Retail Ideas

    Retail computing is evolving to support the new ideas derived from social commerce and new forms of innovation.

  • Automatic Check-Ins: The retail computing concepts of geo-location sensing application reduce the need for “check-ins”. These tools will become more appealing to everyday consumers. Retail computing ideas such as Shopkick’s “signal” hardware triggers check-ins when users enter participating retail spaces; the app then awards points (“kickbucks”) and offers tailored deals/rewards. Geoloqi is a a hyper-customizable retail computing app that allows users to set automatic reminders and notifications—sent to themselves or friends—for specific locations (e.g., a grocery list pops up as the user enters a supermarket).
  • Decline of the Cash Register : Apple’s point-of-sale system is now available to third parties (Old Navy is testing a modified iPod Touch). Retailers big and small will start adopting these mobile payment systems, allowing salespeople to take a customer all the way through a transaction, even referencing stored data to provide more personalized service.
  • Tap-to-Pay: The digital wallet is edging closer to reality outside those parts of Asia and Europe where it’s already taken off. Watch for more transit systems to allow riders to use their phones as tickets or passes, more mobile-enabled parking systems and vending machines, more NFC-supported phones that let users tap to pay merchants, and more apps that allow people to “bump” each other’s phones to exchange money.
  • Digital Indoor Maps: Indoor mapping is poised to take off as companies such as FastMall (which has maps in 22 countries) and Micello (available in the U.S., Singapore and Japan) create phoneaccessible guides to malls, airports, convention centers and other vast spaces. Aisle411 is working with retail chains to help shoppers find in-store products.
  • Near Field Communication: Near Field Communication (NFC), which enables the exchange of data within four inches (it’s akin to RFID but more versatile), will be a tech buzz word for 2011. NFC chips will allow phones to act as digital wallets and tickets, wirelessly send photos and documents to printers, and pick up information from tags on ads. An upcoming version of
    Android will have NFC, and the next iPhone will likely have it. Watch for NFC to become a marketing tool, with consumers not quite sure what it is but wanting it anyway.
  • Scanning Everything: Scanning barcodes or QR codes with smartphones will become ubiquitous. QR (quick response) codes are scannable two-dimensional codes that link to more information; they’re being adopted for everything from in-store communications and loyalty offers to information points and comics (a Danish Donald Duck comic links to audio and animation). With Tesco’s iPhone app, customers can scan the barcode of a product of interest when out and about, and it’s automatically dropped into the person’s online cart.
  • Virtual Mirrors: A camera displays a customer’s image on a screen, which then overlays various types of makeup, allowing shoppers to preview products and play with options. Virtual mirrors also allow clothes shoppers to test out styles and share the look via Facebook, mobile and e-mail. Shiseido is rolling out virtual makeup mirrors in European stores after launching them in Japan; France’s Carrefour SA, the U.K.’s Superdrug and U.S. Walmart stores are testing similar technology from EZface. Macy’s is trialling virtual mirrors in its flagship New York store.