Trends, new disruptive technologies, robotization, digitization, datafication, and new consumer expectations all have massive impact on the way retailers do business, marketing and media. The speed of these changes will surprise and shock them.
And if you think “OMG, another new technology?” Yes, in the era of digital Darwinism only the species most adaptable to change will survive. To be more specific: the only constant is change!
Trends & Technologies That Help Retail In Their Digital Transformation
Here are a few trends and technologies that could ignite retail revenues:
1. Robots & drones enable Amazon to deliver digital shoppers their products faster than a pizza. How will you as a retailer react upon that trend?
2. Dedicated product search engines is why digital natives prefer Amazon above Google. Shoppers don’t want Google’s clutter when they are in the buying mode. Retailers might want to reinvent their digital shop-in-shop strategy?
3. Social commerce has failed at all major social networks for over a decade. See, Like but no Buy?! How on earth can retailers monetize their massive social fan bases this way? Now social platforms are confusing digital shoppers even more with their buy buttons: 20% of the inventory will be for sale, but the other 80% won’t.
Retailers can coin social commerce by keeping their eyes open for the next generation social shopping platforms. The ones that are one big buy button.
4. Selfie trend is being coined by some smart lingerie companies, who distract data from female selfies, so similar bras can be ordered directly online. Again a Shazam-like virtual recognition software. The software is already being used by a range of top retailers including US department store group Macy’s, designer fashion site Net-a-Porter, and European online clothing retailer Zalando. We have already seen Flipkart trying to do this within their mobile app recently.
Alibaba even accelerated the selfie into a payment system to boost their already massive eCommerce figures.
When most retailers still assumed that the selfie was just another stupid, irrelevant internet meme, Alibaba proved to the world that facial recognition is more unique and trustworthy than our fingerprint.
5. Smart algorithms are already helping several retailers to pick the right prospects (intelligent prospecting) and decide on the best price (individual dynamic pricing).
6. Showrooming retailers like Nordstrom have integrated their most popular items on Pinterest into their shopping windows to lure digital native into their stores in the main shopping streets.
7. Beacons will close the loop in omnichannel strategies, but retailers need to keep pushing to get ‘Google analytics-like software’ in place. Measuring offline store traffic, ARPU and customer ROI, is a pillar in the foundation to build upon.
8. Virtual Reality was assumed to be a gimmick for gamers. VR however is a technology that can help retailers to extend their offline showrooms. Without paying for the super expensive square meters.
9. IoT will not only connect 50 billion apparatus, it will also give CMOs in retail access to 50 billion new consumer touchpoints. And thus fuel data-driven integrated digital retail marketing.
Which other trends and technologies will change the retail landscape forever? I’d love to hear your ideas.
The future will be derived by strong desires for personal freedom and people’s need to gain control over lifestyles that are moving faster and faster.
My goal in compiling “the Future in balance – year 2025” is to help stimulate thinking and hopefully make it controversial enough to cause these topics to be debated. Please take some time to challenge the assumptions, and let me know what you think.
As shown by Baidu’s virtual assistant announcement, tech giants are racing to humanize technology—but what are the implications for you?
Virtual Assistants can be said to operate at the intersection of knowledge databases and services and products that further enable personalization. With so much opportunity underlying this area from a service and product standpoint, it’s no wonder players like Apple, Facebook and Samsung are all working to crack this space. And the latest foray comes from China’s search giant Baidu as they announced the release of Duer, a voice-activated concierge service that will be installed on millions of smartphones across China.
The search app will handle requests like ordering food or getting advice on medical matters. The company is also boasting superior image recognition capabilities that will also be embedded into Baidu’s self-driving cars, which they’re making alongside BMW.
Some makers like Apple or Microsoft are taking a device approach (think Siri). Others, like Google and Microsoft, take a cloud approach, while others are taking a more programmatic approach (think Facebook’s M.)
The central mission for these developers is intuitive design that encourages conversation rather than swiping, clicking and typing. Facebook takes the approach of using a mixture of algorithms and human operators for their virtual assistant product, M. This is intended to give Facebook a leg up on how Apple, Microsoft and Google interpret demands, which is focused on automated responses to factual queries and simple commands. On the other hand, what Siri or Google Now do is not simple at all, because these platforms are meshing together a slew of apps to generate the best answer.
When we looked at Baidu’s Duer, it’s not clear which approach they are taking, but it is most likely to be the approach of other tech giants (which means it will either be based on cloud technology or device).
Assessing the Opportunity
The first step to adapting in a fast-moving world is always a sound business strategy. Virtual Assistants are just a small part of the shifting technological landscape but there are at least three key opportunities for brands in this realm:
Maximizing containment on a website
Increase sales through up-selling and cross-selling
Improve customer experience
If you’re still not taking these platforms into account, keep in mind that Virtual Assistants will be accessible by anyone with a mobile phone. Brands will need to adapt to the knowledge that voice-oriented platforms like Siri and S Voice because of the way they enhance way-finding and lessen friction in the consumer journey overall.
Today consumers are increasingly expecting their identity and history to be integrated into a variety of brand touch points. — that brands are expected to be knowledgeable on some level.
Data provides brands and technology companies with unprecedented chances to accomplish a more personalized experience for the consumer. Thus brands must continually respond to the technology industry’s advancements. A coherent business strategy makes it easier to ascertain the best way to approach disruptive and subtle technological advancements.
