I recently posted about Retail 2.0 and the impact the convergence of real world and digital world will have on retail products. Examples of this convergence are QR codes, augmented reality; browsers and “the other flavor” and things like SixthSense. These examples and how they’re applied are bridging the gap between digital and physical.

Businesses that create products have been selling them in stores for many years and are familiar with product placement within the store and the appropriate messaging based on that product. Over the last ten years they’ve been figuring out how to sell them online. Stores like Amazon seem like no-brainers today but when they began, it was a huge unknown. Today, because of the convergence of the physical and digital worlds, tangible products must extend into the digital world. Some would say this is already exists in the form of form of online product descriptions (images, text, etc). The issue lies in that these digital representations are for the most part information based.  Although that information is valuable that product needs to contain more than that. It needs to exist online; a shadow of the physical product. At a bare minimum it would need to contain the following elements:

  • QR code on product packaging that leads to digital product download/purchase information
  • iPhone application and/or microsite with multiple mediums; video, audio, images and maps of the best places to experience your product. Think touch screen. Can I rotate the virtual product to see all angles. (If you have a Ducati in the garage and can’t drive it because it’s snowing; you could interact with it on your digital device. Better yet, you could interact with Ducati’s latest concept bike.) Smartphone UI sensibilities technology is headed to laptops via the iPad
  • iPhone app/microsite should have a way to vote and share. This enables consumers to become conduits for selling that product
  • Unique URL for on product packaging (for those that don’t have smartphones) to enable users to download/purchase digital product
  • Packaging needs to impart the digital version
  • In-store web connection is advised to allow people to view the online version of their product

The virtual version of the products should also be able to be purchased online as a virtual good. So when your wife says she would really like Chanel purse for the low low price of $2108,13, you can go to Facebook and buy her a virtual one! (Prepare yourself before doing this by wearing a cup, a helmet and shin guards.) Businesses could offer discounts on the physical item for those that bought the virtual item. These online versions of products also need to have analytic elements embedded and be search engine optimized so they can be easily discovered. We need to know who bought them and how they’re interacting with them to fuel product innovation. (Also, the bulleted list above should expand based on higher end products, like a Ducati. I’ll get to this in another post.)

This type of online product existence also feeds into the continuing atomization of the Internet and the impending death of the homepage. (Google’s Google Base and Google Products are examples of this shift.) Most people online are searching for products, not brands. I’m excited to see the concept of product continue to evolve and now that I think about it . . . iPhone (iPad) applications would be a perfect venue for this!

What product means today