While the robots haven’t quite taken over yet, numerous emerging technologies are poised to play a vital role in retail. So let’s look at three ways that companies will be embracing digital commerce 2.0.
Imagine being able to search, find, and buy a new pair of sunglasses all without lifting a finger or even touching your phone. With the power of voice control that may be the future of ecommerce. So much of the frustration for consumers comes from having to understand on-screen interfaces, and knowing where to tap or click. But voice control removes that friction entirely, and replaces it with the interface that most of us use without thinking: conversation. However, voice recognition technology is still in development, and since most NLP (natural language processing) systems are still learning all the different ways in which a person can order a product therefore in this phase the technology can be frustrating.
Another issue retailers struggle with is staff who don’t know what works best for customers. But what if the in-store AI knew your home decor and could recommend products that would fit? Would you find it creepy or helpful?
If you said creepy, you’re not alone. This is something retail is still struggling with. AI “is always about the customer experience,” says Brennon Williams, of AI company ISR. His company has been focusing on the tone of voice with which AI responds to questions. An affectless voice, he says, is off-putting for customers, who are disturbed by the lack of emotion. “When you add emotion,” he says, “people report a more positive experience and don’t feel that they are being advertised to when a product is recommended to them.”
Given how impatient today’s customers can be, there is also a role for AI in handling customer problems quickly. “The ‘I want it now’ culture is an area where machine learning needs to come in and fill the gap,” says Matthew Lawson, Chief Digital Officer at Ribble Cycles. “It needs to find the answer to those questions fast and then bring it to the customer – or the agent – on top of that.”
The potential for augmented reality and virtual reality in customer experience is significant. Topshop used a virtual reality fashion show as a loyalty exercise in 2014, giving competition winners the chance to take their (virtual) seats in the front row of a show at London Fashion Week.
Companies like Shopify and eBay have already experimented with virtual reality stores, removing many of the challenges of the ecommerce UX by replicating a physical store in the comfort of the customer’s home. With VR headsets now requiring no more than a compatible smartphone and a fold-it-yourself, cardboard headset, there is little barrier to adoption.
Augmented reality, which uses glasses, a mobile screen or some other display to overlay computerised elements onto the real world has potential in both the home and in physical stores.In stores, some retailers have already begun exploring the possibility of AR mirrors, that allow customers to see how clothes would look on them without the need to go to a fitting room and change.
However, it’s important to note that, when it comes to choosing any technology, your starting point should be the customer and the goal. What is the brand trying to achieve? It’s no good just using tech for tech’s sake – the technology has to fill a need, and guarantee an enhanced experience for the customer.
Want to hear more? Have a gander at our Shop of The Future report.
These new technologies will undoubtedly influence and shape ecommerce (as seen in this Shop of The Future report. But in the meantime, focus less on the shiny new things and more on getting the basic right.