but one candidate that shows promise.  It is simple and avoids the trap of  yet another social media channel.  Watch for it.  It might be yet another button on a retail station or mobile device in the future.

[Update: If you want to get uber geeky with Yo, it has an IFTTT channel so that users can turn on AC, text someone automatically or turn on the lights and more.]

modiface2modiface – It follows that if a retailer has a great product, then letting shoppers try it out is a great strategy.  Selecting makeup colours is a challenge, and while I’m not a consumer of cosmetics, demo makeup appears time consuming, and relies on the opinions of strangers.  Anyone who has walked through a cosmetic section of a drugstore has also wondered who really puts those lipstick demos on their actual lips. Using those seems like a real life game of roulette.

These challenges can now be eliminated.   Sephora has teamed with augmented reality provider modiface to develop a solution that lets shoppers try out numerous new colours of makeup without the time and effort of actually applying it in store.  Shoppers stand in front of a screen with a built in video camera and a palette of colours.  Shoppers can select various facial options, such as eyes and then select various colours to see how the cosmetic colour would look on your eyes.  The screen shows full motion video and the shoppers can tilt their head from side to side to see how they look in real life.

The video on this solution appears much smoother and more realistic than all of the clothing apps that allow shoppers to “try on” a virtual outfit in a magic mirror.   This app is a great use of augmented reality and even if it doesn’t sell more cosmetics, it has to improve shopper satisfaction with purchases.  Put it on a tablet as well, and it could also speed up the selling process for cosmetic selling associates.

firefly buttonbuy it now – Actual purchasing on the phone may pick up given the full court press in place from many key players in the mobile selling spectrum.

  • Amazon Firefly – Amazon’s new mobile device called the Fire has a function called Firefly that uses image recognition technology to look for items on the Amazon store.  Take a picture with your mobile device, or capture an image on the screen and press the Firefly button to link to the Amazon store.
  • Twitter Buy Now – Some twitter users  have reported seeing a Buy Now button on selected post.  While it is uncertain at present whether this is a feature or an experiment, this is a great monetization option for twitter, and a time save for users who may wish to purchase or add items to basket for futures depending on the retailer.
  • Snapup – Similar to the Firefly option above, upcoming app Snapup allows users to take screenshots from their iPhone and use the image to search through 1000 sites to allow an online mobile purchase.

As the channels continue to split, it’s going to become increasingly challenging for retailers to establish interfaces to all of these points of purchase, and it will also become important to track them and understand where the business comes from.  There is lots of opportunity, but it will be challenging to keep track of it all.

 

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2013.28 | thirdlove | ubi | ikea ar

thirdlove-screenshots

thirdlove – Fit is more important than ever with online clothing purchases.  A trusted fit can drive more return sales and loyal clients.  Driven by technology under development by Nasa scientists, a soon to be released app now in beta from lingerie company thirdlove will allow women to size themselves for a bra with just two selfies in a tank top.  It would seem logical that if images can be used to build sizes for undergarments that the next progression could be the capability of capturing sizes of for other apparel with images.  Such a solution would be a valuable addition to any retailer’s app or website.

ubi – Make any surface a touchscreen with a little help from ubi interactive.  All that is needed is a windows 8 pc, a kinect, a projector, and the ubi app.

For $149 and some off the shelf components, retailers are free to enable some unique customer experiences in store.  For those willing to invest in the enterprise version of the app, it’s even possible to do multi-touch apps on 100 inch display.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 10.14.24 PM

With the release of the kinect, interactive experiences become cost effective and relatively easy to implement.  Software could now be used to redesign huge areas of stores very quickly.  Instead of repainting, or sending out signage, messaging, planograms and store display instructions to stores for staff to implement, entire areas of the store could be redesigned with a software update distributed to the store and the repositioning of projectors on tracks on the ceiling to great effect.  With the increasing integration of technology into our lives, these unique experiences, if built to address a target clientele, can drive more traffic and more business.

ikea 2014 catalog app

ikea augmented reality – The 2014 catalog app from Ikea lets consumers see how furniture will look in their home environment by overlaying images of the products over their camera.  The app cleverly uses the size of the paper ikea catalog to get the scale of the image on which the product is placed.  While the Lowe’s Canada app from 2012 pioneered this sort of application by letting clients look at the details of a refrigerator and washer, this is an even better use of the technology.  Taking uncertainty out of the purchase by letting clients see the room with the product are more likely to make the purchase, and may even do so online.

Next step: How about including the Ikea collection in virtual staging (via Spark 213). What better way to capture potential furniture sales than to show potential home buyers what their new homes would look like fully furnished in the latest home fashions from Sweden?

