eBay research into third wave retail technology

A press release today from eBay reveals the direction they intend to take shopping in the future. eBay’s research carried out by retail experts Conlumino reveals that the retail industry is on the cusp of a third wave of technological revolution. After online and mobile, a new wave of shopping technologies will again present opportunities and challenges for the industry.

According to the research Interactive TV will have the most influence, as by the end of 2014 25% of us will regularly use interactive television to shop. By bringing together television and the internet, it will generate nearly £750m worth of direct sales by the end of 2014.

eBay already have a “Watch with eBay” iPad app available in the US which was released in 2010. The Watch with eBay app surfaces merchandise related to what consumers are watching on television, from the latest fashion trends at red carpet awards shows to sports memorabilia, to DVDs, signed autographs and other items related to favorite shows and actors. As “Couch Commerce” takes off eBay are bound to release International versions of the Watch with eBay app.

Other technologies which will become part of the mainstream shopping experience are:

  • Augmented Reality – enables consumers to bring the real and virtual worlds together by overlaying digital information onto real products, spaces and places. This will range from allowing shoppers to view 3D projections of products that aren’t physically present or allowing them to virtually try on clothes
  • In-store technologies – this cluster of technologies will enrich the consumer experience and improve store efficiency. Innovations such as iPads replacing tills and electronic shelf labelling will boost productivity
  • Image recognition – allows devices to identify consumers or objects based on their attributes. Consumers could perform visual searches for products they point their devices at, and more significantly micro QR codes could replace barcodes and help retailers bridge the gap between tracking on and offline behaviour
  • Smart devices – everyday appliances become intelligent and empowered, for example a fridge making recommendations on what food to order. Retailers could develop greater personalisation and gather deeper insight into their customers

The use of much of this technology can be seen with high street retailer Debenhams. Back in October 2011 Debenhams launched a series of pop-up stores at various UK historic sites where users could virtually try on clothes with an augmented reality iPad app. Shoppers could try on 10 party dresses in a virtual world and if they liked their new look they could make the purchase on the spot.

The virtual changing room will change the way we shop in the future and eBay’s US Fashion app also allows you to virtually try on clothes and build an outfit from various listings and virtually try them on before you decide to buy.

Debenhams already have a mobile app with smart shopping using QR codes for both adverts and instore shopping and can also deliver offers such as a free instore coffee to attract shoppers to their stores. If you’ve walked past a Debenhams store recently you’ve probably seen QR code posters in the shop window, scan it and you’ll receive more information and an instant offer delivered direct to your mobile.

eBay estimate that the UK’s ten largest retailers could each see incremental sales of £235m in two years by investing in these new technologies. The challenge for smaller retailers is which technology to invest in and when, in order not to get left behind. One thing is for sure though, the way we shop online and offline is changing and eBay will attempt to be at the forefront of these changes.