I’ve long had a passion for technology, and it has been at the heart of many of my businesses. Today we are in perhaps the most exciting phase of technological development in human history, and this has massive implications for e-commerce.
The rise of mobile has transformed the way in which e-commerce firms operate, but mobile is only the first step in this new wave of technology. So what’s coming next, and what does it mean for business?
AUGMENTED REALITY – WHAT IS IT?
Augmented reality refers to a technique in which computer-generated imagery is used to supplement a ‘real-life’ view of the user’s surroundings. Google Glass is one of the industry leaders here, using a small display and camera to provide a completely new view of the world, overlaid with information drawn from the web. Just this week, meanwhile, Apple was awarded a patent for a new augmented reality system using transparent screens, suggesting that this technology is going to become an ever-greater part of our lives.What’s the business application?According to analysts Juniper Research, augmented reality apps will generate $5.2 billion by 2017. During that period consumers will become familiar with the tech, and will begin to use it for a range of applications. Today, augmented reality presents opportunities for multi-channel marketing engagement, allowing consumers to scan an item and access multimedia content from the brand or manufacturer. Similarly, consumers may soon be walking into retail stores with their augmented reality device in their hand, ready for their view to be overlaid with promotions or marketing materials as they check out individual products.
WEARABLE TECH – WHAT IS IT?
Think about the calculator watch. Remember when that was the future? It was perhaps the first piece of wearable tech, but today the field has grown to take in devices that vary from the vital to the bizarre, from glasses with heads up displays to t-shirts that light up in time with music. What’s the business application? Wearable tech and augmented reality are intimately linked, with Google Glass being perhaps the highest profile example of the technology currently on the market. We’ve already seen the potential applications of augmented reality, but this is not the only frontier for wearable tech. The next stage looks set to be the rise of the smartwatch, the most prominent example of which is the Apple Watch. This new format will have major implications for e-commerce businesses, who will increasingly have to engage on smaller screens and in a more tactile way. Many analysts believe that smartwatches will become a major new means by which consumers interact with brands, and e-commerce firms need to be prepared for the change.
What are they?
iBeacons are low-cost Bluetooth transmitters that communicate with mobile devices within a short range. They interact with the receiver so that digital information is delivered to the device as it moves around a physical location.
What’s the business application?
iBeacons look set to revolutionise the retail experience. Some larger retailers already use them in limited ways, but next year they seem likely to really catch on. iBeacons allow retailers to communicate directly with consumers as they move around their stores, delivering promotions, tailored recommendations, and product information directly to the shopper’s mobile device. The implications are most exciting for firms with an e-commerce presence, as they will enable businesses to combine the data they have collected from a consumer’s online shopping and browsing habits with information about the physical store. In the age of iBeacons, ‘big data’ can be leveraged to deliver tailored shopping experiences and ultimately boost revenue.