Home Visions of the Future of High-Tech Shopping

Visions of the Future of High-Tech Shopping

Shopping is overwhelming enough, especially around the holidays. The leading consumer Web companies are falling over themselves to make it easier using all the innovative technologies at their disposal. As they figure it out, though, that only leaves consumers with even more options. Do we shop in person, on our desktops, our phones or our tablets? Do we go to a website or launch an app? Which one? How do we pay?

These questions have to be answered before we even get to choosing what to buy. They all make shopping easier, though, whether through giving us more information before we buy or by speeding up the process. Here are three kinds of Web-powered innovations that will contribute to the future of shopping.

QR Codes

These weird-looking Web links are everywhere, showing up on signs, ads and products. Anyone with a smartphone can scan them and be taken straight to a website. They’re still mostly used for traditional advertising, but their use by consumers is on the rise. 5% of U.S. adults use QR codes, up from 1% just last year.

More importantly, business are starting to use them in more innovative ways. Some retailers have even built applications that use QR codes directly for purchasing, and many at least let shoppers get additional information about a product in the store. There are some drawbacks, though.

There has been at least one instance of malicious code in QR codes. Plus, some consumers just find them downright ugly and unappealing. It’s a new technology, so there’s bound to be differences in opinion. With the right strategy, though, some retailers are using QR codes to help willing shoppers.

Augmented Reality

Amazon, always on the front lines of Web-powered retail, launched an iPhone app called Flow this month that exemplifies the sci-fi dream of augmented Reality. Using the phone’s camera, it instantly recognizes products for sale and takes shoppers straight to more info about it from Amazon.com.

That includes reviews from other consumers, as well as Amazon’s price. Of course, it also gives shoppers the option to buy from Amazon instead of the store, if the price is right, which it is likely to be.

This rubs some business owners the wrong way, because it gives Amazon a last-minute chance to swipe the sale. But it does empower consumers with more information. Not all items are available on Amazon, of course, but many common items are. In the future of shopping, AR shopping apps will definitely be part of the mix.

Mobile Payments & NFC

Near-field communications technology will be the other half of shopping from your smartphone. Using built-in components, NFC allows handsets to securely communicate payments with terminals at the register, so you don’t even need to carry a wallet.

It’s early yet, but Google is pushing the field forward with its launch of Google Wallet in a few select Android phones. However, more phones are on the way, and major payment processors like PayPal are getting in on the technology. Not to be outdone, the next iPhone is expected to have NFC capability as well.

On the other side of the mobile payments sphere is Square, which provides a little white dongle for processing peer-to-peer credit card payments, as well as an interesting point of sale for retailers. What could a future-facing retailer like Walmart do with technology like that?

Make sure to follow Dan Rowinski’s series, What’s In Your Mobile Wallet?, to stay on top of the latest mobile payment trends.

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