Wearable technology – enhancing and sharing the retail experience

18th September 2013

According to a report this week by digital commerce solutions provider Venda, for YouGov, Google Glass – essentially a wearable computer set in a piece of techy-looking headgear, which is a about to be launched by Google – could be the boost retailers have been looking for to give a new lease of life to in-store shopping, by offering innovative, interactive location-based services including exclusive in-store offers or promotions to enhance the retail experience.

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In the report, entitled “Wearable Technology: The High Street’s Secret Weapon?”, almost a third of consumers say that if they had access to Google Glass then they would use it to access in-store promotions.  27% of respondents said they would also like to be kept informed of local offers via the device. Just over 20% said they would like to be able to use Google Glass to unlock additional offers and promotions via digital screens including billboards or store window displays, if they had access to the technology.

Google Glass comprises a voice activated screen, worn like a pair of glasses where the user can take photos and find out further information about the things they are looking at. It has been  developed by Google within their Project Glass research and development project with the aim of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer. Information is  displayed to the wearer via a smartphone-style hands-free format which interacts with the internet via natural language voice commands. With this in mind, the potential for using Google Glass or similar technologies for enhancing the customer experience is great –  especially with so many respondents expressing an interest in adopting the new technology once it is available. As well as enriching the shopping experience using location-based technologies, consumers could also use it to share what they are doing with others – which can be invaluable free marketing for retailers. In the survey 16% of respondents said that they would be more likely to update social networks with images and info about the products they were browsing or purchasing if they were wearing Google Glass in-store.

Although in its infancy, the potential for wearable technology should not be underestimated and retailers should perhaps begin to plan their strategies for integrating it within their stores now – as  Venda group chief executive Eric Abensur concurs:  “Wearable technology has the potential to help both consumers and retailers. Consumers will be able to make informed purchase decisions and redeem offers, while Glass will help retailers promote the visibility of products on social networks in a novel and engaging way.

“However this and other in-store technology innovations that retailers choose to implement need to be intuitive, approachable and accessible to truly take off”.

As previously discussed on this blog – some UK retail giants have fallen by the wayside because they didn’t think far enough into the future and consider how new technology and the internet would change the face of retail – but of course there is also the danger of adopting a white elephant –  one commentator has suggested that Google Glass is clunky and could become the ‘Sinclair C5 of the internet age’ – but even if it does fail, it is simply paving the way for other more sophisticated devices which really could change or enhance the way we shop.


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