Innovative mobile apps are laying the groundwork for the future of mobile commerce. Technological advancements—things like shopping apps, augmented reality, and mobile image recognition—are making online shopping more accessible, allowing consumers to better evaluate products, and even helping consumers connect with retailers along the mobile commerce path to purchase. They are also helping to improve sales. That’s because one regular impediment to making sales via a mobile commerce platform is that consumers want to be able to interact with a product prior to purchase. In fact, about 62% of consumers report the reason they shop in physical stores is that they want to see, touch, and even try out items before buying them.
One way companies are bridging the gap between physical and digital is by offering mobile commerce apps that recreate the in-store experience. While some of these technologies may remain a few years from full-scale release, others, including shopping apps, are already helping companies improve mobile commerce conversion. Here’s a look at what’s on the horizon for mobile commerce, and the kinds of apps and innovations already shaping the marketplace.
The Future of Mobile Commerce Has Image Recognition
Mobile image recognition works much like reverse image search—where an image is placed into a search engine to reveal where it already appears online—but with greater sophistication.
Mobile image recognition has revolutionized the mobile commerce path to purchase. As an example, consider the following scenario:
- A woman admires the shoes of another woman on the street and snaps a pic of them with her mobile phone.
- She loads that photo into a mobile image recognition app.
- The app searches the Internet for images of shoes which are the same as, or similar to, the ones in the uploaded picture.
- It returns a listing of similar shoes for sale, and the woman navigates to an ecommerce site and makes a purchase.
At present, this type of digital search program is exceptionally complex. It demands a significant amount of data, and the ability to put that data into context. The process will require adding aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning—two technologies still in their infancy. Google released a program in mid-2017, MobileNets, which allows users to upload images for identification, but at present identification is the endpoint. Further development should someday make it be possible to incorporate mobile images, search, and shopping, but for now, such functionality remains in the distant future.
Augmented Reality Meets Mobile Commerce
Augmented reality (AR) may have been developed for entertainment, but many see its potential in more practical applications. This includes in mobile commerce, where shoppers can use AR to try virtual products at home from their mobile devices before buying. Consumers tend to spend more time on a product page with AR versus one without it. And as a consumer spends more time engaging with a product, they become more invested in that purchase.
Target is one retailer making early use of AR in mobile commerce. In October, the retailer rolled out an AR option on its mobile site that allows users to view furniture through their smartphone camera. A customer considering a new armchair, for example, could use the AR feature to see precisely how the chair will look in their home. The innovative tool allows consumers to check for issues—such as poor fit or style—which may have previously prevented them from purchasing.
Leveraging AR is a successful strategy for several reasons, as it:
- Positions early adopters as industry leaders: Given the technology’s relative newness, AR apps are in limited supply. As AR goes mainstream, companies that already offer such features will stand out from the competition and gain an early edge.
- Removes barriers to online sales: One of the major obstacles to online sales of large items—like furniture—is consumer concern that an item will either not fit or not match, and that it will then be difficult to return. AR features can allow potential buyers to quickly verify fit and style, eliminating common causes of cart abandonment.
- Leverages gamification: AR first made the rounds on mobile as a gamified app via Pokemon Go. As a result, there’s a gamelike feel that’s inherent in any AR app. Brands and retailers like Target and IKEA that choose to offer AR within their mobile apps are capitalizing on this pleasure aspect. And, because games remain the most popular types of apps, incorporating AR and a gamification strategy can significantly improve app downloads and retention.
In response to the popularity of this emerging technology, many brands and retailers are developing innovative mobile offerings that incorporate AR features. Such apps will likely be prevalent in the future, as they help eliminate a standard issue consumers have with online shopping online: the inability to interact with a product physically.
The Future of Mobile Commerce Is Now: Shopping Apps
Mobile shopping apps, like Shopkick, are growing in popularity both within mobile commerce and in brick-and-mortar shopping. Shopkick, a shopping rewards platform, uses several of the tech-forward features consumers are demanding, while also providing a gamified component that turns a shopping trip into a virtual scavenger hunt.
Mobile shopping apps like Shopkick allow brands and retailers to connect with consumers as they travel, offering them opportunities to earn rewards for making purchases and for interacting with products in stores. These shopping apps also present an opportunity for companies looking to boost mobile commerce numbers, as 55% of consumers have searched something out in the store, then gone online to order. Allowing a consumer to discover products within the shopping app, view them in the shopping aisle, virtually try them out at home, and then use the app to make the purchase increases the likelihood of sales.
Shopping apps enhance the mobile shopping experience for the customer, incentivize sales, and allow consumers to browse the products of multiple brands and retailers all in one place.
Shopping apps enhance the mobile shopping experience for the customer, incentivize sales, and allow consumers to browse the products of multiple brands and retailers all in one place. These apps will continue to grow in popularity as the appeal of mobile commerce also increases.
The future of mobile commerce lies in the apps that support it. Consumers want to interact with products before they buy. Being able to view these products and find them online via mobile image search is expected to be a major trend in the future. Augmented reality has already begun to offer consumers the opportunity to virtually interact with products, while shopping apps blur the lines between brick-and-mortar and online commerce. These three developments are set to revolutionize for the future of mobile commerce.
Image courtesy of 88studio