The Next Big Disruption in Retail (and no, it’s not iBeacons)

Smart shopping is around the corner, much has been written about the extended possibilities of digital interaction within physical stores, leveraging on mobile and other technologies such as iBeacon or NFC.

Microsoft recently announced, through a concept video (a must see) their HoloLens. A very interesting release since just a week before Google announced they were stopping to sell their similar product, Google Glass. Same product? not really. Google took the wearable path, and this generated much controversy not only because the cost (to be a wearable), but because of the uses of the product, which limited it to be an additional screen to your phone (the same as a watch could be). Microsoft, on the other hand, has played the augmented reality game, which is not new at all, but which gives a great twist into the uses of the product. The video shows very clearly several use cases that explain some usages of the product, professional, home, entertainment…. Most of them are indoor.

In order to be able to seamlessly superpose real images with computer generated ones, the HoloLens will need to understand the surroundings (any of them), with technologies such as the used for Kinect, and recognize the images taken to give them an interpretation. It seems Microsoft software recognizes images better than humans do, and that is one of the key issues for a product like that.

Giving HoloLens a purpose is what maybe Google Glass was missing. If they succeed to deliver, Microsoft can be disrupting many categories such as the ones shown in the video (business, home entertainment), but there are others where the disruption might be even higher, one of them is retail.

If we were only starting to imagine the uses of mobile, iBeacons or NFC in order to create better shopping experiences, imagine having augmented reality integrated in your glasses. Here are three examples on how:

In clothes retail, allowing the user to be able to look for clothes his/her size, suggesting other products within a specific outfit, and guiding the consumer through the store to find them. No availability? no problem, you can just order the things you want in one move. Connections with the social space are also endless, see how many people rated a product, how many of your friends actually liked it, etc.

In supermarkets, helping the consumers to perform a better purchase, more efficient, but also more personalized than ever, the possibilities are endless. Showing the products on promotion, managing shopping lists, recommending related products based on recipes, and also, why not, relevant ads.

In customer service. If Uber users can rate the drivers, who says in store personnel can’t be also rated. Face recognition is another well proved technology that can be applied to augmented reality. Let’s say you are going to any technology store and you’re looking for an android tablet. You might want to check with the person that knows more about android tablets, not any tablet. User ratings can help you find the right person to help you.

retail_disruption

Microsoft HoloLens will presumably not be on sale tomorrow, but shows a path that is worth investigating in order to create great shopping experiences. Working with use cases has proved to be a great leap from the pure tech orientation of Google Glass. Now, let’s our imagination fly, the opportunities are endless. I’d love to hear your comments about this topic.

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