The retail world is changing and it isn’t just about online versus offline retailing, it is about ‘new ways’ to shop. This fundamental shift in retail is led by mobile commerce that has blurred the lines between online and offline; the retailers are looking for new ways to grow (and compete with Amazon!).
As these retailers explore technology to serve customers across channels, TV or video streaming is becoming a logical next step, a new way to shop. Experts have talked about interactive TV, and some adventurous retail startup has even tried interactive advert. So, I would rather explore two specific (hypothetical) ways to shop while streaming a video:
1. The Amazon Way If you are a Kindle user, you would have heard of ‘Explore Your Book with X-Ray’. For beginners, Amazon.com defines this new feature as “X-Ray lets you explore the ‘bones of a book’. You can also view more detailed information from Wikipedia and from Shelfari, Amazon’s community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers.” So, what does this has to do with video streaming, let alone shopping? Let me introduce you to my friend.
- Ron is not really a shopaholic but he loves to buy toys for his toddler son whenever he comes across the right item. He also spends a good amount of time watching kids shows with his son
- One day, while watching Sesame Street on Amazon Instant Prime Video on his Kindle Fire HD, he really liked a toy. He immediately paused the video, pressed the new (the future!) X-Ray icon for video that quickly generated a catalog of products that are related to that episode and are available through Amazon.com
- He was excited to see the toy in the catalog. He clicks on the item, buys it using the check-out option and returned to the video
2. The Other Way What if Ron is not a Kindle user? What if Ron is watching the same show on Netflix, Hulu Plus or iTunes that is streamed through Apple TV. Lets introduce eBay’s Milo to this scenario – Milo’s engine allows eBay to list in-store inventory of participating retailers.
- Once again, Ron will start by pausing the video and/or hitting the Shop (X-Ray in #1 above) button on the remote
- He will see a similar catalog of products and click the item of his choice
- Milo’s engine will use his location to search in-store inventory of participating retailers, lets pick Toys-R-Us
- Ron finds out that there is one available in the Toys-R-Us that is 2 miles away from his house
- Ron can buy this toy in two ways – use ‘eBay Now’ for same day delivery or use pick-up from the store option
Excited about the new and savvy way to shop? It may not take too long for companies to turn these scenarios into reality. In fact, I named these scenarios in a peculiar manner, The Amazon Way and The Other Way, for a reason. In my take on one of the future ways to shop, Amazon does not need a partner while scenario #2 requires partnership between at least three players – Video Streaming (Apple iTunes, or Netflix/Hulu on Apple TV/XBOX), Technology (eBay’s Milo) and a Retailer (Toys-R-Us, Macy’s, Target, Best Buy etc). It is clear that scenario #2 is very difficult if not impossible to execute. It’s far too early to predict a first-mover into this new way of shopping but I’d bet my money on Amazon.
– Please feel free to comment and provide feedback. I know I have made few assumptions here but I love to explore interesting ideas.