Through the last decade , there is a cosmic explosion of innovation that is happening in various areas especially with telecom and smartphones.Consumers are bombarded with new technologies that make our lives easier and better . Inspite of this ,our shopping experiences have more or less been the same . There is hardly any significant change in our shopping behavior for quite some time .
Even though online shopping is slowly emerging , still many of us would love to feel the product before buying it . Shopping is not just about getting the best price , it is also about the personal experience that connects you with the product emotionally .User engagement is very low and shopping experience is still disconnected and the best of both online and offline shopping is not available as a whole.
Shopping is widely considered a stress buster , but it can be hectic and frustrating if one cannot buy what they wanted . Let us concentrate on the primary issues that one may encounter while do a shopping and see how emerging technologies can be applied it each scenarios .Some suggestions may be futuristic , it may take time for mass spread adoption . But a little understanding and awareness of how future technologies can enhance our 360 degree shopping experiences will go a long way in embracing them as soon as they arrive at the market place.
Top 3 Problems for a Shopper
Scenario :1 – Finding/Buying a that dress you loved
It happens to a lot of people : Blame it on whatever it is , the day when you are in no mood to shop but go with your friend as his/her fashion consultant to the shop , you get to love the clothing line up that particular day.Believe me , try going to the shop very next day to buy it and for reasons that cannot be explained , that one dress you loved would no longer be available .
Worse is the fact that you cannot even find out if there will be any new stocks arriving anytime soon because you cannot describe what you saw – the pattern, the color , the fabric . It was so unique, refreshing but it is no more .
Scenario :2 – An Indoor Toy Helicopter that flies for 10 mins after recharging for 2 hrs
Some products do not give enough information and one cannot get a chance to have a demo also because the batteries unavailable or opening the seal would void the warranty etc .As a customer, you are really clueless on how the product would perform to it’s tall claim - for eg. toys or new gadgets which people do not have an idea. In many cases , customer avoid buying such products. And in some cases , they return the product after few days not being convinced of the product .
Scenario :3 – Carrying loyalty cards in your wallet 24×7
You have a loyalty card with the shopper but not sure how many points are needed so that you can redeem your free gift. You do not want to interrupt your shopping , go online and check it out .It may sound silly to check with the sales guy to see how many points are available. So you are not encouraged to shop for extras.
Sometimes the shopper gave you a loyalty card when you shopped last time but you threw them out since your wallet is getting heavier with more and more loyalty cards. So even though you have a loyalty card , it is of no use .
Top 3 Problems to a Business :
Scenario 1: Spends on Marketing and Promotional offers
Business spend a lot of money in newspaper and media running offers and discounts , time and resource on registering customers for loyalty cards ,newsletters to prospective customers .But are they targeting the customer through the right medium that he is regularly engaged with ?
Business provide customer with a loyalty card . So does a lot of other shops , they too provide similar loyalty cards and the customer ends up with around 10 or more similar cards that they entirely dump the cards from their wallet .So a customer who visit next time,cannot avail discount because they do not know the card details.Understanding customers’ pain point will go a long way in providing customer delight.
Scenario 2: Engaging customers with smaller work force
As a customer waiting to be attended by a sales guy , you would be surprised on the time and effort that is spent when a customer queries for various information with the sales guy .Customers check with the guy multiple times if there is a different size or color available and this sales guy need to co-ordinate with the warehouse guy and let them know each time for every model on the status . And some times , the required details are not available on the product stickers and hence more time spent making customers aware of the product.
Scenario 3 : Long payment queue
Customers wait for a long time to for the billing and final payment to be completed . And once the final bill is done , few more minutes needed for customer to redeem gift vouchers or gift cards etc .
Hail NFC , the new Rockstar !
The fundamental objective for shops today is to make customers spend little time yet shop what ever they wanted . This does more good to the business as well. Less time spent in the shop means more customers can be served at the same time .
That is where NFC – Near Field Communication comes into picture. NFC is the technology where in a chip is made available in your smart phones and this chip can transfer/recieve small amount of data between your mobile and other nfc chip reader thereby sharing information instantly .
NFC is available in latest high end phones like Galaxy Nexus , Galaxy S3. Even you can share information between mobile easily . Bluetooth is currently available but the process is tedious of finding devices and then sending the info is bit time consuming .But with NFC enabled phones , it will be easy to transfer data by just placing two NFC enabled devices in close proximity to each other.
Using NFC in Shopping
So let us see how this technology can help us to solve problems :
Finding more abt product / Product Information/Demo
To find details about a product on the shelf /price or even a short demo . Just scan your NFC enabled mobile phone at the NFC tag/sticker placed near the product . All product details could be viewed through the information sent by NFC chip – it can either be direct info or browser URL that contains all the product information .
