Google Glass Exit Should Focus Brands On Connecting Smartphones And Beacons

So Google Glass has been dropped -- or at least Google making the glasses has been dropped. We have yet to hear whether trendy eyewear designers the Internet giant partnered with will follow suit. Mind you, if Google is giving up the ghost, it's hard to imagine anyone ploughing on bravely alone.

Rather than wonder why, because the reasons behind its demise are pretty obvious, the big question now is whether marketers instead will focus on what customers actually want. Understanding exactly what that is will be open to interpretation, but linking smartphones to NFC devices or beacons would have to be a good start. Although the supermarkets had flirted withGoogle Glass, I never really got the end use they were envisaging -- someone filming their weekly shop, or someone ticking off a shopping list on the spectacles rather than a piece of paper?

The truth is, if retailers of all kinds want to get closer to customers, they already have the perfect medium that just about everyone already has. Rather than try to convince people they need to look like "that guy" out of Star Trek and wear privacy-invading eyewear, they could simply reach out to the smartphone in their pocket. What could be more obvious than linking smartphones to beacons so the shop knows who someone is and can great them -- with their permission, of course? Shopping lists could be stored on an app that guides users around the aisles and alerts them to new offers. If we're talking clothing, an app could be linked in to social media so shoes and clothes could be tried and on and shared. The possibilities are endless.

Then there's payment. Early days, but the technology is emerging to have someone pay via their phone -- Bank of America has just announced that a million debit cards have been linked to Apple Pay, a trend that will gain more and more traction and then cross the Atlantic to a welcoming audience. 

So people have smartphones, they have apps, they have loyalty schemes, they need to pay for things, they like sharing content and they like to help in their purchases. All of this can be done with the smartphone in their pocket connected to in-store beacons. So surely that's where marketing brains need to now focus after a brief flirtation with imagining what the future might hold when people have lost all self-respect and wear spectacles with video cameras attached.

Don't get me wrong. It's great that Google has tried something, and as often happens, failed. It's that pioneering spirit that made them huge in first place. The crucial takeaway from the experiment is probably the rather obvious point that people don't buy stuff they want that solves a problem for them -- and most of all, nobody wants to pay north of a grand to look stupid. It's fine for a marketing department to arrange for someone to strap a pair of glasses on to get great footage of a stunt or a behind-the-scenes exclusive but, in everyday life, very few people want to wear what look like laboratory protective spectacles with a camera that makes them appear like a snooping oddball. When even the tech community rounded on the device and called wearers "glassholes," you knew that traction in real life is going to prove difficult. 

Of the handful of uses that were highlighted by Google, the only one that ever struck me as interesting was Virgin Atlantic staff checking in the Upper Class flier in to its luxury lounge. Customer service representatives could talk to a flier at the same time as bring up information about them which avoids the scenario where employees appear to be concentrating too much on their computer and not enough on the customer. Other than that, though, bumpy footage of Roger Federer warming up in a coaching session and the occasional glimpse of someone parachuting really didn't cut the proverbial mustard. After all, the footage made you feel sea sick and, come to think of it, couldn't these people simply have worn a GoPro camera on their helmet?

So, f we can take a step back from marketing's infatuation that wearables are the next big thing and inject some common sense that would be very welcome. 

What consumers want is already staring at us right in the face. Link their smartphone to apps that take on extra useful services in-store and see how quickly it impacts the bottom line. Hint -- it will have a lot more impact than expecting consumers to fork out a thousand pounds to look a fool and be accused of spying on people.

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