It doesn’t take long for consumers to get used to the ease that image recognition offers and the ability to compare prices and alternatives by scanning an object with a device while shopping in-store. For savvy shoppers looking for the best deals, this is must-have technology.
Amazon’s Flow app is a brilliant move by the retail giant that lets you scan an object in a store and order it on Amazon with the touch of a button. The concept is smart and innovative—as expected from Amazon. There are still some glitches with this app, but it gets better and more accurate all the time. This type of “showrooming” is now leading other major retailers, such as Target and Macy’s to jump on the scanning bandwagon to enhance their own m-commerce efforts.
Target’s In a Snap app allows customers to shop from images in catalogs, ad flyers or magazines. This of course is specific only to Target merchandise, but it’s a smart way of connecting traditional advertising with ecommerce and making it super easy for a customer to see, like, and buy. I’ve been noticing that Target is doing a great job of connecting the dots between online and offline and this is yet another example of that.
Macys.com is going a step further toward setting the gold standard for image recognition. Macy’s Image Search app lets the user snap and submit a photo of an item they see somewhere and then find and purchase that item or a similar item on the Macy’s website. We want what we want when we want it—or something similar anyway. Macy’s gets this and this app is a smart move toward the discovery of intent and an attempt to serve up the right item at the right time to capitalize on that intent.
Scanning has been slow to take off—think back to QR codes. No matter how much sense they might’ve made, marketers largely screwed them up by developing campaigns that delivered little to no value. Consumers really didn’t embrace the technology and want to go to the effort of downloading a scanning app and figuring it out and QR codes were pretty much a bust. In a short period of time, m-commerce is changing that. When retailers like Amazon, Target, and Macy’s embrace scan-to-shop and actually create app experiences that deliver tremendous value well, shoppers are all over that. Image recognition is and will play a huge role in m-commerce in the coming year and we’re thinking it will be as much of a table stakes item as a great mobile experience in general is.
Three Keys to Success for Scan-to-Shop Apps
There are some things that might get in the way of implementation by brands and adoption by consumers and three key things that retailers and marketers should keep in mind as they work to integrate scan-to-shop functionality into their retail m-commerce operations:
- Age and/or Mindset. Some demographic age groups will switch on to image recognition more readily than others. For instance, Millennials or those with the Millennial mindset, with their predisposition to using their mobile devices for everything, will be early adopters. Other consumers not so accustomed to using devices for shopping and/or everything else might take awhile to adapt.
- The application has to add value to a consumer’s shopping experience. Amazon’s app is a no-brainer. I see something I want, I don’t want to wait on line to buy it in a store, I buy it by scanning and with one click from Amazon. That’s a time-saver, perhaps a money saver, and it makes my life easy. Macy’s app delivers the same kind of value—saving me time when it comes to shopping for whatever it is I’m looking for. Retailers and their dev teams need to keep the needs of the customers firmly planted in their minds as they develop these kinds of m-commerce applications.
- Image recognition apps need to work. If an app is clunky, slow, difficult to figure out, or doesn’t deliver real value, quickly, consumers aren’t going to wait around—they’ll be off finding whatever it is they want somewhere else.
There are challenges, but it absolutely makes sense for brands and marketers to integrate image recognition and scan-to-shop functionality into their retail offerings. Mobile is always on, devices are always in hand, and when you can use them to create better experiences and opportunities for shoppers, well, it’s good for you and it’s good for them. The good news when it comes to this kind of functionality is that the more big guys get on this bandwagon, the more great examples there are to model your retail experience after and the less costly that gets from a development standpoint over time.
What about you? As a customer are you a fan of scan-to-shop functionality at the retail level? Are you or do you use or do that now? I’d love to hear your thoughts.