2013.11 | Retail Tech Miscellany

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 10.17.52 PMWaste Elimination – Check out The Disappearing Package – a Masters Thesis based on eliminating the packaging part of consumer packaged goods altogether.  Not sure how realistic these are, but eliminating packaging is a welcome concept, and there are some interesting options shown.  via Fast Company

Mobile Selling Across Platforms – There has been lots of talk about mobile retailing, but Gucci took it to heart and redesigned their mobile website to provide a unique experience suited to buying on a smartphone or tablet as well as a traditional pc or notebook.  One can’t help but notice that Gucci chose to update their mobile website instead of an app.  Given the increasing pile of mobile os ecosystems and flavours (iOS, Android, Windows) and devices (smartphones and tablets of various shapes and sizes), setting up a great website with mobile optimization seems the way to go.

IBM retail AR appShelf Overlay – Augmented Reality is another concept that has been touted as a game changer for retail.  IBM has a conceptual mobile app that allows users to use their mobile device’s camera to capture items on the shelf with image recognition and then allow shoppers to sort through the assortment based on various parameters as they would on a website.  Customers could find gluten free items, or see what items are on sale.  I love the concept, but I’m not sure if most people today will have the patience to search a store this way.  If they do, everyone will be bumping into each other and trying to stand back from the shelves.  It could get a bit awkward walking down the aisles!

Data elements are likely to be a challenge for this.  If a retailer doesn’t have a fully populated database with all the elements needed to filter, a significant effort will be required to update systems on the back end to support this effort.  Apparently it’s being tested in the UK.  Some fun additions in my mind: highlight items from my shopping list on the shelf in green in case I can’t find them, highlight my usual items as I walk by them, put blinking green on items that may interest me, and finally integrate this into Google Glass to make it less awkward to use.

Loyalty Apps – I’ve always hated those little loyalty cards that you got stamped for a free coffee.  My sushi place has a terrible version of this that you can’t even read.  I also hate carrying paper cards and I’m not alone.  Check out this recent blogto profile of a number of smaller loyalty programs that are trying to take this niche into the smartphone age.

CapturePinterest Analytics – Pinterest is one of the most interesting social media stories to come on the scene for some time, and it got a bit more interesting as their Web Analytics have been released.  Now pinners including retailers, will have a better idea of what people are pinning.  It’s unclear if that changes much for retailers that pin, but at least some gauge of reaction is possible.  Perhaps the ability to tag whether an item was purchased would help.  I’ve always thought Pinterest would be a great social media network for retailers to add to a client profile.  When I visit higher end retailers or am looking for something fashion related, staff always ask about my hobbies and style.  It would be nice to just let them glance through a few Pinterest boards to give them a flavour for what you like. Not only that, but the retailer sees what you like at other retailers.

2012.23 | Nike AR, Uniqlo Pins, SSD & Pickie

Nike Fuel Station at BoxPark – Check out this Nike Store in the UK that leverages a number of new and unique technologies in store including an augmented reality app on iPads.

NikeFuel Station at Boxpark from Dezeen on Vimeo.

Uniqlo @ PinterestUniqlo, the Japanese casual apparel retailer recently “took over” Social Media Site Pinterest with a number of shell  accounts to draw attention to their new release of mesh products.  Pinterest uses an endless scrolling format on their pages, and Uniqlo built a playful sort of animation visible as users scrolled down the page.  Clever and artistic stunt to garner attention in a non-traditional manner in a non-traditional channel.

Falling SSD Costs – I’ve been getting more and more inquiries on the potential of leveraging Solid State Drive (SSD) versus Hard Disk Drive (HDD) technology for data storage on POS systems.  The costs of SSD have been dropping for years.  Seems like the drop is getting even more precipitous.  Hopefully we can look forward to the speed and reliability of SSD at a reasonable price in the very near future.

Pickie – I’m not sure if we can handle yet another social media channel, but here is another one of interest to retailers.  Pickie is a customized magazine that shows products based on your social media feeds.  You need a Facebook account to get an invite for the limited beta.  Social Media is increasingly being leveraged to sell to us.  While it could work, it makes you wonder if you want all your friends to run out and buy all the gear you lust over.

2012.17 | New Canadian Ikea & Lowe’s Apps

Check out the new apps available for Canadian consumers to use at local retailers.

Ikea Canada recently released a new shopping app for iOS to complement their current catalog app.  The app has the quirky and fun look and feel that Ikea always uses to great effect on the mobile app.

The start screen shows a number of offers.  Touch them for more details, and then be directed to applicable product.

There is also a great product lookup sorted by area that is simple to navigate and very responsive.  Products can be added to a shopping list that keeps individual prices and a cumulative total to plan your shopping trip.

My favourite aspect of the app is that when you touch an item you can see the availability of the item by location by selecting the store and even better, it tells you exactly where the item is located in store by aisle and location.

Given the size of the average Canadian Ikea store, this is a wonderful service to save time and walking!  The app wisely reminds you of the time that you checked the inventory and has a refresh button right on the page.  What a thoughtful idea.

