III - A New Consumer Experience

Recap

When preparing these posts on the iPhone 6 and it's potential on future services I went into detail about the phone essentially becoming the mobile wallet. It's no longer far fetched considering competitors are implementing similar features, some downright copying feature for feature method for method but it's typical coming from a specific company that will remain nameless. 

But the story remains, there's a growing sentiment that the way many used to do things before is evolving in realtime to something they were never aware of before and never imagined would happen and remain somewhat leery with regard to the technological advancements taking place.


iBeacon, NFC, & Shopping

Chip & Pin, Bluetooth Beacons, NFC, and Personalization, these are the things that will move retail forward. Yes there are many who's paranoia can reach the Himilayas and trying to convince them that their assumptions are amusingly wrong will in many cases be a fools errand. With banks moving to Chip & Pin cards through next year where retailers must switch to the new terminals otherwise be held liable for any malicious activity the experience of paying for items become less of a hassle in a sense (taking out the wallet showing ID etc). Essentially the U.S. can creep into the new century with a payment structure that has already been established in other countries for the past few years if not more than a decade.

Bluetooth Beacons are still in the early stages, in some cases retailers and small shops have yet to fully grasp and understand the ideology behind these beacons, one thing they're missing is the idea of understanding and serving the customer, and utilizing such services are beneficial. If you have the retailers app on your mobile device beacons will provide you with current sales on items you're standing next to, if you're at a movie theater you could be presented with available points toward items at the concession stand or be presented with deals toward tickets. There are numerous benefits to beacons though the paranoia will be boisterous this is essentially an inevitability.

NFC providing the ability for contactless payments upon checkout will arrive likely by October 2015 where retailers will have to update their systems to effectively accept chip and pin credit cards or bare the burden of any fraudulent charges made, a burden they likely would prefer not to take on. A lot of these systems accept NFC contactless payments allowing users the ability to simply wave their card, or in this case their phone, and soon their watch over the receiver to make their payment. NFC could eventually offer the ability to use your smartphone to open your hotel room door as well utilizing similar security protocols. 

One of the best examples to see how these services come together can be seen from the Clover Developers Blog Post where Apple Pay, iBeacons, and a POS service by Clover is tied together to offer such a seamless experience. It's likely that loyalty cards will be implemented within the coming months based on app utilization & implementation as well as retail cards. The overall experience of shopping will shift and Apple Pay has a strong chance at leading this charge in both the physical and online retail space. The question is, are retailers smart enough to adapt and make this experience convenient for their own customers?



Experience

The experience is key to implementing such features for consumers, as the video shows there are a multitude of things that could be added but the key is not to bombard your customer with push notifications. What may add to the complication of customer engagement is the fact that iBeacons work as long as the customer has the corresponding app to the store on their phone. And considering the dearth of available apps from retailers that could truly benefit from such an experience as well as an improvement in the build quality of the app itself it's likely this won't come to fruition for some retailers any time soon. 

One way to look at the process is to view Apple's application in-store and the process of implementing beacons. Consider for a moment walking into a store to search for a specified product like the cavemen & cavewomen usually do as you pick out various items each is scanned and placed your provided bag you use Touch ID to pay for your items and simply leave. Now apply that process to several other scenarios from grocery shopping to purchasing clothing and upon being given a coupon the code is applied to the purchase of any items. 

The main challenge retailers face is providing an experience that isn't burdensome but an experience that's seamless, provides information that's useful, and in some cases provides information that can be acted upon creating engagement that doesn't feel like a chore or a job. Creating such methodologies in mobile retail apps isn't simple but retailers such as Best Buy, Macy's, Target, could and should invest in quality UI and UX designers for the implementation of services beneficial to both the consumer and the retailer.

Now take this a step further than retailers, consider this expanding among sports venues as it's currently doing at the AT&T Park in San Francisco, how this technology could be implemented with movie theaters (will discuss in depth at a later date), consider how such a technology could be implemented in the travel industry. Though the fear is this could give off some Minority Report vibe that would understandably make many uncomfortable the ideological goal would be to steer clear from such an invasion of personal and private space, to make sure notifications are turned on that deliver your location information to any social networks. 



There's still a ways to go in the new consumer experience and the new experiences will come from companies who understand that in order to survive the changing landscape in technology and retail many must adapt, those that don't will likely face the same fate as Circuit City, Borders, or others slowly floundering and on their way out.