A developer conference in the heart of Silicon Valley isn’t an obvious locale for influencing the way people shop, but the updates rolling out of Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) in San Jose stand to change the way we search, view and pay for products online, and developers are downright giddy.
The big news out of the conference on Monday was the new HomePod, a Siri-enabled wireless speaker that combines the sound quality of a Sonos sound system with the voice activation element of a device like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. While Apple chief executive Tim Cook primarily emphasized the $349 speaker’s potential to “re-invent” the home music experience, he also hinted at what could eventually become a way to shop using Siri, in much the same way that Amazon’s Alexa allows Prime customers to search for and add items to a cart.
Manish Chandra, who is chief executive of mobile marketplace Poshmark, said that the HomePod is exciting because it puts the power of voice commands in the hands of the shoppers. Eventually, he said, it “could enable [consumers] to get styling packages shipped directly from our 2.5 million seller stylists across the country.”
When it comes out in December, the HomePod will perform tasks that are comparable to what Siri currently does, such as send messages, control smart home devices and get weather and news updates. But as Siri becomes smarter and more intuitive—and gets a voice makeover to match!—the virtual assistant will also expand to more outside apps.
“Imagine speaking to Siri like she’s your personal shopper,” said Liat Zakay, who is co-founder of Donde, a mobile search engine in which shoppers use visual cues rather text search for items. “For example, I could tell her, in any language—Chinese, English, Spanish, French—that I’m looking for a cocktail dress with an open back. Using Donde’s computer vision technology, Siri will be able to analyze the styles of dresses from several retailers, determine which I’ll like based on an understanding of my past personal style preferences, and present me with options that match exactly what I was envisioning.”
On Monday, though, Siri didn’t totally steal the show.
Apple introduced a platform for augmented reality apps (called ARKit) that will let users view virtual content on top of real life. “Imagine a world where, in a few seconds, you find the watch, chair, necklace or dress and see how it fits on you or how it looks in your house,” Zakay said.
While Google and Facebook have introduced augmented and virtual reality capabilities already, “the mass-enabling of virtual and augmented reality” on hundreds of millions of Apple devices stands to expand the future possibilities, Chandra, of Poshmark, pointed out.
The founders of video-based social shopping app YEAY, where teens find their fills of Yeezy and Supreme, were also eyeing an update that lets iMessage users pay each other using Apple Pay, said chief product officer Ben Mosse.
Founder Melanie Mohr added that Apple Pay is “a must-have. The peer-to-peer solution is new and we need to look into this, but it seams to play nicely into the iMessage app extension. We have fantastic entrepreneurial teens and teen influencers selling on YEAY.” (YEAY’s iMessage app lets users share product videos in iMessage.)
Mohr was coy about a forthcoming YEAY app for Apple TV, a device that hasn’t yet gotten as much love from the e-commerce world.
“I can't disclose yet fully how it works, but you can watch videos from all of the great sellers in all categories and press a buy button to purchase,” she offered.
In the meantime, Apple did (finally) open up Apple TV to the Amazon Prime Video app— but that just means Amazon video streaming, not shopping, on Apple TV. Apple’s holding out for Siri for that.
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