"Discovery will no longer be limited to text search," writes the team at Trendwatching.com in their Feburary 2012 Trend Briefing.
They predict that -- due to the widespread proliferation of smartphones (equipped with high-quality cameras, of course) -- the process of searching for real-time information will move from text search (i.e. Googling something) to visual search (using apps that employ QR code, location-based, product recognition and augmented reality technology).
Naturally, this concept has very real implications for retailers because most consumers will look something up on their phones (or tablets) before they buy it.
Below are the tech platforms fueling the "point-know-buy" process behind visual search (Source: Trendwatching.com):
- QR Codes: "After trying hard for years, QR codes are finally breaking into mainstream consumer consciousness, although they are in danger of being superseded by the newer, often more natural technologies below."
- Augmented Reality: "The addition or overlaying of digital content onto the physical world (as seen through a screen). To date, most augmented reality (AR) apps (such as Wikitude) have relied on a phone’s GPS and compass sensors to ‘guess’ what a user is looking at, but newer and more powerful visual search AR technologies are beginning to appear (as below)."
- 'Tagging': "A host of applications are now available that can pick up on invisible markers in objects or sounds in order to trigger information or actions. Check out Blippar’s or Aurasma’s interactive magazine covers to get an idea of where this is heading."
- Visual Search: "The future of POINT-KNOW-BUY. Rather than trying to determine where a user is, ‘smart’ image recognition technologies (like Google Goggles or Layar Vision) attempt to identify the actual object in the viewfinder in order to search or deliver additional content. So pointing one’s camera at an image of the Eiffel Tower will have the same result as pointing it at the real thing."
The Trendwatching team proceeds to break down a host of real-world examples of visual search apps like (WordLens, Leafsnap, Skymap, Find My Face, Shazam -- which is actually audio search, and more). You gotta check it out. There are some really cool new apps out there that you may not even know existed.
Speaking of audio search, the advent of voice-command technology like Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Kinect voice remote shows how new advancements are taking us beyond the traditional, text-based search engine.
Doug Stephens gave an excellent example of a hypothetical point-know-buy process at last year's iQmetrix Wireless Summit in Miami:
"You're going to be watching 30 Rock and you'll say, 'I like Tina Fey's glasses. I want to buy those.' You'll be able to pause your TV and look up information about those glasses, tweet to your friends to see if they like them too, and buy them using your phone, by scanning a QR code that appears on screen. All without even getting up off the couch."
With all of the above technology, scenarios like these are not very far away.
And so, retailers must ask themselves: How are customers going to find me?