This is the first piece in a series of blog posts on how technology innovation is changing the retail industry by Matthew Knight, Head of Innovation at Carat.
The first innovation I’m going to look at in this new column on technologies which are disrupting the retail landscape is Powatag, a UK based startup which has already raised almost $100m in funding in the last twelve months. Powatag offers brands the opportunity to turn every touchpoint into a point of transaction.
The idea is pretty simple - every piece of content you put into market can be tagged in someway, whether it be a QR code in print, an audio signal in TV or Radio, image recognition, NFC, beacon technology, and so on. The consumer can use their Powatag enabled app to immediately purchase the item they’re looking at.
The app acts as not only the interface providing detailed product information, but also as a wallet, storing your credit card and payment information, making the purchase process as frictionless as possible, and transparently integrating with whatever back end systems the retailers have in place.
French retailer Comptoir des Cotonniers is already trialling the system, creating 10,000 virtual stores utilising traditional out of home media, powered by Powatag to create their lefastshopping.com concept, delivering products within 48 hours. UK retailers including Waitrose and Argos, as well as brands who are traditionally seen as less innovative like Laura Ashley, are exploring the system this year too - and brands who don’t necessarily have their own significant high street presence, like adidas and Universal Music.
Whilst the opportunity to enable purchase right at the point of a message is clear, the largest opportunity is for retailers who want to explore m-commerce without necessarily investing in developing their own platform, and the opportunity to create retail spaces through media. The technology allows even the most simple 6 sheet bus-shelter to become a valuable retail experience for consumers.
The data which m-commerce applications like PowaTag generate around not only the types of product purchased, but also those which are browsed and not purchased, or the data around which type of content and advertising prompts people to explore further, is hugely valuable in the still nascent landscape of mobile commerce and second screening.
A challenge which many brands have is understanding the effectiveness of advertising in driving to direct sales - approaches like PowaTag allow retailers to directly track the impact of a message into an m-commerce sale, and start to optimise around messaging, placement and channels which drive the most effective conversion rates.
Amazon’s Firefly application on their soon to launch phone in the US replicates some of what Powatag does, but Powatag is already becoming an established player in the m-commerce field, and it will be interesting to watch what results the first 240 odd brands who have signed up to the platform are seeing, and how they’ll develop their m-commerce strategies based upon this.