Forrester sees a bright future for Google Glass

The wearable mobile computer could offer retailers a new way to market to on-the-go shoppers.

Kevin Woodward

Google Inc.’s latest mobile device, a wearable computer called Google Glass that can run apps, record video, take pictures, share those images online and search the Internet, may herald a new mobile commerce platform, suggests a Forrester Research Inc. report titled “Google Glass: What Marketers Need to Know.”

Worn like eyewear, Glass has a small display over the right eye and touch pad controls along the right earpiece. Currently, Glass is restricted to video capturing, Internet searches and social sharing. Google has not disclosed future capabilities.

But Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps believes there is great marketing potential to be gained from wider adoption of Glass. “Google Glass, the new head-mounted device from Google, has the potential to be the next great platform for app development—as disruptive and fertile a platform as the iPhone has been,” Epps says in the Forrester report. Glass tethers to an Android smartphone or iPhone for its connection to the Internet. A variety of apps, called Glassware, are available today.

If Glass can evolve past its current limitations, Epps sees many marketing opportunities because Glass removes the friction from communication, search and image sharing, she says. Glass enables the ability to send messages, search for information and capture images without taking the phone out of a pocket or purse, she says.

It also could make location-based information and services easier to access because consumers would not have to look down to view the content, she says. Glass also puts a premium on audio. Glass uses bone conduction to transmit sound from the eyeglass frame that sits above and behind the ear. The sound goes directly through the skull where the inner ear picks it up. Epps cites the New York Times app’s ability to read aloud the first paragraph of a story as recognition that users are unlikely to read much text on the small Glass display.

More important for retailers is that of 657 online adults in a Forrester survey who said they would be willing to wear a sensor device like Glass, 58% would be interested in seeing information about products when they are shopping. Among the available apps is VoiceBuyer for Amazon, which enables consumers to search for Amazon products with a voice command.

Glassware apps also may be easier for retailers to develop, Epps says. “Glassware apps are based on web standards, so they won’t take the developer resources that native smartphone apps require,” she says. Instead, resources will go to conceptualizing the design and building services to support the app, she says.

That planning must take into account how a Google Glass wearer would interact with a retailer’s content, Epps says. Glassware is designed around a timeline cards model, she says. The cards, which can be swiped forward and backward onscreen, display the content, which  is updated automatically. “For marketers, this means thinking about your brand in the context of someone’s day. What essential information or utility can you provide, in what context, with just a few words or images?”

Marketers also should view Glassware content as they do text message marketing, which has to compete for a consumer’s attention, and could become an annoyance if not managed thoughtfully, Epps says.

Another component to consider is that Glassware may be best for delivering utility at the time and place the consumer needs something, she says, such as being able to send a grocery shopping list from one program to a Glassware app so it’s available while in the grocery store. “Marketers should consider the most useful thing they could do for a consumer, and distill that in the simplest form possible,” Epps says.

Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400 guide.


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