Mobile image recognition technology is streamlining the path to purchase by allowing shoppers to “snap” their way to ownership
The Mobile Commerce Playbook is a 12-week series from PSFK and Braintree exploring the key trends that are defining the future of mobile commerce. Be sure to check back often for more great articles here and on Braintree’s site, and don’t forget to download the full Mobile Commerce Playbook on our Slideshare page.
The cameras in mobile devices are being adopted so they can do more than just capture a photo for Instagram. When paired with image recognition technology, they are increasingly proving to be a powerful tool for mobile commerce. For example, intrepid shoppers can now snap photos of products or scan barcodes, to identify potential purchases before proceeding to the checkout process.
By transforming any product encounter into a sales opportunity, a new wave of services are quickly expanding the notion of what mobile commerce can be. These new services are coming together in a trend we are calling Snap-To-Buy, which examines how mobile phone cameras and image recognition technology are coming together to streamline the path to purchase.
Image credit: TinEye
Experts believe that image recognition is poised to play a much more important role in our daily lives. Nick De Toustain, Director of Sales at LTU Technologies, remarks, “There is no doubt image recognition will play a major role in m-commerce next year. We’ve reached that tipping point where enough consumers have the ‘scan reflex’ and nothing is more natural than scanning an image of the product…image recognition’s time has come.”
There are compelling examples of how we see this trend entering the mainstream. Target’s ‘In A Snap’ is an iOS application that implements image recognition as a means to shop for brand merchandise from a magazine or print ad. Using their Apple device of choice, customers can scan printed materials to see if items featured on the page are available in Target’s inventory. The scan reveals product information such as availability, as well as an option for a single-click gateway to a mobile cart for speedy processing and checkout. Consumers can also choose to save an item for later consideration. The app is another example of Target’s “test-and-learn” approach to building omni-channel capabilities for today’s (and tomorrow’s) digital-savvy shoppers.
SnapUp, by contrast, is an m-commerce app that aims to simplify shopping across a stream of platforms, apps and web browsers. Users take screenshots of products they are interested in and Snapup automatically turns them into full shopping lists. Snapup users can categorize products, create lists for different purposes, and share wishlists with other app users. A price-tracking feature informs users when an item is on sale. When the user is ready to complete a purchase, they can do so through a simple one-click purchasing interface.
Combining both app and device into one kit, Hiku makes it easier for shoppers to create digital shopping lists that can be shared between devices and used for online purchases. Hiku includes two parts—a scanner and iOS app. The scanner is a small device that can be used to scan the barcodes of items in a pantry to add them to a pre-assigned list. Alternatively, users can take advantage of the device’s voice recognition technology to create a shopping list.
After scanning, the app creates a digital list that shoppers can access while at the supermarket, checking items off one by one as they move through the purchase path. Each Hiku list is shareable with other people or devices, which makes it ideal for roommates, two-parent households, or other live-in partnerships. For the next product update, if shoppers get to the store and find an item is out of stock, they will be able to simply order it online through the app.
As with other shopping trends that preceded it, there’s the chance that Snap-To-Buy can slump if implemented incorrectly. As Chris Mellow of Grupo Gallegos warns, “If the scan-to-shop feature doesn’t add significant value, let alone function properly, customers will do the same thing that they’ve done with UPC and QR code scanning and just ignore it.”
It remains to be seen just how widespread the adoption of this new image recognition technology will be in relation to mobile commerce. However, any service that can effectively streamline shopping into a more seamless and intuitive experience is sure to strike a chord with consumers everywhere.
The Mobile Commerce Playbook is a 12-week series from PSFK and Braintree exploring the key trends that can help merchants take a forward-looking approach to refining their mobile offerings. Be sure to check back often as we continue to examine the future of mobile commerce. You can download the full Mobile Commerce Playbook and check out the report on our Slideshare page. Also, don’t forget to head over to Braintree’s site for more great content!