IBM launches AR personal shopper app

IBM has released a prototype of an augmented reality mobile shopping app that retailers could adopt to offer consumers a more personalised in-store experience.

IBM

The technology company’s research scientists say the personal shopper app will allow retailers’ marketing to act as a “welcome service” to customers, by overlaying product information, reviews, offers and suggestions of other items they might like.

IBM Research adds that the app will build in-store traffic and make it easier to understand consumer likes and dislikes, which could in turn influence floor plans and product arrangements in-store.

The company hopes to partner with a number of different retailers to integrate loyalty schemes and promotions into the as yet unbranded app, which is due to launch by the end of the year.

Users will be able register to use the app in participating stores by using their telephone number or loyalty cards. They can begin to build a profile of preferences – including dietary needs, pricing, environmental and religious preferences – and the app will use this information to address their needs with the products in store.

A consumer can use the app by pointing their mobile phone’s video camera over the retailers’ shelves. Products are recognised according to their shape, colours and other features.

The app will then tap into the retailer’s back-end computer system to overlay information on the screen and draw attention to offers and other similar products.

Sima Nadler, retail lead at IBM research, says: “In the age of social media, consumer expectations are soaring and people want information and advice about the products they’re going to buy.

“By closing the gap between the online and in-store shopping experience, marketers can appeal to the individual needs of consumers and keep them coming back.”

Smartphone users are already helping boost sales at bricks and mortar stores, according to Deloitte.

A survey conducted in March by the research firm states that about half (48%) of smartphone owners say their phones have influenced their decision to buy an item in store.

It adds that 61% of smartphone owners that have used their devices to shop have done so in-store and 52% have used their mobile to influence their purchase decision on the way to the store.

The influence of smartphones on consumers’ shopping habits translates to about $159bn (£101bn) in forecasted sales for 2012, Deloitte claims.

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