How Digital Is Improving the Shopper Experience

With the explosion of 3G and Internet-enabled mobile, digital is no longer new to shoppers. Forward-thinking retailers and brands are utilising and developing digital applications, which rather than being gimmicks for geeks, serve as useful tools to make the shopping experience more convenient, efficient, and transparent.

Here are a few of the many digital trends at the forefront of improving the shopper experience.

1. Apps to Guide Purchase Decisions

How often do you shop for high consideration purchases and want more information on the product you are looking for? Or, more likely, want to know if the price is right? Anyone who has shopped for a camera on Nathan Rd, Hong Kong, or a phone in Lucky Plaza Singapore can relate.

Claiming “impossibly accurate barcode scanning”, RedLaser is an iPhone app that can give you information on the products you are browsing through in seconds. Created with non-autofocus cameras in mind (i.e. on the back of your smartphone), the app is designed for comparative shopping and finding product information. Shoppers use the app by scanning an item’s barcode, and RedLaser comes back with a description and photo of the item, along with a list of online merchants and their prices for the product.

Going forward, apps like this will include not only online merchant prices, but will tap into the location function of your phone to present back competitor prices in stores near to you. Imagine the impact that will have on the bartering process!

2. Visual Search

Along similar lines but typically Google cooler is Google Goggles. Goggles is an Android phone app that lets you use pictures taken with your mobile phone to search the web. Whether for books, DVDs, logos, contact info, businesses, products, barcodes, or text, users simply open the app, take a picture, and wait for their search results. While there are some teething problems – for example, red wine running down the label does tend to throw out the results – the future of this style of application seems boundless, particularly with the weight of Google development behind it.

3. Ratings and Reviews

There are a plethora of mobile apps that provide individuals with the opportunity to review and rate retailers. I personally use the likes of Blackbook and BuUuk, but the one that really has my attention when I’m in the U.S. is Yelp.
Yelp has an application called Monocle, which allows shoppers to look at a real-time street view and overlay reviews and ratings of retailers via augmented reality. It might sound a little Star Trek – but it has important implications for retailers, as they need to consider that not only their storefront, but also their virtual presence, drives feet through the door.

The benefit of apps such as these for consumers are obvious, as they can quickly see which store best suits their needs and can give them the best experience. For retailers, this is potentially a great opportunity to provide a clear point of differentiation with their competitors, and in Korean streets dedicated to a single retail category, it could be a godsend.

4. Interactive Outdoor Boards

Imagine a billboard that knows your gender and age, and tailors its ads accordingly – yes it is Minority Report come to life. In Japan, billboards are already being tested to do just that, with the aim of collecting data on what kinds of people look at what kinds of ads, at different times. Going forward, this will help marketers to strategically target different demographics – without a mobile in sight.

Elsewhere, interactive billboards for campaigns such as IBM’s Smarter Planet are being fitted with technology that ‘senses’ when people are looking at it, and then changes colours or images. In the retail industry, where consumer data tells us that something as simple as colour can have massive implications around shipping, inventory and, ultimately, overall sales, interactive billboards are a simple and engaging virtual demonstration of how a smarter retail system can work.

These few trends have the potential to revolutionise retail in their own ways – and that’s without discussing the potential of digital payments, customer service, active content delivery, and myriad other advances, coming to a (virtual?) store near you. So marketers now face an emerging challenge: how to leverage these emerging tools to give consumers a more efficient and transparent shopping experience?

Related reading