THE TIPPING POINT OF TRANSFORMATION
This industry has seen a number of iterations of existing technological innovations over the years, but the real transformation within this industry will happen when these innovations are adopted at scale.
The evolution of the chatbot to the conversational bot, known as conversational commerce and generally AI-enabled, is predicted to become the tipping point that will transform retail and ecommerce in the near future. Adoption has been driven by the increasing use of social media and messaging apps coupled with the dominance of mobile technologies.
Consumer engagement using brand-owned and more personalised chatbots have exceeded that of mailers. There are a number of advantages for brands to adopt bots as the new shop-assistant and or online shopping concierge. Firstly, AI technology is becoming smarter at integrating emotional intelligence, so the experience becomes more personable and specific to the consumer’s lifestyle choices. Conversational bots are also on hand 24 hours and they are always willing to help and there are no knowledge gaps eg. stock levels and suggesting alternatives. In the USA these virtual engagement platforms are said to connect to 2 to 5 times more customers and increase revenue in stores between 7 and 25%.
Consumers are becoming more accustomed to curated and personalised experiences and this expectation includes their retail experience. This has given rise to the trend of on-demand apparel manufacturing that automates the manufacture of bespoke sizes and patterns, and more recently customised fabrics. To cater for all sizes and body types there is a continued investment into scanning technologies that will be able to customise apparel to fit the individual perfectly.
As the online shopping experience becomes more familiar there is a hybrid experience of buying and paying online, and then picking the good in-store. The increase in efficiency and the ability to use the data to improve logistics and anticipate what is needed will transform the management of stores and is set to become adopted by the mass market. A future evolution will be the use of driverless cars that will bring the customer to the store or carry out local deliveries.
To better serve the customer, investments are being made into search technologies such as visual and voice search. It’s predicated that voice search will replace using text search by up to 40% in the next 3 years. These virtual search tools are now becoming features of apps and as part of interactions with devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Other technologies that are seeing a steady evolution are AR and VR. These technologies will be able to offer an omnichannel shopping experience and VR headsets will be used by customers to imagine possible future scenarios with product, which will apparently increase sales by up to 60%.
Many see the immediate retail revolution lying within machine learning that will help embed smarter data across multiple online customer touchpoints that will serve up customer-relevant products with immediate purchasing options.
Lastly, as bricks and mortar stores are still preferred by many, Amazon Go is increasing the roll out of their automated checkout stores that uses a combination of technologies from mapping to sensors to facial recognition to allow a frictionless walk in and walk out shopping experience without queuing.