The obvious future of in-store experience: you find something you like, reach into your pocket for a small device, scan the barcode, and the device tells you whether and where the same product is available for a lower price. Brick-and-mortar stores become little more than showrooms for merchandise bought elsewhere.
This future just got one step closer today with the release of an iPhone app Checkout SmartShop, "a shopping assistant meant to help you fine online and local prices when you’re out and about shopping." For now, you still need to type in the UPS code; they are working on converting the iPhone camera into a barcode scanner.
How much time do you give for this app to hit the market: you go into a Blockbuster, scan a box, and the movie is cued up for download on your BitTorrent client?
In a post last January on online experiences and offline expectations, I wrote, "Retailers gotta act quick if they want to have some control over the converging experiences. In a few years, people will be carrying web browsers in their pockets and won't be needing all this retail innovation. Then they would go to Barnes & Noble to browse books and order the ones they like on Amazon right from the store."
That part about "a few years" was probably too optimistic. If you are a store, you might consider investing into a cell phone jammer or printing out this free "No iPhones on Premises" sign.
(Update on Dec. 3, 2008): To our guests from the ReadWriteWeb post on the subject, let me clarify that I am not so much recommending jamming or banning iPhones as I am describing an inevitable scenario.
(Update on Dec. 8, 2008): This thing wouldn't just go away. Now Slate points its finger at AdLab: "Some consultants have even suggested that retailers fight back by installing cell phone jammers or banning iPhones from their stores." Yeah, and I know some writers who apparently cannot read. Thanks to them, I'm now going down in history as the luddite who told walmarts to jam the cell signal.
Oh, and speaking of Blockbuster and BitTorrent, there's this art experiment about a new Firefox extension that lets you look at movie descriptions at Amazon and then cue them up on BT.