LONDON, United Kingdom — When Tim Cook gave his keynote speech on Apple’s iOS7 last month, he described it as “the world’s most advanced operating system.” Press coverage focused on the minimalist, skeumorph-less interface, the "control centre" for quick-access to the most-used features and the fullscreen view. But it was the unmentioned iBeacon feature that has the power to change retail forever.
Paired with the right in-store sensors, iBeacon gives retailers a way to send a welcome message to a customer’s iPhone as soon as they step into a store, a personalised offer on the handbag they’ve just picked up or a recommendation on cufflinks that would go well with the shirts they’re browsing.
Pioneering the use of these sensors is San Francisco-based technology startup Estimote. Once installed, the company's colourful beacons broadcast tiny radio signals that turn the store into a Bluetooth-enabled zone. When a customer steps into this zone, the iBeacon on their iPhone can detect and interpret these signals, allowing retailers to send out targeted promotions and messages via their iOS apps. Estimote is currently piloting the sensors with some of the largest retailers in the US and Europe.
Making it easier than ever for shoppers to buy the products they discover in their favourite magazines is Mastercard’s ShopThis technology. Currently being trialed within the November tablet edition of Wired (US), the technology allows subscribers to buy clothing and gadgets directly from features without navigating away from the page. Readers must first create a "digital wallet" using Mastercard’s MasterPass, which involves entering their payment details and shipping address. Then, as they flick through the iPad magazine, they can tap the shopping cart icon alongside product images to fill their virtual cart with the items such as the Native Eyewear Haskill Aviators or Sony RX100 II pocket camera, showcased in the magazine's "Best Gear for Hanging at the Ski Lodge" feature. Orders are fulfilled by online electronics retailer Rakuten.com, ShopThis's first official retail partner.
Also enhancing the mobile and tablet shopping experience is luxury online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter with the launch of its new iOS app The Netbook. As well as browsing a live "Global Feed" of every single Net-a-Porter product currently being bought around the world, shoppers can create a "Love List" of their favourite products, which they can then share with others. They can also follow "Love Lists" to collate their own "Admire Feed" of products, selected by those whose style they like, from fellow shoppers, friends and bloggers to stylists, editors and celebrities. Pre-launched during London Fashion Week in September, the app is currently available only to key influencers. Everyone else must join a waiting list.
Sheena Patel is features editor at GDR Creative Intelligence, a London-based foresight consultancy that identifies innovation in retail, branding and hospitality.