Why We’re Developing Our Ecommerce AR Software For PC Users, Not Mobile

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In the past we’ve addressed some of the technical limitations that we see with the mobile augmented reality space in general. In this post, I want to get very specific and address why we don’t currently develop our ecommerce augmented reality software for the mobile market (as we get this question a fair amount). For those of you that are unfamiliar with our software, The Webcam Social Shopper, I’ve embedded an introductory video below.

Sorry, for some reason we’re having trouble embedding the video. If you don’t see it above, you can view it on YouTube here.

Okay, so back to the question at hand: Why don’t we develop for mobile? The short answer? It’s simply not strategic to do so. Let me explain our thinking:

The Addressable Market Is Just A Fraction Of The Computer Market

Our shopping application functions like a mirror, so that means people need to have their screen, and their camera facing the same direction (AKA a forward facing camera). For the computer market, that’s just the way it works… but in the mobile space, that essentially leaves us with two consumer devices: the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2.

Like all businesses, we need to be laser focused and strategic with both our financial and human resources. So let’s look at where we can have a greater impact now. Let’s look at the potential consumer reach for PCs, iPad 2s, and iPhone 4s:

    • PC: 1.5 Billion in use (note: as we detailed in a previous post, webcam penetration and usage is skyrocketing).
    • iPad 2: 15 Million sold.
      • Sources: In September, The Daily Beast stated that 30 Million iPads had been sold. Back in March at the iPad 2 launch event Steve Jobs noted that 15 Million iPads had already been sold.
    • iPhone 4: 50 to 75 Million sold (note: we don’t know how many of these are replacements for a previously purchased iPhone 4).
      • Sources: At the recent iPhone 4S event, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that the iPhone 4 accounts for half of all iPhone’s sold. Back in March Steve Jobs noted that since 2007 Apple had sold 100 Million iPhones.

Okay, so let’s put the combined iPad 2 and iPhone 4 sales at the high end of that range: 90 million units. It’s an impressive number, but those sales totals are just 6% of the PCs that Intel states are “in use”… and it should be noted that Intel also states that PCs are selling at a rate of 1 million per day. And here’s another metric for you: 93% of digital traffic is consumed by PCs. That means that the entire Smartphone and tablet market (i.e. not just Apple’s two most recent product launches) accounts for only 7% of digital traffic consumption.

So, when looking at the addressable markets, it’s pretty clear that the computer has the upper hand.

It Would Be A Horrible Experience For The Shopper

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the PC market didn’t dwarf the mobile market. Let’s assume everyone had a Smartphone and they all had forward forcing cameras. There’s still a rather large usability issue keeping us from developing for those devices. And that’s the arm length of the average person. If you noticed, in the video embedded above, the young woman is standing roughly 4 – 6 feet away from her computer. That’s because she’s visualizing if a dress’s style is right for her, so she needs to see her entire body. If you’re holding a Smartphone in your hand, you just can’t hold the phone far enough away to have that experience. And at the end of the day, if we aren’t providing an amazing experience for the shopper, than what the heck is the point?

Now I get it, mobile, especially the iPhone and the iPad get an overwhelming amount of media attention. Are they revolutionary products? Yes. I’m not debating that. Is the future bright for mobile? Of course. But that’s the future, and as a company we’re focused on how we can make the biggest impact in people’s lives today (and over the next 5 years).

Did you know that one day after download, only 20% of users come back and run an iPhone app? And after a month, that number drops to 5% (chart). For us, it’s not about producing an augmented reality app that people won’t use but will get us covered by the press. It’s about measureable impact. It’s about disrupting the way people shop online today, and providing them with a significantly better experience. On computers we can do that. On mobile devices, we can’t.

What do you think? Are we right? Wrong? As always, you can find me on twitter here.