'Point-Know-Buy': future of information search
By Henry Mason
Consumers now take being instantly able to access any information on almost anything for granted. Just as long as you know what to type into your search box, you have the world at your fingertips.
Now, the idea that consumers crave information is nothing new. After all, information and knowledge give consumers power, control and certainty (or at least the illusion thereof).
The allure of being in-the-know is also driven by the status boost for those who discover or know about new products, facts, concepts or ideas.
So what is next in the world of information and search?
Now that Google and text search has become a way of life, the next frontier is “POINT-KNOW-BUY,” or instant visual info-gratification: where consumers can access information about objects encountered in the real world, seamlessly and while on-the-go, by simply pointing their smartphones at them.
This means that anything or anyone that is seen or heard will be able to be instantly “known” if not bought.
We are already seeing this with the rise of QR Codes, Augmented Reality, Tagging and Visual Search (which we have seen used in such apps such as Google Goggles and those from start ups Aurasma, Layar and Blippar).
These are all platforms that are making their way into everyday lives of consumers, making it easier to get what they need quickly and efficiently.
One caveat: this is still an emerging trend. The desire for consumers is clearly there, just think about the complete addiction if not total dependence people have on searching online.
Nevertheless, mass uptake will only happen when visual search and commerce is ubiquitous, seamless and (most importantly) reliable. A few things holding POINT-KNOW-BUY back include being limited to a limited number of ‘scannable’ objects, the requirement to use dedicated apps (rather than being built into the phone) and most importantly, the inability of current technologies to cope, out and about in the real world of poor lighting, background noise and awkward angles.
But, for an idea of how creative brands are applying this now, and where POINT-KNOW-BUY is heading, check out these few examples of how new search technologies are already being used and you may find some inspiration for your own brand.
As you read some of the information below, think about how you can offer your consumer more by communicating interesting stories, origins, price comparisons or reviews, and make information more convenient and accessible.
WordLens is an app that enables users to translate printed text (such as menus or signs) from French or Spanish to English (and vice versa) via the iPhone’s camera, as you look through it.
Recognizing that many Chinese passengers are not proficient in English, Amsterdam's Schiphol and Paris' Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airports launched mobile apps in January 2012 specifically designed to help Chinese navigate around the airports. Users can point their phones at 750 signs in Paris' CDG Airport and 250 signs in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport to obtain a Chinese translation.
Skin Scan is an app, which allows users to scan and monitor moles over time, with the aim of preventing malignant skin cancers. The app tells users if a visit to their doctor or dermatologist is advisable. This is also a great example of DIY Health, where more consumers are utilizing technologies to manage their own health.
Heinz launched an ‘augmented reality recipe book’ using technology from UK start-up Blippar. Users of the app can point their phone cameras at Tomato Ketchup bottles to see recipes digitally ‘pop-out’ of the bottle.
Users of Adidas’ Originals iPhone app can snap a photo of any pair of Adidas shoes, and have it scanned against the brand’s range to find the closest match, product information and even a map showing where they can be bought locally.
This past May, Future Fashion Now launched at the Audi Fashion Festival in Singapore. The platform enabled consumers to watch runway shows from 13 high fashion designers live-streamed online. Consumers could make an instant purchase by clicking on items on the screen before the items even hit stores.
UK supermarket chain Tesco partnered with augmented reality platform Aurasma to unveil virtual storefronts at three small-scale London stores, offering customers the opportunity to purchase items from the UK supermarket’s F&F apparel brand, which is generally only available in larger branches. Shoppers could buy items via the free Aurasma Lite app, by pointing their mobile device and scanning images of garments displayed on the billboards.
Henry Mason is Global Head of Research and Managing Partner at trendwatching.com. For more on POINT-KNOW-BUY, check out www.trendwatching.com, or sign up to attend the 2012 Consumer Trend Seminar at the W Seoul Walkerhill on August 24th. For more information, visit http://trendwatching.com/seminars/seoul.