At CommercialWare, my first company, we pioneered what was then called, multi-channel retail. With roots in catalog mail-order and with the advent of readily available internet access, we innovated and smoothed the edges of our software solutions creating, cross-channel; a more seamless integration of catalog, web and store. By today’s standards, given the rapid evolution of software and hardware options since then, those solutions seem primitive. In terms of commerce, we have evolved from the catalog to the web via PC and browser, to the smartphone, to the tablet via the browser and apps.
Each form factor; paper, pc, smartphone and tablet has presented its own challenges and opportunities. Initially, each platform duplicated its predecessor. The early browser formats replicated the paper catalog experience. The early smartphone applications were nothing more than the pc web experience. With time, the applications and apps evolved, optimizing the latest platforms and improving the user experience. Today, as smartphone and tablet sales dramatically outpace pc sales, the baton is being passed and the sophistication of the apps available on these platforms has improved exponentially.
Clearly, the ‘real estate’ available on a smartphone is very different than a tablet. To optimize the user experience, the apps must be different. But how and where we view, compare and ultimately shop is changing as well. We can and will be able to shop on Facebook, Twitter and other sites that traditionally were not open for commerce. This too creates new challenges to optimize the user experience
Just when we thought we had things under control, and as is always the case with technology, there is a new twist. This fall, Apple’s anticipated entry into the wearables market will legitimize an already erupting space. Yet another new form factor will need to be embraced and integrated into the Omni-channel mix. Watches (for sure), necklaces, bracelets, shirts, and shoes may all present interaction touch points for commerce. Picture this: running an app on the display of your necklace, watch or ‘glass,’ navigating via these interfaces to the brick and mortar store, being served up advertising and coupons just for you and buying the item with no other human intervention required. Or perhaps just order from the comfort of your living room via your watch.
We can expect some clumsy apps at first as the wearables take hold. But over the 3-5 years (iPhone introduced in 2007 and iPad introduced in 2010), our watch or wearables may very well replace our smartphone and even our tablet for the majority of our transactions. So, just as we have become comfortable with our tablets and phones, it is time to shake things up for the next step of technology evolution to wearables. Don’t be wary…be happy.