Sound and vision… and beyond – Magazine articles

Sound and vision… and beyond – Magazine articles


Let me ask you a question. Do you want to challenge Amazon and its dominance of online retail, revamp your presence on the High Street, and sell more than your competition in 2019?

I thought so.

It could be every retailer’s New Years Resolutions list, but rather than promise to drink less, sleep more, and finally master the banjo, these retail resolutions are, in fact, achievable. With laptop.

Christmas 2018 has been a very moving affair. While online spending accounted for more than half of all Christmas spending, according to MasterCard, 27% of the total – more than half of online spending – was on mobile devices. This last Christmas was the first real mobile Christmas.

However, that’s not really the big news we’re pushing forward in 2019: mobile as a channel is a given. What’s new is that it’s likely to have some pretty fundamental impacts on retail craftsmanship over the next 12 months – largely positive.

Before getting into the thick of it, however, it’s important to consider the backdrop around which the mobile will play its central role. As High Street stores close at an increasing rate – their doors are closed by the pressure of online dominance, along with unrealistic rents and rates – and shoppers are more wary of how they spend with it. The uncertain shadow of Brexit hanging over them, the retail industry is feeling beaten and bruised. But that doesn’t mean the stores are dead. Far from there. In reality, they are not drowning, but changing.

And it’s this shift that offers the openness for mobile – it’s the key to bringing together changing buying habits and the old world of retail. So aside from the obvious – a better informed workforce with mobile devices, better payments from phones and watches and the rest, what are truly revolutionary retailers going to do with mobile in 2019 – and how? Will it help stop giants like Amazon from eating their lunch?


One of the most underrated attributes of mobile has long been its use as a “voice machine” with an eye on the world. In other words, it is a telephone connected to the Web (in the most literal sense, “tele” meaning “from afar” and “telephone” meaning “voice” or “sound” in Greek) associated with a tendril eye camera.

To this day, the smartphone has been viewed by retailers – and just about everyone – as a display. However, as voice-activated devices such as smart speakers have started to gain traction in the home, the phone’s voice recognition potential is starting to show.

According to a study conducted late last year by RedBox, 76% of CIOs, general C suite employees and IT management companies believe that a “Voice First” strategy will be in place in retail businesses. over the next five years, showing a clear shift towards recognizing the value of speech – with 95% of C-level executives rating voice data as “valuable” or “very valuable” to their organization.

Google Home, while an internal smart speaker, also comes in the form of a smartphone app – one of the reasons Argos quickly partnered with Google rather than to Amazon, when it entered “voice commerce” last year.

“Voice technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we shop in the future,” says John Rogers, CEO of Argos. “Digital home assistants have grown in popularity over the past year and more people are looking to their smart devices to help them run smoothly. “

He continues, “Argos is a state-of-the-art digital company and it’s really exciting that we are harnessing the simplicity of voice control with the convenience and popularity of click and collect to make our customers’ lives easier. We expect the Voice Shop service to be a great success and will further develop and refine the offering as we receive feedback from our customers.

Along with these developments, retailers are also looking to exploit the camera. As augmented reality and virtual reality grab the headlines (and we’ll get to that later), image recognition on smartphones – and the visual search that comes from it – is also starting to gain traction, with d ‘more to come in 2019.

Already eBay, Asos, and H&M to name a few, but three have, if I’m sorry, have looked into this. Application provider Poq has added it as standard to its product line. With retailers looking to differentiate themselves, visual search is going to be a key tool in 2019.

“Inspiration for shopping can happen anytime, whether you’re walking down the street or browsing your social media feed,” says Rob Hattrell, vice president of eBay UK. “At eBay, we are focused on creating new, complementary technologies that help our millions of customers. Whether it’s helping buyers easily find the things they love for the best value for their money, or bringing relevant seller inventory to the platform in a new and engaging way. EBay Image Search allows people to buy and sell on eBay using any image or photo that inspires them.

The benefits of visual search – especially for the increasingly less patient Gen X and Y – are that it gets closer and closer to instant gratification at retail. What makes it more attractive to retailers is that it can, used intelligently, provide a much needed link between the web and the store.

The benefits for retailers, according to Poq, are more comprehensive searches, higher conversion rates, higher engagement, and 30% monthly user growth. It also meets the consumer’s needs for instant gratification and makes it easy to find what they want.

Conventional wisdom may suggest that this is a great way to find things to buy in the endless online aisle, but it can also be a way of driving people to a store. It can also be used in store to increase the experience.


Augmentation is the next step in visual commerce. While there will be a wave of visual search services in 2019, there will likely be a trend to incorporate more AR and VR – and MR, where real, augmented, and virtual are mixed.

The benefits of this type of technology have long waited for a problem to be resolved – and it seems where it finds its feet is allowing users to view virtual goods in their homes and even on their bodies. This closes a circle that has long dominated e-commerce: the need to “see”, “feel” and “try” products before you buy. AR offers that.

AR, where additional content and information is superimposed over the real world on the phone or tablet screen, has already found increasing use in 2018. As Black Friday approaches, Amazon has added AR to its app to give shoppers the ability to view thousands of Amazon products for sale on Black Friday – and beyond – before they buy them.

Using this feature, shoppers check the selected products from all angles by tapping the AR View option available in the camera icon in the search bar of the app. They can even rotate objects 360 degrees with just one finger. Large household items, such as appliances, coffee makers and more, can also be viewed on the spot, layered over the guest’s bedroom, tables or surfaces to give a feel for the fit.

This move towards a true deployment of AR follows on from Domino’s Pizza which has also deployed an AR feature in its app, to allow hungry customers to see the toppings combinations they may want to select on a variety of pizza bases. .

AR is also starting to take off with other retailers, with Flixmedia offering a free and nifty AR add-on to retailers, as discussed in our recent webinar. Here, retailers, including Curry’s PC World, are experimenting with using ultra-precise AR not only to visualize what products will look like in the home, but also whether they will fit into the available space.

While AR offers much-needed “try before you buy” online retailers, AR also has the ability to use visual commerce to help under siege stores.

“Mixed reality (MR) has perhaps the most potential for retailers,” says Tim Morgan-Hoole, managing director of JTRS, a digital transformation agency. “While AR is used to overlay digital graphics on real environments and virtual reality immerses the user in a head-mounted simulation, MR uses a combination of the two to deliver a unique immersive experience. Users can interact with their physical environment while benefiting from additional digital elements, which could be a game-changer in the retail world.

This “best of both worlds” approach is not only going to help retailers deliver the kind of experience consumers want, but it’s all part of the retail transformation that’s likely to happen in 2019. The Streets mainstream isn’t dying, it’s changing – and these technologies are going to be part of that change.

At the same time, online retailing is also becoming more and more competitive and these pure-plays must also improve their game. Once again, mobile augmented reality, visual and voice interaction will be the engines of this new world order.


Amanda P. Whitten

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