It is obvious what Amazon.com’s next technology move should be: A virtual store through which customers can stroll from the comfort of their living rooms.
I have been telling anyone who will listen for quite a while that shopping’s inevitable destination is the video game console. The evolution of technology and many other trends certainly point that way.
The company with the most to gain, and, significantly, the least to lose, is Amazon.com.
Amazon vs. Bricks & Mortar Chain Stores
Unlike the competition upon which it has wreaked so much havoc during the past decade, Amazon.com has no brick and mortar locations it need support. But given it’s aspirations of being a retailer of high fashion, Amazon.com needs to replicate the in-store shopping experience as best it can.
The Virtual vs. In-Store Experience
That experience includes four primary components: 1) Natural browsing, 2) social shopping in the true sense of the phrase, 3) in-store advice from a real person, and 4) fitting rooms. Video game technology coupled with motion sensing and dimension capturing cameras like the Kinect can deliver that experience. Though such a virtual experience may not be so good as to replace the actual in-store experience, there’s no reason to think it won’t eventually get good enough.
Browsing at Amazon.com currently means clicking through page after page of images or doing keyword searches. While they’ve made that experience better than anyone else, it still isn’t natural in the way that strolling into a store, looking at displays of merchandise, holding items up and looking them over, is. A video game with a motion-sensing controller can deliver that experience.
Through services like Xbox Live, customers can shop in real time with a friend in a virtual store and those stores can be staffed with real people who can give real advice in real-time whenever a virtual customer asks for advice.
Finally, the one benefit real clothing stores have always had over their online competition has been the ability to touch, feel, and try on the merchandise. Though we don’t yet have tactile technology that allows people to experience the weight and feel of real-world materials in the virtual world (but that technology could very well come to fruition), we do, now, have the ability to try clothes on in a virtual environment.
As the photo above indicates, several applications already exist that use the Kinect controller as the means through which to provide a virtual fitting room.
The Kinect scans the people who stand before it and, in doing so, also has the ability to record body dimensions. Once those are recorded, shoppers will be able to try on clothes to see exactly how they would fit on them, not just someone with their basic sizes. With precise body dimensions stored on your shopping profile, Amazon.com might even be able to deliver the Holy Grail of online clothiers, clothes fitted to the individual.
Finally, in the comfort of your own home and with their wardrobe merely a room away, customers can literally see how potential purchases will look with their existing ensemble. Not quite sure how that tie will look with your favorite shirt and suit? Throw them on and try the tie with the Kinect’s augmented virtuality capabilities.
Amazon.com’s Future Is On The Video Game Console
I’ve been extremely impressed with the experience of Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Through it, I’ve bought a lot more books a lot more impulsively than I ever have. And, more importantly for the present discussion, through it, I’ve bought a lot more clothes.
Amazon.com has studied how to make the experience of buying from them as frictionless as possible as evidenced by their one-click purchase feature. They also know their limitations, so their return policies are liberal and they make the process as easy as possible. And for Amazon Prime subscribers, they eliminate any hesitation due to shipping costs.
Given their track record, their attention to the Amazon.com experience, and their technological savvy, if anyone is going to lead the way in virtual world shopping, it will be them.
What Do You Think?
Is this the future or am I completely off base? Share your thoughts in the comments below: