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Sunday, December 6, 2009
The pace of innovation got even faster with what I refer to as Web 3.0. Back in the 90's when Web 2.0 was being established, there was a gold rush for websites. Every company including their cousins and grandma it seems was creating their own websites. The website became the new identity complementing the the physical address. It became so ubiquitous that if your organization does not have a website, it does not exist. The majority of sites started out as HTML based sites describing products and services. As web 2.0 evolved, the user's experience became more interactive. Companies such as Google, Salesforce.com and Amazon.com utilized the interactive functionality to make the web experience more like running applications on your desktop.
I am witnessing an evolutionary shift from Web 2.0 to 3.0 with the advent of iPhone App. It is analogous to the 90's but rather than asking: "is there a website for that?", it has become: "is there an App for that?" As I was noticing this trend, I observed all the companies and products that I consumed to see if they "have an App for that." I start my morning at Starbucks and sure enough they were a couple of Apps for that. I later frequented Wal-Mart on my way home... there is an App for that. I checked out Target, the answer was yes once more. It was becoming like the websites but perhaps during the early days.
A few weeks ago, I stop by Walgreens to process some photos and noticed that the two main things they offer were prescription refills and photos. I did not find see that there was an App so this presented an interesting opportunity. People shop for other things but these two items seem to distinguish it from other stores. I did not see an iPhone App at the time so I did an experiment to see if I can prototype an App for Walgreens to see if they might find it useful.
Since I often stop by Walgreens to process my photos, I thought it would start there and provide a method to place photo orders directly on my iPhone.
This would organized pictures in albums which is similar to their website. I can then view my album and then place an order to my local store for processing prints.
Another useful thing I thought was to be able to place prescription refills. Walgreen does have this nice feature as an automated phone service but the iPhone can be a good alternative.
It can assist in filling out the prescription number since it contains the store code.
The list of store close to your current location will make it more user friendly for the selection. The store location can also provide the ability to get driving directions.
Lastly, I thought there can be a smarter way of handling discounts and coupons. This can key off of what you have selected before to provide intelligent targeted advertisements.
Once the coupon is selected, you can also just put your iPhone in front of the scanner of the store clerk and it will automatically apply the discount. I was able to put together this prototype rather quickly with the help of my of my programmer team member. We changed the title bar and navigational button to have the red colors to match the general theme of the Walgreen brand. It was a fun experience.
I then contacted Mark Wagner at Walgreens to see if we can share with him this experiment. He had member of his team follow up with me noting that they had already just completed their iPhone app and it has almost the exact same features as my prototype. I was a little disappointed to see that our prototype did not get a chance to see the light of day but I am glad to see that our guess as to what a Walgreen App would be came pretty close to what they internally implemented.
The experiment did not turn out exactly the way I expected but it did confirm a couple of theories that I had. The most important lesson for me was that many if not all organizations that deal with customers will have an iPhone App. That means just about all companies since if you don't have customers, that would be difficult to be sustainable. I also see that companies
are moving fast towards their having a mobile device or iPhone strategy since there are about 100,000 apps now and it is growing fast. This does parallel with the ubiquitous website back in the 90s. There are some things about iPhone apps that are distinctly different as compared to Web 2.0. The immediacy of having the information on you at all times rather than having to be at your computer even when you are mobile it its main obvious difference. Since it has the ability to understand your current location, it adds a new dimension for providing information that is context sensitive to where you are. The combination of these location based technologies deliver "augmented reality" which is a new class of software allowing for real time experience related to your location. I see that this is building upon Web 2.0 and technologies of yesteryear yet taking it to new levels. It is fascinating to witnesss the fast pace of innovation in this dynamic time.