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Shopping in 2016: Which Technology Will Shine?

shutterstock_247426483The last few years have been all about the marriage of technology and commerce. Shopping is becoming pervasive and products are being presented to us where we are rather than us seeking them out. Terms like beacons, geo-fencing, drones have been floating around promising to usher in the next era of commerce. One of the primary vehicles of this change is the ubiquitous use of the smartphone.

So have these services lived up to their promise? Omni or even infinite channel shopping, if you will, is definitely here to stay. Neither an online-only nor bricks-and-mortar only approach is fully effective, as is illustrated by the efforts of successful online-only retailers like Warby Parker and Amazon to establish a physical presence.

BEACONS

Over the last year, beacons moved out of the testing phase and were adopted by more retailers. The use of shopping apps on smartphones increased 174% in 2014 and businesses honed in on that for the 2015 holiday shopping season. As long as businesses can get people to opt in to location-based beacon campaigns, the applications across coupon clipping, loyalty programs and data collection are invaluable.

For instance, Sephora introduced beacons in their stores this year. As a frequent shopper there, I’d appreciate getting notification about my rewards etc. on my phone rather than hunting down an associate every time. While buying makeup is a tactile endeavor, the addition of in-store technology enhances the process.

WEARABLES

Wearables didn’t quite take the world by storm. It’s been more like a little puff of dust. So far, neither the Google Glass nor the Apple Watch have done anything besides being another access point for smartphone functionality. The Glass is being repurposed for different uses but we can safely say that applications in shopping are not happening for now.

BUY BUTTON

shutterstock_279562925e“Buy” button, endorsing the growing pervasive nature of shopping. Whether it’s through a social shopping app, social network or brand website, businesses have introduced ways to discover and buy products directly from the social channels with varying degrees of ease. Aside from being a revenue generator, Buy buttons let all brands, big and small, sell directly to consumers.

Buy buttons are going to get even more pervasive in 2016. The way that people discover products is changing. Non-biased YouTube vloggers are becoming highly influential in getting women to buy products. This will probably lead to the proliferation of shoppable video this year, especially on YouTube.

Of course, underlying much of social commerce is the aspect of personalization and relevance. Recode raised this issue of how Buy buttons could actually seem invasive and jarring at a time when folks are trying to just browse through social channels and connect with people. Dedicated shopping sections like Facebook Shopping or Twitter pages conflate the intent of the shopper with the ability to buy. The same logic applies to brand websites where a consumer’s presence itself indicates interest.

In time, machine learning will allow the triangulation of product chatter on social channels and browsing behavior to allow the right product offer to be presented to the right person and right time.

I’m super excited about smart fitting rooms – the idea of not having to hunt for an associate to get the right size or color is very comforting! In the pipeline, there’s also augmented reality, virtual reality, and shipping by drones. However, most of these technologies are still in testing and not feasible for widespread adoption. Will they get traction this year? Will Black Friday lose more significance in 2016, pointing enthusiastically to the changing nature of shopping? Here’s to a year of increased relevance and the pervasive shopping!

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