Channel marketing

Augmenting the Marketing Experience – Changing Shopping

Augmented Reality, a term that has been around since the 1990’s, has a huge marketing future as more powerful smart phones and applications are developed for to support purchases.

Using the camera on a computer or smart phone, one can point at an object that is recognized by the software based on combinations of GPS and object recognition. While seeing the object on the screen real time, the image can be “augmented” with a variety of data, images, or audio files.

So by pointing your phone up to the heavens, Sky Map can identify stars, planets and constellations. Because it uses GPS, you can “see” though the celling and roof of your house, during the day time.

Point your phone to a city-scape and identify buildings, businesses and landmarks tags and links to interactive information.

While most businesses may not naturally be found in the sky, they can be found on streetscapes, maps, billboards, and other objects. This opens a huge new advertising opportunity that is close-in, or right in front of you, where you can go in and buy.

Because new object recognition software very close (Amazon just announced their version), one can now be encouraged to enter the store, and then identify each object or SKU and pull up additional information. This has been available for bar code scanning for some time, which itself has created much concern to retailers. (see other articles) but now new kinds of experiences can be created entirely.

IKEA is working on an interactive catalog, where you can select a couch, and “see” it in your living room by overlaying your selecting style, over a live image of your living room corner. This 3D image can be positioned to the corner and your favorite chair.

As should be apparent by now, this is a VERY different paradigm shift for selling consumer products. It ties all the digital selling pieces together on a need stream of consumer engagement.

The next time I need a can of paint, I should be able to point my camera to the color, then select several paint manufacturers, order and ship in one short effort.

This represents a potentially completely new distribution channel, and lead opportunity. If a particular paint company does not have appropriate online information, they simply will not get a shot at the sale.

Need floor mats for your car? Simply point your camera to the floor of your car, and see the floor mat options and companies that make that size.

Want to know what windows would look good in your house? Simply view your house through your camera and select different window types and colors to see what looks good.

Having trouble finding a replacement part for your washing machine? Just point your camera and it scans to find the same part and of course where you can buy it.

This will be a completely new standard in convenience and product alternative comparisons, which of course is marketing.

Grocery stores are interested in more in-store direct interaction as well. A recent study by Ninth Decimal indicated that grocery shoppers were most receptive to messaging discounts (28% digital coupons, 20% sale notification) to prompt purchases.

In a study by Catalina, 62% of mobile shoppers said they would use coupons. These results are published at e-marketer.

Many of these innovations will be easily accepted by shoppers once the data is available and the software better understood. Creativity will open up many opportunities that will provide “wows” and “cools” for years.

While many marketers are busying themselves with social networking, visionary engineers and digital experts are quietly getting ready to change the entire industry.

Customer testimonials will always be influential in the marketing process, and augmented reality will become part of social media. (Wonderful, now I can see what lampshades my sister-in-law is shopping for and how it looks on her existing lamp — real time! Please save me!)

But small businesses are not ready for all these innovations yet. Most small businesses think that they were done with their website in 2005. They don’t have digital images of products, extensive copy or videos of products. They have poor customer support content and still focus on paper catalogs and pricing sheets.

In the past, they have been protected by the channel and niche they occupied. But as the Internet becomes more sophisticated, the physical emplacement of niches is becoming difficult to protect.

Once geographic barriers maintained millions of businesses in the supply chain, but these barriers are being overcome by the Internet and near-immediate delivery options offered by Amazon and others.

Small businesses have the advantage of fewer products and more specialized uses than larger companies, but they often lack vision and money for technical development and marketing projects. While many of these new concepts will be created by small entrepreneurs, I fear other small businesses will not see them coming.