iPhone to eye-phone: Why Google Glass will change the retail landscape

11 April 2014

Hamish Walker

Hamish Walker


Imagine walking down the street past a particular shop; the virtual image of two products related to a recent purchase of yours pops into your field of view with a special offer attached. You enter the shop and are led to the exact location of the items in the aisle. You scan their barcodes which enables you to do a price comparison with other shops nearby but are still undecided, so you call a friend and show them a live video of the items to see which they prefer.

Now convinced, you immediately buy the chosen product via your banking app and walk out the shop sharing your thoughts of the shopping experience on social networking sites. This first hand customer intelligence – free of charge – will change the retail world. 

The next step in technology evolution

In 2014, Google Glass will be available to consumers and the next step in the technology evolution will begin.  Google Glass is a wearable technology with a built in camera, specialised navigation system, message notification and voice command support. It will eventually allow consumers to possess all the same functionality they receive from their Smartphones as well as much more in an effortlessly simply and interactive way.

The biggest development will be through the use of specialised applications which are designed to project visuals into the user’s line of sight. At the moment there are only 20 such apps, but when Google Glass is available to the masses, this will soon change and it is likely to send shockwaves through the business and cultural worlds.

History tells us that when a new and disruptive innovation comes along, it is impossible to predict its true impact. Google Glass is another one of these unknowns; a ‘content creator’ just like the iPhone was.  And just as the iPhone helped to drive the success of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Google Glass will help drive the success of many companies. 

It is another potentially game changing technology which will present opportunities and challenges for retailers; if it catches on it could completely change the retail business model once again. 

Could Google Glass reverse the fortunes of struggling shops on the high street?  

Google Glass takes many of the things consumers can already do whilst shopping with their Smartphones and makes them much quicker and easier to achieve. It will become imperative that retailers embrace this technology and offer slick integration with the shopping experience in order to stay current. If they don’t, consumers might become suspicious for example; why doesn’t this shop or brand want me to engage and research their product? Are they not very good? Are they much more expensive than others? Consumers increasingly want more for less and expect a seamless shopping experience; the retailers who succeed will be the ones who offer this service as well as push personalised deals to customers.

The iPhone launched just seven years ago and now a staggering 55% of online retail occurs on mobile, while just 45% occurs on PCs and laptops [comScore, June 2013]. Consumers now expect the convenience of having the technology at their fingertips and Google Glass takes this convenience to the next level; it is always on, there in front of you, giving you information. The ease that this embedded technology will allow people to record and share their own experiences will give consumers and professionals unprecedented new power in many fields. 

However, the arrival of Google Glass also brings into question a number of more general, but serious, privacy, security and ethical issues.  There is the very real possibility of people covertly filming or taking pictures of places and people that they shouldn’t, and there are safety concerns whilst using Google Glass; for example getting distracted using it whilst driving. But this is the direction that technology is going and society will have to adjust accordingly to balance the opportunities it creates with the invasive risks it brings.

Obviously Google is not the only company investigating this area; Sony is building a two lens competitor to Google Glass, and there are other companies such as Vizix and Meta which offer a wider virtual screen area, less expensive, more fashionable alternative. They are all still in their infancy stages, however the potential and implications of this wearable technology is now here and very real; if companies want to stay successful with this new jump in technical advancement, they will have to adapt to survive.


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