For fans of retail or marketing history — or just fans of how people communicated in the past — reading old magazine and newspaper advertisement from, say, before the 1960s can be fun and illuminating.
Sure, there are a lot of pretty pictures, but what strikes you is the relative verbosity of the ad copy, the sentences and narratives that seem long by today’s standards, and the way the words often seem to carry a heavier pitch load than do the images.
These days, as a new decade dawns, the story is more about visual search and visual commerce. Copy still has a vital role — including in the all-vital area of Google search results — but in 2019, you are more likely to find retail and marketing poetry, as it were, within the visuals, not the world. At least, that seems to be the ideal expressed by recent developments and looming technological deployments, including new 5G mobile network technology.
Recent evidence of this ongoing push — among the main and increasing trends in the global digital economy — comes from Snap as it tries to find a stronger presence for itself amid the world of social media and the commerce enabled by that type of platform. With new 3D effects included for Snapchat use, Snap has reportedly introduced its third generation of wearable sunglass cameras called Spectacles. Users can, for instance, capture 3D snaps that have an effect of side-to-side depth due to dual-angle cameras, according to reports.
The glasses have a lightweight design for all-day wear and are made from one stainless steel sheet. They come in a “mineral” colorway as well as carbon black. And the units have a charging case for storage as well as powering up.
The new hardware has two cameras, with one at each of the outside top corners of the lenses to make for the 3D effects. They record at 60 fps and capture in HD. Audio comes in through an array of four microphones. There is also a capture button to trigger video or photo shooting on either side.
Beyond 3D snaps, the reports noted that there are 3D filters that add augmented reality (AR) graphics effects to videos that are captured, along with 3D lenses that provide characters and stickers to their snaps. The reports also noted that users can take advantage of 3D viewing.
The Rise Of AR
When it comes to AR, you can count on more efforts in the new decade thanks to the fledgling deployments of 5G mobile network technology.
“Retailers like to vaunt their forays into augmented and virtual reality, but current 4G connectivity isn’t fast enough to scale these capabilities to all mobile users,” is how one recent analysis puts it. “Many AR experiments are still considered proof-of-concept, but standardizing 5G will undoubtedly accelerate the mainstreaming of connected retail.”
The focus of a good deal of those AR efforts will no doubt come down to the omnichannel experience — that is, augmenting, if you will, the in-story experience for digital- and mobile-minded consumers.
“Above all, in-store AR adds a visual context to the purchasing experience,” the analysis states. “A customer can hover their smartphone over a product and see product information such as ingredients, ratings and instructions projected onto their screen.”
Already, retailers, telecoms and others are mapping out that 5G AR future (and beyond). For instance, South Korea’s SK Telecom and retail conglomerate Shinsegae Group have joined forces on 5G retail. They plan develop new business models and services centered around 5G technology.
The recent deal calls for the companies to develop what a report called “5G-based business models that can be applied to Shinsegae’s department stores and discount store chain E-Mart as well as various shopping malls.” That effort will apparently involve virtual reality (VR) along with AR. The plan is to use VR technology to enable consumers to shop via digital platforms instead of inside brick-and-mortar locations, although no further details were immediately available.
It’s not just 5G that will fuel visual commerce and visual search efforts. Take the example of Ted Mann, CEO of Slyce, a visual search firm.
In a recent PYMNTS interview, Mann described the search for a cheesy sweater — one with, in his words, “little teddy bears all over it.” He tried in vain to search via text for that product, a wedding anniversary gift for pals who apparently have a good sense of humor. How do you translate such an item into a workable search term that will bring up the proper item?
However, Mann wasn’t about to give up — cheesy sweaters make such memorable presents, after all. He uploaded an image of the apparel item on Pinterest, where the first result “was not an exact match, but spot on.” Victory achieved — score one for visual search.
Instagram and other social media platforms, along with retailers (Slyce serves about 60 of them), have integrated visual search, and the numbers promise to keep rising. In this era of providing consumer experiences instead of mere transactions, visual search offers something extra and more efficient than many other retail tools, according to Mann.
“It can solve real-world problems, like building shopping lists,” he said, noting how tedious it can be to do so on mobile devices without technology that eases the hassles — frustrations with which many consumers can relate. Visual search works with gift and baby registries as well. It can also combine with AR, and, when deployed in certain ways, offer a full product range and experience to consumers.
Words may be giving way to pictures in the 21st century, but that opens up all types of new opportunities for retailers as they embrace the latest technology and respond to changing consumer demands.