The app provides all details on all sites, including a direct link to maps to allow users to enter their home address and get driving directions.  The app also has some direct links to useful and important information such as catalogs and product recalls.  All of the images and text are laid out in a manner very easy on the eyes in what one assumes to be a bid to make it easy to use while navigating the friendly Ikea maze.

While there is nothing here that is earth shattering, this is a well thought out and simple to use app that is appears easy to use in store.

Lowe’s Canada put out something a bit more creative last week.  In partnership with LG and Red Piston, Lowe’s Canada released an iOS and Apple App to provide an augmented reality experience with a recently released advertisement.

Users who download the Lowes Virtual Experience app to their iOS or Android device can see and interact with a a 3 dimensional virtual refrigerator, washing machine, or dryer in real time on the display of their screen as an overlay of the camera view in their current environment.

Users place the ad (you can download a copy of the ad here) on a counter top with good lighting – preferably at waist height.  With the app open, the greater part of the window displays the view from the camera.  When the User points the camera at the flyer on the counter a 3 dimensional rendering of the product associated with the ad will be shown above the ad on the screen as an overlay to the camera view.

Users can tap on small blue icons to open the doors of  the appliances.  The doors are animated to open as though the unit is really sitting on the counter in your environment.   Small green icons provide useful commentary on the benefits of the product.   If users walk around the ad, or rotate it without blocking the image on the ad, all sides of the product can examined in excellent detail.

While the app only has a couple of products to examine for the present, it’s a very clever use of augmented reality.  The app provides a big wow factor for those to whom I have shown it, and almost all feedback has been positive, saying what an interesting, novel and useful solution it is.

For those of you in Canada, be sure to download the app and the ad and give it a try. Let me know your thoughts on it!

 

2012.03 | NRF – AR – Payments & more

Stories of note from January:

NRF Big Show 2012 – As mentioned, I was at the NRF show this week.  Check out this video covering the underlying themes seen on the floor:  mobile,  consumer experience, convergence of channels, and inventory visibility.

Dominos Augmented Reality  – Dominos is using Augmented Reality to sell pizza in the UK.  Using the blippar app, users point their mobile’s camera at a billboard to see an overlay on their screen that they can touch for offers and ordering.

Microsoft Electronic Mirror – At CES this year, Microsoft was showing their version of a technology enhanced mirror concept.  I’ve seen a few of these so far, and perhaps they are a bit ahead of their time.  The Microsoft Kinect sure has some interesting possibilities for retail – particularly given it now has an official SDK – and eventually someone will work out a use case it in a retail setting that will add value to the customer experience.

Publix Cancels Curbside Pickup – US grocer Publix piloted a program for a year where customers can order groceries online and then have them brought to the car upon arrival to the store.   The program has been cancelled.  It’s an interesting idea, but I expect it is much simpler logistically to have customers come into the store to pick up their order or to have orders delivered to their home directly.

Intuit launching iPhone Payments in Canada – Staying ahead of Square, Intuit is expected to launch their GoPayment solution in Canada in the near future.  I’ve had requests from friends and clients about an equivalent to Square in Canada, so expect they will have some takers.  I will be most interested to see how they deal with EMV.  Both the Intuit and Square solution include card swiping modules that connect to the iPhone or iPad.  Those devices work fine with decades old MSR technology, but what about EMV and the requirement for reading chips from cards, and allowing entry of PINs- a requirement in Canada?

2009.35 | Consumer Information Simplified

Innovation continues unchecked in the world of consumer facing organizations and applications, particularly in the world of information availability.

Comparison Shopping Invisible Hand is a Firefox add-on named for Adam Smith’s description of the free market benefit in his publication The Wealth of Nations. The add-on automatically looks up other vendors for whatever product you may be have on your browser and provides a pop-up to allow the user to go directly to that page, or look at other retailers’ prices. Yet another example of the potential of perfect information – great for consumers – tough for retailers.helpaugmentedreality234234

Augmented Reality – If you needed another reason to get an iPhone 3GS beyond Apple fanboy status, this one is quite flashy. Yelp! is a service locator that allows one to look up restaurants and other services based on a geographic location. When you open the yelp! iPhone application and search on a service – like pizza for example – it puts flags on a map, and if you tap the flags it opens up small boxes that indicate the name and rating of pizzerias on the map. It also has a killer undocumented feature. If you open the application and shake the phone, a button that reads Monocle appears in the top corner. The map in the screen is now replaced by the live image from the phone camera lens. Based on where the camera is pointed, at a local pizzeria for example, that same small box with the name and rating of the pizzeria comes up as an overlay on the image. Expect reviews on systems like this to gain ever increasing importance to consumer facing organizations as these sorts of applications become widely available.

Simplified Access Air Canada has released an iPhone app, and it is a worthwhile download. One argument against obtaining a boarding pass on the mobile is the challenge of entering a great deal of text – be it login, password, frequent flyer number. Now this can be stored on the phone via the application for simpler access to boarding passes as well as schedule information and personal travel info.

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