The Price Is Right

Wearable technology, augmented reality and more specifically Google's Project Glass, has been receiving a significant amount of press over the last few months. The nascent technology has been gaining plenty of momentum ahead of its rumoured launch later this year. Google is investing heavily in promoting its pet project and founder Sergei Brin has become a walking advert for the product. With revolutionary technology like this the question often remains as to what its true benefit will be, writes Michael Nuciforo

Wearable technology, augmented reality and more specifically Google’s Project Glass, has been receiving a significant amount of press over the last few months. The nascent technology has been gaining plenty of momentum ahead of its rumoured launch later this year. Google is investing heavily in promoting its pet project and founder Sergei Brin has become a walking advert for the product. With revolutionary technology like this the question often remains as to what its true benefit will be, writes Michael Nuciforo

Of the many opportunities Glass presents to businesses around the world, perhaps the biggest is the transition from generic transactions to personalised relationships. So can Google break down the glass ceiling between merchant and consumer?

For centuries, the exchange of goods was based on conversation, listening and a fair amount of haggling. The price of goods was not set or presented but agreed. In 1861 this all changed. John Wanamaker, a Philadelphia department store owner, introduced a small tag with a price that was prominently placed on all his products. A devout Christian, Wanamaker believed that if everyone was equal in the eyes of God, then everyone should receive equal pricing. Besides winning him some points with the man upstairs, the price tag had the unintended consequence of speeding up the buying and selling process. Other traders soon followed around the US and the price tag was born.

Since then, the price tag has become an established part of the buying process. It’s hard to imagine shopping without knowing the price upfront. Even when the internet revolutionised and disrupted commerce for the better, the process of presenting a generic price remained. Unchallenged and largely unnoticed. The price tag has stayed ‘one size fits all’, even in a world of increasing personalisation. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you purchased before, or what your income is, price doesn’t discriminate. This limits the bargaining position of the retailer and ultimately the consumer. Can you imagine a world where the price was in the eye of the beholder? Here’s how…

Augmented reality has advanced rapidly over the last few years. Products like Google Glass include sophisticated sensors, scanning algorithms and product detection tools that mean even the slightest variations in objects and shapes can be calculated. This means that Glass can determine exactly what it’s looking at. Talk about game changer. Glass will be able to tell you what the product is, who the manufacturer is, and even how sustainable it is, but here comes the really cool part – it will also tell you the price. A personalised price calculated for you.

Through Glass a merchant could present different prices for different people. It could be based on how much stock is left, how many people are in the store or even what time of day it is. Prices could also be presented based on what type of customer you are. If you a regular shopper at the store or if you have come from a rival outlet. It could even determine how influential you are as a consumer and whether you are likely to share the purchase with your friends. These variations in price will not be large, but enough to influence your decision right at the point of impact – decision making time.

Glass could also see a shift in the way we pay for goods. We have recently seen a huge trend in retailers adopting tablets and mobile devices at the point of sale. Imagine if retailers fitted all their sales assistances with Google Glass. It’s like mobile point-of-sale on steroids. To take payments, retail staff would simply have look at the products barcode. This will in turn allow staff to interact with customers at any location within the store. If customers want to self-checkout they can. A security guard at the entrance will be able to scan the customer’s bag of goods and confirm that all the items had been paid for.

For years merchants have been embracing internet channels to increase sales and make shopping a ‘city that never sleeps’. This investment in technology has often been at the expense of a closer customer relationship. It’s now time to achieve the best of both worlds. Retailers can use Google Glass to generate meaningful insight about the customer’s preferences, purchase behaviours and favourite items to generate dynamic prices and throw away the rule book. The power of mobile, location and social data is already creating a revolution in the way we shop. With products like Google Glass, this revolution will literally happen in front of our very own eyes.