Look at India around you and you will see a land of extremes. The FMCG category in India is a replica of this, with products catering to each section of the Indian population layered very well with the SEC/LSM categorization we marketers do to target the right population who would buy these products. Years ago we saw the birth of mordern trade which gave a glimpse to all large and small FMCG players a potential that could be harnessed for the better. They were supposed to allow more control to the FMCG players and better inventory management along with organised profts and so on so forth. Well, years ahead from that point we can say that this potential is still not realised with only 9% of FMCG sales coming through this organised retail format. This is still an urban phenomenon and lacks the personalization of service that Indians crave about always.
The ecommerce story is not unfolding the very same way. A lot of effort, money and patience has been put here to unravel the potential and will be done so over the next few years. I believe that though this story will not fade away but there will be no scale to run this business in a profitable way. Look at the way the traditional business runs….it is very personal with the grocer knowing the buyer for months if not years. He lends a credit limit to him every month to retain him. Does home delivery over a call for even a small item like a thandai or a can of coke. They can even return the the products easily if they do not like it. The Indian buyer loves this personalization that ecommerce can never deliver. Also the economics does not work out. All buyers today look for deals and discounts which is kind of stereotype that ecommerce has been labelled these days. It has been driven by the flipkarts, bigbasket and snapdeals of the world which run these deals as customer acquisition tactics and will not fly in the long run. At this category is not where you can run this as price points are in tens of rupees and weights in gms. An I am not even getting into the delivery aspect of the business which is the achilles heel of Indian ecommerce ecosystem.
My take here is FMCG ecommerce whatever that is going to happen is going to take a pie out of modern retail and not change anything else within the ecosystem. It remains to be seen what will the flipkarts, bigbaskets and snapdeals of the world do about it as we move ahead. Will they keep pumping investor money down the drain to keep the consumers coming back with deals and discounts? Also interesing will be the strategies of large players like HUL, P&G, J&J, Godrej, etc. Will they see through this smokescreen and make the right investments going forward.
Let’s wait and watch….
The buzzword in India or let’s say it across the world is mobile. While businesses hurriedly develop digital strategies and think mobile first, are they shifting the focus from the only thing that matters – customers?
We’re surrounded by some of the most exciting technology the world has ever seen; we’ve got contactless payments, robotic assistants, mobile ticketing, 3D printing and numerous other developments. It feels like whatever we need there is an app for it, and together it’s changing how we behave in profound ways.
But it all feels removed from what people actually want. We’ve a thousand companies trying to rush out wearable devices before Apple, enthusiasm undiminished by a total lack of consumer interest. It feels like the only things 3D printers can’t print is a reason to have one. Personal drones still seem like the product of an enthusiastic scientist who doesn’t get out much. I find virtual reality (VR) interesting, but real reality is pretty good too. For all the technology in the world we’ve very little empathy. We’ve businesses doing what it wants to do, rather than giving people what they need in their lives. I’m sure if electronics companies listened, they’d find people wanted better designed remote controls, better ways to discover content and menus that made sense, not a 4K curved and bendable screen.
Without exception, the companies that thrive in the current environment are those that focus entirely on what people want. They don’t obsess over technology, but find a way for it to solve people’s problems. They’ve arranged themselves not how they want to, but how it best serves customers. Uber isn’t a technology company. It’s a company that realised that the entire taxi industry was built around it’s needs and not what people wanted.
Amazon isn’t the cheapest way to buy most things, but they knew that removing barriers to the purchase process was the simple way to become the default way to order anything online. Apple’s success is primarily based on finding a way to create electronics that do roughly the same things as other products, but make using them feel great. It’s a simple recipe.
We’re living in disruptive times. We’ve an abundance of energy, money and focus on how technology can improve every aspect of a business, but it’s often still arranged around business needs. Technology should solve problems first. It’s a common problem. There are retailers across the world who must be armed with incredible insights about how people shop, why they buy, what the purchase funnel is, yet seem to hand over site development to teams who seemingly know nothing about retail. The end product is identical and effectively a content management system with nice photos, why hasn’t anyone made a e-commerce site a joy to use?
What if technology was used to solve problems first and create better products? Nowadays a good product is the best advertising, let’s bring technology and empathy together to surprise and delight our customers, not do things because they simply can be done.
In the US, over 50 percent of companies currently provide customer service via social media, and we have already seen Places enabling customers to talk to any local business via text message. Moving customer relations online makes support teams more available and approachable, significantly cutting down on the stress and costs associated with call centres. Now, two new solutions from Germany and India are hoping to help the rest of the world’s businesses catch up — providing new platforms for digital customer service.
Haptik is a mobile messaging assistant from India which enables customers to receive real-time support and information for over 200 international companies, including American Express, BMW, British Airways and many more. Users begin by downloading the app to their smartphone or tablet. They then send a query to Haptik via the WhatsApp-style platform and an assistant will respond within six minutes. The platform’s experts — who specialize in specific areas such as wireless and telecom or food and delivery — offer a huge range of services from finding a mobile plan, to locating a nearby ATM, to troubleshooting a customer’s IT problem. Users simply browse the categories in the app to see if Haptik can help with their particular problem. As more companies come on board, potential services offered will continue to expand.
In Germany meanwhile, Hello.de offer a similar service using the pre-existing social messaging platform — WhatsApp — as well as social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. Businesses can outsource their customer services to Hello.de who will provide a gateway platform on WhatsApp where consumer problems and enquiries can be seen to by Hello.de’s e-commerce sales assistants. Additionally, their staff can respond to queries on Twitter and Facebook, managing the companies’ reputation and offering customers a more enjoyable alternative to lengthy, costly phone calls.
Are there other businesses that could make use of these services?