February 27th, 2013 | 4 MIN READ

Google Glass: Is G-Commerce Next?

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

Google Glass is nearing consumer launch, with Google already holding developer hack-a-thons and offering advanced pairs (at a $1500 price tag) to contest winners.

As a novel device that's expected to run apps and connect to the Internet, the natural curiosity is what potential it holds for digital marketers and ecommerce. Is G-Commerce on the horizon?

A disruptive device?

Like smartphones and tablets, Glass can capture input and send and receive information. Innovative as it is for headwear, nothing it does can't be done through smartphones -- take a picture, record video, check stocks, weather, email, receive texts, make a video call, use GPS, etc. The differentiator is that it's hands-free (aside from controls on the side of the device), enabling quicker access to information, while bringing the connection "closer to the senses."

Elastic Path digital commerce strategist David Chiu comments:

I don't think that Glass will be disruptive just because it's a wearable device. That's like saying that a mobile phone with no software or apps is disruptive. Both are just pieces of glass that provide a UI. The disruptive part will be the evolution/creation of digital products and services which provide value-adds that weren't previously practical without that specific kind of screen (PC, laptop, television, tablet, mobile, and now wearable).

Developers will shape the utility of Glass, but ultimately it's Glass users who will determine what "sticks." But that doesn't mean we can't do some crystal-ballin' on what may emerge.

Disrupting Search

Perhaps Glass' biggest disruptive potential is how we search when we're on the go. Google's mobile Search app currently supports image capture search. For example, aiming the camera at a book's barcode using the Google Search app...

...brings up options to search Google Shopping or view in Google Books.

Google Shopping further drills down to vendor results and "search nearby."

A Glass Search app is a no-brainer. A mash-up with Maps and a database of local product inventory (provided through data feeds from local merchants) leveraging GPS could provide directions to the nearest copy of this book, all without pulling your phone out of your pocket.

But Google's more ambitious than this -- it could one day disrupt its own search engine baby with the expansion of its card-based Android app Google Now. Cards are packets of information organized around subjects like sports, travel, weather, real estate and restaurants that are personalized and predictive, like an always-on digital butler.

Imagine a Google Shopping card, integrated with Google Wallet, that enables a purchase experience like this:

Glass could capture a barcode, scour the Google Shopping database and identify available product attributes, enabling the Glass user to add to a virtual cart and purchase. The card could use a predictive decision engine that selects the lowest price plus shipping source (or highest rated merchant), eliminating the need to comparison shop or share financial information with any third party.

Will you need a Glass App?

Glass is paired to a mobile device, so it could easily tap into existing smartphone apps. Glass has an API for developers, but it's too early to make a business case for Glass-specific ecommerce apps.

However, Glass may in the short-term boost Android's momentum, amping the priority for developing Android apps over iOS. Considering Apple's share of the mobile OS market is decomposing, iOS apps may become much more of a luxury than a necessity for mobile commerce.

In the long-term, rather than require native apps, Glass and other "smart" products are expected to be platform agnostic, fetching and sending data from apps in the cloud, sending and receiving only the digital information it needs to perform its own relevant functions. Gartner calls this "cognizant computing."

Cognizant computing is not a new concept, it is the natural evolution of a world driven not by devices but rather collections of applications and services that extend across multiple platforms and exist outside the realm of connected screens, such as phones, tablets, PCs or televisions.

Disrupting the WWW?

These cloud-based, platform-agnostic apps and services offer the "ultimate in responsive design," and could be what ultimately disrupts the browser-based World Wide Web as we know it. Commerce may be conducted entirely through APIs.

Until Glass and its API are officially released to the masses, we don't know exactly how (or if) users wanna use it, and what apps make sense. Innovation will unfold (and we'll be watching). The question is, can you future-proof your business against emerging tech and ensure your products and services are accessible in the context your customers are seeking them?

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