Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Ubiquitous virtual reality and embracing the real-time online catalog: a case study in cross-channel sales coordination 1

Posted in business and convergent technologies, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on July 22, 2014

I began writing to my directory: Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time from very early on in writing to this blog at all, with my first posting to it going live on October 19, 2009 with Business and Convergent Technologies 1 – a new emerging landscape of opportunity (and also see my more recent continuations of that directory with its Page 2 listings.)

• Think of this posting as an exercise in thinking through the implications and the possibilities of engaging with an always online and connected shopping community in the bricks and mortar storefront context,
• With a goal of more effectively connecting with the 21st century customer by real-time connecting with them through their ubiquitous smart phones – and even when they are physically in your store.

When business owners think of online connectivity and of reaching out to their customers and to prospective customers through online channels, they almost always limit their consideration to traditional, distantly connected online sales and web-based storefronts – and even as they see their customers carrying around and using their smartphones while shopping in their stores.

• This is a real mistake and certainly for any business that offers a complex inventory of purchase options.
• This is just as much a mistake where a business sells items that customers might want to see and hold before buying, and even if they would ultimately buy online – or where a physical store might offer, for example, only some color or other selection options in their storefront but where they would like to be able to capture sales from customers who want models or versions of products that they would only have available online. Here, a business can effectively hold a much larger and more comprehensive online inventory than might ever be possible in-house in a bricks and mortar store and certainly when they can acquire new inventory items very quickly from their wholesale providers and from manufacturers, for their online operations.
• And with this I have only cited two of many reasons as to how online can enrich and enable the physical storefront too.

I will focus in the balance of this posting on the first of these three bullet points, and at least initially with the sale of feature-rich items such as gas grills for backyard cooking and similarly complex systems as far as purchasing decisions are concerned (e.g. home entertainment systems.)

• An online-aware bricks and mortar store would prominently offer for every item type on display, a smartphone scannable quick response code (QR code) (also called a matrix or 2-D barcode.) This can be added to a price tag on each item for sale, and it can also beneficially be added to shelving or to sales displays where these items are offered, or on signs leading to those sales areas.
• Each of these QR codes would include in it a smartphone-readable hyperlink to an online catalog listing for this shop keeping unit (SKU) item type. And this is where adding online to the physical storefront can add real value.
• This type of online resource can offer standard, traditional technical specifications, size and color selections available and other details that a customer might want. But an online link can go beyond what a standard printed poster or informational flier in that store could offer, and in an increasing appealing range of new and emerging ways.
• Switching to a clothing sales example, consider the impact of offering your customers an option to take a selfie – a self-photo of themselves, scan a QR code for a jacket and then see themselves as they would look wearing it and with an option of seeing how they would look sequentially, wearing that jacket in any or even every color it is offered in and with or without its detachable hood. Yes, clothing customers can and do and will continue to physically try on clothing before buying, and changing rooms will not go away. But this would let customers try out a color or style available but not in stock, that the store could order for them or that they could buy from that business online too. This means capturing sales opportunities that would otherwise be lost if inventory available, but not immediately could be made effectively available too.
• The whole idea here is to make the purchasing decision as easy and as smooth and interruption free as possible while maximizing the customer’s opportunity to choose what would work best for them. Finding a changing room is a distraction and a delay and when the store is busy and there is a waiting line for trying items on, offering a virtual reality alternative would offer real value to the customer.
• And this brings me to the virtual catalog, as a complete and detailed, real-time immediately available shopping guide – like having the most expert and experienced member of that store’s staff immediately available but without having anyone leaning over your shoulder as a customer.

I have been writing of this in large part from the consumer’s perspective in creating ease and value for them. That, of course, means discussing this from the business’ perspective too because improving the customer experience and particularly in ways that the competition is not matching, creates competitive strength and value for the business too. But there are a lot more issues that are business oriented that come up in this type of discussion too. I will look into some of them in a follow-up posting to this. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and at Page 2 of that directory. You can also find this and related material at Web 2.0 Marketing.

One Response

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  1. Alan J. Singer said, on July 22, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    ​Certainly ubiquitous!

    Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies
    Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
    128 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549
    (P) 516-463-5853 (F) 516-463-6196


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