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Mobile meets local, get used to it

by Andrew Taylor Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the world of retail, we used to think of in-person sales and online sales as distinct events. You could go to a store's website and make a purchase. Or you could go to a physical store to make the same purchase. Or, more recently, you could pay for something online and then go pick it up at your closest physical store...more of a bridge between worlds than a merging of the two.

Of course, that distinction was from a time now past, when people didn't carry their Internet access in their pockets, even when they were in a physical store.

Apple's latest innovation, EasyPay, hints at what's to come for the integration of online and in-store shopping. Those with an Apple mobile device and the Apple Store App can use it not only to buy stuff online from wherever they are, but also to learn more about and even buy things while physically in an Apple Store. You can grab an item in the store, scan its barcode with the camera on your iPhone or iPod, get product details, and even complete a purchase on some products and walk out of the store with clerk required (although, I'm deeply interested in the security and theft-protection systems that accompany this approach).

The new synergy makes me wonder, even more, about the anachronistic box office structure in most performing arts venues. With so many audience members carrying mobile devices with cameras and web access (not all, to be fair), why not explore the opportunity of online and physical presence in event selection and purchasing? Every poster in the lobby could have a bar code that triggers promotional content, videos, and program notes (for that matter, every printed ticket could too). Printed programs could offer the same access to purchase tickets to future events, or add-ons to the current event (VIP meet-the-artist events after the show, for example). A mobile app could start and finish the purchase, and the mobile screen could serve as the ticket to be scanned. And on and on.

As ever, Apple seems to be redefining the concept of the physical retail store (no discernible cash registers, no bottle-neck of checkout stations blocking the door, no real preference whether you buy something in the store or just browse to make your purchase later online). And now, no need for an intermediary to complete your purchase.

Who do you know that is pushing similar boundaries with ticket sales? I'd love to know.