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Is Google’s Project Tango the Start of a Retail Revolution?

Google Tango Retail

Google’s Project Tango, a 3D in-store mapping technology currently in beta test at select retailers like Walgreens, could be the start of a retail revolution. The Project Tango prototype uses infrared light to generate a map of a retail store, and augments the consumer experience by sending users real-time and personalized offerings using pop-ups as they walk down an aisle.

Unlike Apple’s iBeacon, a location-sensing technology that blasts department-specific deals to consumers, the Project Tango technology appears to be more interactive, allowing consumers to collect loyalty points simply by walking through the store much like a Pac-Man player eating yellow dots. The technology is designed to make consumers feel like they are immersed in a video game while they shop, which should drive longer shops and larger baskets.

What Makes Project Tango So Special?

We’ve all heard about how mobile apps are changing the retail landscape, through price comparison apps and scan-and-shop technologies, but they come up short compared to the hands-on augmented reality user experience that Project Tango is poised to deliver.

We previously wrote about the need for retailers to focus on the in-store shopping experience in order to compete with online retailers like Amazon, whose Firefly app poses a huge threat to retailers by encouraging showrooming, and Project Tango could just be the golden ticket that saves the in-store experience.

While Project Tango requires special technologies, like smartphones equipped with sensors designed to take in and analyze space and motion, its ability to generate an accurate map of its surroundings without much human intervention is a big bonus for retailers.

This mapping automation has prompted NASA to take the Project Tango for a test drive in outer space to clear the path for their SPHERES robots, guiding them to where they need to be without direct commands from astronauts. In a brick-and-mortar retail store, Project Tango could help retailers accurately visualize every nook and cranny and translate them into loyalty opportunities through product merchandising as well as managing the consumer’s path through the store.

A New Twist On Retail Gamification

Sure, gamification in retail—such as loyalty points and special discounts given to consumers through check-in apps or as rewards for supporting a brand’s online presence—is nothing new. But all-immersive retail gamification, which is the intent of Project Tango, can provide consumers with not just points and discounts, but an escape from reality. When consumers escape reality and become immersed in the experience, the stay longer and buy more. If you’ve ever watched a teenager playing games at home, you have seen this effect first hand.

Gamification guides consumers to do what retailers want by taking the pain points out of the user experience and by making shopping fun. Instead of push marketing to consumers, consumers are intuitively performing tasks, collecting points, and reaching rewards levels intuitively.

How Project Tango Could Be Used

In a traditional grocery environment, Google’s Project Tango could be tied into innovative recipes. Consumers could ‘build’ a meal with Tango steering them around the store. They could be directed to sampling stations and rewarded for trying new products, directed to where to find them in-store everyday (helping with repeat purchase) and then rewarded for buying them.

The experience could be quite different in a clothing store. Google’s project Tango could help consumers to accessorize outfits or to find ways to wear a piece multiple ways by directing them to other items that work with the piece based on understanding their shopping patterns (do they buy conservative pieces or more fashionable ones?). They could be rewarded for creating options that the store’s visual merchandisers have not put together.

What’s In Store For The Future?

According to Gartner, more than 50% of organizations managing innovation will use gamification by 2015 due to clear user goals, fast feedback loops, and increased engagement. For retailers, gamification means a faster path to purchase and more items in the checkout basket. Consumers’ appetite for instant gratification and rewards has grown tremendously since smartphones were introduced, and Google’s Project Tango could be just what brick-and-mortar stores need to take the in-store user experience to new heights.


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