Google Glass on the high street: what do retailers need to know?

Google is most shared social video brand of 2012, helped by Project Glass‘Shoot and wink’, the latest update to Google Glass will have certainly ruffled a few feathers. While the more technically minded among us will be delighted at the new innovation, which allows users wearing the headset to take pictures simply by winking their eye, the reaction from retailers is likely to be mixed.

Glass is set to reach UK shores this year, and although mass adoption of the device is not expected to occur in 2014, its arrival will certainly impact consumer consumption habits.  For some retailers, Google Glass is already being perceived as a Pandora’s box. Fears that the device will only accelerate the trend of showrooming, where shoppers research products in-store but go on to purchase them cheaper online, are now being heightened thanks to the new ‘winking’ feature.

But any retailer who hopes that Google Glass is just the latest consumer fad and the ‘accessory of the moment’ should be careful not to neglect the technology. In fact, we’re willing to bet that the impact of Google Glass on the high street’s future is likely to be significant, and therefore not something to be ignored.

Just as the smartphone revolution took a few years to become fully established, the widespread adoption of Google Glass may also take some time, although Juniper Research guesses that nearly 70 million wearable smart devices will be sold globally by 2017. Additionally, according to some consumer research we conducted last year, the appetite for the device is already large – with British consumers already preparing themselves to use the device to help with their shopping while on the high street.

Even before the Google Glass is publicly available, findings show that over a quarter of consumers (28 per cent) would use wearable technology to access in-store promotions and similarly 27 per cent would also like to be kept informed of local offers via the device.

What’s more, a third of UK consumers would use Google Glass to plan their shopping routes and over a quarter (27 per cent) would use the technology to search for available stock and product ideas to purchase while in-store – rising to 45 per cent for 18- to 24-year-olds. Additionally, more than one in five consumers (22 per cent) would like to be able to unlock additional offers and promotions, via digital screens such as store window displays using the technology.

While Google Glass may well not take off over night from a retail perspective, retailers will still need to consider how to use Glass to engage consumers and put themselves on the front foot. It’s important to remember that wearable technology has the potential to help both consumers and retailers. Consumers will be able to make informed purchase decisions and redeem offers, while Google Glass will help retailers promote the visibility of products on social networks in a novel and engaging way.

In fact, as with other connected devices, Google Glass has the ability to spur a retail renaissance on the UK’s high streets; giving retailers the ability to link consumers, devices, and data to offer more personalised shopping experiences, whether that is in-store, online, or on mobile.  Far from spelling the end for the high street, mobile and wearable technologies have the potential to revolutionise how retailers operate and connect with consumers, as well as enormous capacity to improve and streamline business processes in the future. In this context, Google Glass is definitely one for retailers to watch in 2014 and beyond.

Eric Abensur is CEO of Venda.