By Philip Rooke, CEO, Spreadshirt
Google Glass is a wearable computer that looks like a pair of futuristic sunglasses, you can use it like your smartphone to get directions, check flight information or any other task that you might ask a computer to do. While some hail it as being the device of the future, others wonder at its purpose, and whether it is a good new opportunity for e-commerce.
Where Google Glass falls down first for e-commerce is in offering the same old promotional ideas that we’ve all tried and abandoned. Just like when text messaging was new, retailers tried to use push notification messages to reach us as we passed by stores along the high street, and it didn’t work. Now, Google Glass promises the same approach, but do you really want to be bombarded with promotional messages as you walk down the street?
Unlike mobile however, Google Glass doesn’t require you to look down at a screen to find out information, but is this really a benefit we care about? Wearable technology trends come and go, for example t-shirts embedded with LEDs, mobiles built into jackets, or a pair of jeans with a keyboard embedded in them. All of these fads come and go because they are just gimmicks. In order for Google Glass to be a sustainable piece of wearable technology, it has to be cool beyond having just a few early adopters wearing it.
Currently a lot of Google Glass functions don’t work for e-commerce. However, there may be potential that could evolve over time. Glass may yet win people over because it is portable and transferable to wear to any occasion. Glasses may make a more convenient screen making it sustainable and while customers may get irritated by a stream of special offers pumping into their view, they might be interested in virtual signposting to a specific product in store, or rapid comparison on price.
Google is also suggesting that it may open some stores to sell Google Glass in order to allow people to try them out. Does the company look at Mac stores and wish it had such great temples to their brand? Now that Google has a tangible gadget product like Glass to sell, as opposed to its mainly online offerings, it could start developing a high street presence for the brand that it might not have cracked to date. However we will have to wait until the hype is over and ask a few regular users what they want or what works. Second-mover advantage might be significant in the development of useful retail tools.
Consider five ways of how Google Glass can be used for e-commerce:
1) Image recognition
You can use the image recognition software to take a picture with Google Glass, and show information about a product, pricing and the offer to order it online, for instance, through Amazon.
2) Price comparison
Google Glass can be used for comparison-shopping, by identifying a product in a shop, and then researching options for the best price available.
3) Location-based offers
If retail stores use push notification, they should make sure that these messages only show up as pop-up messages to the Glass user, as they are passing by the shop, and that they only do it once, not multiple times. You could get invites into the store for discount offers or special sales. As long as these messages are location-based, then the message has context for being worthwhile and can be a powerful opportunity for retailers.
4) Carrying out purchases
Used in conjunction with Google Wallet, a Glass user could facilitate online payments for merchandise.
5) Code scanning
Advertisers that use QR codes could have Google Glass users directed to a website for a product, or promotion, where the product can be purchased.
Despite how Glass can be used for e-commerce, Google must still be cautious about these aspects of consumer behaviour:
You are not likely to pull out your credit card and be able to easily input all the details to order something online. E-commerce activity with Google Glass is more likely to happen with your Amazon account, as all the details will be pre-registered, or with use of Google Wallet, again having the details needed pre-registered.
At current prices around $1,500, there will be a high entry barrier for most consumers, with only the most cutting-edge of early adopters using the product over the next few years. It may not be a mainstream enough usage for most retailers.
Glass doesn’t obviously provide a much more customised experience than smartphones. However, in our print-on-demand business for brands, celebrities and organisations, we have an advantage because many consumers notice when someone is wearing an unusual t-shirt design, and they are often inspired to find out more about the design. Assume most consumers don’t have time or are unable to ask someone where that shirt came from; in the future they may use their Google Glasses to look it up.
What does the distant future hold say 30 years from now? Well some futurists predict that information chips will be embedded into our bodies, rather than used as wearable devices. In light of this, Google Glass may in fact become old-fashioned technology!
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