With the substantial surge in m-commerce, brands are driving digital innovations to encourage more conversions online. Nike’s strong presence in WeChat, eBay’s focus on social marketplaces, Zovi’s virtual trial rooms, and TopShelf Style’s utilization of Soldsie are some of the latest trends in online shopping. And brands are making them happen with the use of artificial intelligence and retail data integration to enhance online shopping experiences.
The bottom line is that technology is not used only to enhance product descriptions and displays, but to also engage better with customers. Here are three trends in retail that are helping brands connect better with their customers.
Enhancing the utility of messaging apps with conversational commerce
Today, in the era of rapid digitalization, most of us connect with acquaintances through messaging apps at least once a day. We use Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Talk, and WeChat to share memories, personal details, contact numbers, and more. In other words, most of us, especially the millennials, find communicating through messaging apps to be easy and engaging. According to an eMarketer article (titled Mobile Messaging to Reach 1.4 Billion Worldwide in 2015 and published in November 2015), 1.4 billion consumers used messaging apps in 2015 and 2 billion will use them by 2018.
Therefore, it is no surprise that e-commerce players are exploring this space to offer shopping experiences too. Called conversational commerce, this segment of e-commerce, is making headway towards enhancing the features of messaging apps with artificial intelligence. Behind the scenes, developers and data science teams are fine-tuning artificial intelligence to automate customer support and live chat functionalities. What this means is that consumers can connect with brands via messaging apps to ask questions, get recommendations, buy products, understand product details, read reviews, and much more; without a human customer support executive.
Today, artificial intelligence is powering virtual assistants and chat bots to recommend dresses for body types, suggest best EMI options for your television purchase, help customers order fresh seasonal fruits, calculate calories in that yummy slice of pizza that you want to buy, and much more.
Accelerating orders through social commerce
If messaging apps are convenient, social media channels are irresistible. The urge to share our travels, photos, videos, and thoughts makes Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter a norm in our daily lives. What’s more, retail advertisements on these sites guide most of our online purchases. This explains why Statista forecasts that in 2017, revenue from social media advertising is expected to amount to US$27,065 million.
However, retailers are not satisfied with just advertising on social media — they want us to buy directly from them. Enter social commerce. Although still in its infancy, social commerce shows promising potential. Many brands have already plugged in ‘Shop’ and ‘Buy’ buttons to their Facebook profiles, encouraged individuals to sell directly to buyers through marketplaces, promoted shopping lists of other buyers, and incentivized creative collaboration to design products. However, there is still a lot to be done before social commerce picks up steam.
Nowadays, online retailers are focused on converting online reviews and social media interactions into purchases. Through artificial intelligence, brands are evaluating volumes of user generated content to gain insights about how to personalize social commerce better. Truly, this is complicated and models and technologies need further refining.
Simulating trials through augmented reality
Product trials — these are what finalize a purchase decision. Almost, every customer at a store tries a dress, pair of spectacles, and shoes before billing the best-fit. People taste cheese, chocolates, pastries, ice cream flavors and savories before choosing the one they want to buy. And they also visualize how sofas and rugs will fit in their living rooms prior to purchasing them.
Such behavior was initially impossible in the online shopping journey, before the advent of augmented reality (AR). By using AR, retailers are giving customers the confidence to buy a product online through simulations. The technology uses webcams and photo uploads to simulate how a dress fits a body, sofas span across a hall, and paints suit a wall. In the near future, AR in conjunction with artificial intelligence, has the potential to surpass experiences in the physical store as it allows customers to visualize better and understand what suits them best.
Thus, it is clear that artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the way customers shop online. In the near future, AI-based services will support consumers through their entire online shopping journey — from product recommendation to purchase and delivery.
At Infosys, we leverage our deep retail expertise and capabilities in artificial intelligence to enhance and simplify a shopper’s online experience. We enable brands to use messaging or voice apps to chat with customers, answer questions, provide reviews and ratings, offer personalized recommendations, and make purchases. Our new e-commerce platform, Skava Commerce, uses a combination of natural language programming, artificial intelligence (AI), and retail data integration to enhance digital interactions between retail brands and their customers.