The below demo will give a neat idea on how it can be used it retail stores .
What this technology can do is make it easier to view a product details . You can even save these details , share it with friends or make a wish list for future purchases. So next time when you visit the shop , you can show your book marked products so that the salesman can fetch you the product or even order in case if interested .
Product details can even be linked with a small demo video that can be played from youtube on the user’s mobile there by giving a very clear idea on how the product functions.In the video show above , it is extended to show the ingredients of a product so that you can avoid buying allergic products by mistake. And when the product inventory is linked to this directly , you do not need a salesman to confirm if the next size is in stock .
So this is a win-win situation for both the customer and business as well. Customers need not wait for sales guy to attend them and explain them product information whereas business can also have purchases being made quickly without the sales guy intervention.
Mobile Payments /Loyalty cards
NFC gives an easier way of managing mobile payments . Every major OS be it the Android or iOs or Windows have enabled or will eventually enable payment transactions through mobile. So contact-less payment will go a long way in removing the hassles of swiping a credit card .
Also Loyalty cards can also be made available in the form of mobile payment so that users can always have these cards , check their rewards point any time and can redeem it during payment as well .
Google Wallet is the payment system being offered by Google . Short video on how it works here !
And this demo on how coupons/discounts can be used along with NFC in a restaurant takes the whole dining experience to a new level .
This family gets a coupon deal from Groupon to a restaurant . Once they visit the restaurant , shares contact info via NFC to the salesman who then provides restaurant menu app url. They have a look at the menu and they even place the order there using mobile payment there by making the whole dining transaction through NFC .
And one more video on how Google Wallet can change our lives digitally
Product Promotions/Customer Engagement
At the point of sale , all the business can do is to keep a Facebook Like NFC button and encourage customers to like their business . And tada , you now get a new contact to whom you can push your product promotions and offers easily .
Just have a look at the NFC enabled posters that are available and how future promotions/ticketing etc can be handled easily .
Business can use this posters as well to provide information about events , concert info , deals/offers that customer can redeem easily .
NFC outside of Shopping
NFC is not only limited to shopping . It can be used in our day to day life as well which makes it a compelling feature to have in smartphone . How nice it would be to share contact info or map location . That is really cool right ?
Sharing content between NFC enabled mobiles
NFC can also be used to share contacts , video and music url , map location etc .
Another interesting aspect is that we can define our own custom NFC tags that can help in doing certain things . Say for example – we can create a new NFC tag that will do the following once we are in office : switch mobile to silent , turn wi fi off , enable mobile data etc. All you have do is to create this custom NFC tag , place it at your desk . So once you reach your desk and swipe over the tag to enable all these operations at a single shot.Local business can use such smart nfc tags to provide free wi fi to customers at the swipe of their mobile on the NFC tag.
This small one minute from Sony Xperia about smart nfc tags clearly explains the possibilities . Though this may look primitive , the opportunities are endless .
Sharon Vaknin from CNET provides some interesting ideas on how NFC tags can be used in our day to day life. Check it out .
Organizing conferences , events and real time sharing
NFC can be used in conferences , organizing events which in all the delegates can be provided with NFC tag enabled passes so that they can share contact with business easily , share instantly what ever they like at the event . Renault infact has implemented NFC through one such auto event where by users can like and even share whatever car they like instantly on facebook .
NFC is currently in the nascent stage . Though Google Wallet uses NFC , it has not caught up mainstream yet . Also there are only few mobiles that are currently offering NFC . But it’s slowly catching up.
Another issue with regards to following up standards. As of now , Nokia has its own standard for NFC and Android Beam , which has its own implementation of NFC makes it impossible to share information between different OS/ handsets . But we hope this issue should be sorted out soon because there is major push for NFC and mobile payments by all leading banks and service providers .
So what’s in future :
NFC does not limit itself to just shopping but to redefine the way how we live and interact with our environment .
This info graphic clearly explains the 6 ways through which NFC can revolutionize digital era.
So in short , shopping experience can be taken to a whole new level with near field communication . NFC is a technology that is well established in Japan and Korea.All the transactions at the railway stations and other public places use NFC to save a lot of time. So essentially , NFC will come to our devices -it may be delayed but cannot be avoided . Also application developers will use this technology to make more killer apps in future there by making this a compelling shopping experience .
So what you do you think about this cool technology ? How do you think will our shopping experience be enhanced in the future ? Share your thoughts here .
Get ready to embrace NFC !