Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The "third wave" future of online shopping

While pretty much all of the ecommerce sector has highlighted mobile commerce as the future of online shopping, there are a number of other technologies which could be seen in the not too distant future which will similarly revolutionise online retail. These types of technology have become known as "third wave" shopping and according to eBay, could bring an increase of £2.4 billion to the retail industry in the next two years. Today we are going to look at what each if these are and how they could benefit both buyers and sellers.

Image Recognition

This involves using a device such as a mobile phone or webcam to identify a customer based on their attributes. What this would then do is allow you to search for images based on what your camera is viewing. For example, if your device is showing a pair of jeans in your room, the camera will analyse the image and then show you all of the pairs of jeans which are available to purchase across different eBay stores. This recognition of a customer through physical attributes, allows you to create a tailored shopping experience by which their preferences and shopping habits will be remembered and then shown to the user when they access the shopping platform.

It is not only in identifying items where this image recognition will shine, but also in the payment of those items. Using image recognition software can give the customer a more secure way to purchase a product online as, to use a credit card to complete a payment, the person who the card belongs to would have to have their facial features recognised by the software to confirm that it is indeed the authorised card holder who is making the payment. While this is just an example of how the image recognition could be used, it shows the potential it has to change the landscape of online retail. 

Augmented Reality

Although this is very much in the early prototype phase, it could be a way to merge both online and offline shopping into one. This will allow customers to browse through various products, looking at a 3D projection of the product rather than a 2D image. While we do currently see some levels of augmented reality through the ability to allow customers to scan products in a bricks and mortar store to then find online alternatives, this in depth augmentation through 3D graphics could result in customers being able to virtually 'try on' a 3D projection of a product. For online sellers this can only be a positive as it allows customers to see their products in greater details and the more information a store can give a customer regarding a product, the better chance they have of the customer purchasing from their online store.

Smart Devices

Essentially this is the ability for your devices to interact with you. This has the potential to be very beneficial to online sellers as they could gain more information as to the buying preferences of online shoppers, allowing them to tailor their marketing and products to meet these customer needs. For example, you may have a device such as a smart phone or tablet which could suggest to the customer clothing items they may wish to purchase based on the clothes they have in their closet. This could then redirect the customer to an ecommerce store where they could purchase there items. This allows online stores to creater greater levels of personalisation for their customers, enhancing the overall shopping experience. 

According to eBay, online sellers who invest in these types of technology could see a sales increase of 4% by 2014 in comparison to those who don't invest. 

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