Traditionally the International Consumer Electronics Show is an event that offers a glimpse of the future in technology from a consumer perspective. CES 2014 is no different-but it wasn't just a glitzy keynote by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer that was creating buzz. Also on display were several technological innovations that suggest a whole new retail world is right around the corner.
For one thing, retail will literally get a facelift with the new "3D Augmented Reality Makeup and Anti-Aging Beauty Mirror" (quite a mouthful) from ModiFace. This gadget lets consumers at cosmetics counters simulate makeup products-blushes, lipsticks and eye shadows-and anti-aging skincare effects, such as dark spot correction, facelift, browlift, cheek volume enhancement and jaw contouring. The consumer simply stands in front of the Beauty Mirror and uses a touchscreen to work magic in real time and in full 3D. The technology works both on a stand-alone store kiosk, or as an app that can be used on a smartphone or tablet.
"Our new 3D Beauty Mirror is a marketing breakthrough for retailers and beauty brands, particularly for cosmetic counters," says KyungMoon Lee, ModiFace Executive Director of Engineering, in a press release. "It's not only a try-before-you-buy tool in the store or at home, but also a way to capture consumers' interest as they walk store aisles."
The retail revolution will not be taking place just at merchandise counters, but also at the point-of-sale. Next on the horizon is a whole new way to pay-the biometric scanner. At CES, PulseWallet demonstrated a point-of-sale system that scans the customer's hands as a unique security method. When a first time payment is made, the customer swipes a card, punches in a phone number and gets a hand scan. Subsequent purchases in-store can be made just with the hand scan, eliminating the need to swipe a card again.
Seems as if bitcoins will penetrate the world of retail as well. This virtual currency has largely been relegated to online speculating, but several new products promise to lift awareness and usage of bitcoin as a way to pay for virtually anything, including a "bitcoin ATM" that converts paper currency into bitcoins, and a newly launched e-commerce site, BitcoinShop.us, a kind of amazon store card.com that uses bitcoins as the exclusive method of payment.
Last but not least is tracking technology, most notably Apple's iBeacon, which lets retailers target consumers who are in or near their stores with a high degree of accuracy. CES is showing off the technology via a kind of high-tech scavenger hunt at this week's event. Using the CES mobile app, visitors can "collect badges for encountering the location-aware Bluetooth iBeacons placed throughout the CES showfloor." It may be an emerging technology, but iBeacon is already planned for implementation in Apple stores, of course, and some major retailers, including Macy's. In fact, the chain plans to introduce it in its San Francisco and New York City stores within weeks.
One of iBeacon's advantages, according to Shopkick, is the technology's application to both online and offline shopping: "It can also tie at-home browsing to in-store benefit-if [a customer] 'likes' a specific product in the app, shopBeacon can remind her when she enters the store that sells it. It can also deliver department-specific offers throughout the store..." iBeacon competitors, like Qualcomm's "Gimbal Context Aware Platform," are already entering the fray.
There could be a backlash from some technologies such as iBeacon, however: They may be simply too intrusive for a customer's comfort. Already, Nordstrom felt the heat from consumers who, during a test of a new WiFi system, didn't like having their actions tracked in stores.
This is just the beginning of a brave new retail world-and consumers have yet to weigh in on just how much technology they want to help them shop.