Tag Archives: customer experience

AI-smartphones

Very Clever AI-Powered Smartphones Empower Customers

AI-powered smartphones is the latest attempt by phone manufactures to differentiate themselves from their competitors. They argue that customers will ultimately only buy the smartest phones. But how will the retail industry react to this new gadget?

AI-powered smartphones involves machine learning – the ability for a system to learn outside of its original programming. Furthermore encompasses AI-powered smartphones deep learning, which is a type of machine learning that tries to mimic the human brain with many layers of computation (David Nield, contributor to The Field Guide).

IT-Onlne reported research results by Gartner that identify 10 high-impact uses for AI-powered smartphones.

10 High-impact uses for AI-powered smartphones

  1. ‘Digital Me’ sitting on the device – smartphones will be an extension of the user, capable of recognizing them and predicting their next move. They will understand who you are, what you want, when you want it, how you want it done and execute tasks upon your authority.
  2. User authentication – security technology combined with machine learning, biometrics and user behaviour will improve usability and self-service capabilities.
  3. Emotion recognition – emotion sensing systems and affective computing allow smartphones to detect, analyse, process and respond to people’s emotional states and moods.
  4. Natural-language understanding – continuous training and deep learning on smartphones will improve the accuracy of speech recognition, while better understanding the user’s specific intentions.
  5. Augmented reality (AR) and AI vision – one example of how AR can be used is in apps that help to collect user data and detect illnesses such as skin cancer or pancreatic cancer.
  6. Device management – machine learning will improve device performance and standby time. For example, with many sensors, smartphones can better understand and learn user’s behaviour, such as when to use which app.
  7. Personal profiling – smartphones are able to collect data for behavioural and personal profiling. Users can receive protection and assistance dynamically, depending on the activity that is being carried out.
  8. Content censorship/detection – restricted content can be automatically detected. Objectionable images, videos or text can be flagged and various notification alarms can be enabled.
  9. Personal photographing – personal photographing includes smartphones that are able to automatically produce beautified photos based on a user’s individual aesthetic preferences.
  10. Audio analytic – the smartphone’s microphone is able to continuously listen to real-world sounds. AI capability on device is able to tell those sounds, and instruct users or trigger events.

What implications will AI-powered smartphones have for retailers?

Retail customers with AI-powered smartphones may now connect with AI-enabled stores and online eCommerce sites from anywhere. That may cause the already mobile customers to demand enhanced shopping experiences in every store they visit. Customers with these phones may change their buying behaviour towards retailers that are AI-enabled.

However, the high prices of AI-powered smartphones may see a gradual adoption of the technology and so give retailers enough time to adapt to the phenomenon.

Concluding

Some commentators has labelled 2018 as the year of Artificial Intelligence. So does this means the end of the small local retailer? I don’t think so. Indeed, it may provide an opportunity for smaller retailers to start a digital free retail niche. A niche where you still can use your own senses and decide for yourself when, what and why you want to buy something…

Read also: Webrooming and Showrooming – Buying Behaviors of Retail Customers in Virtual and Physical Environments 

Image:

maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

 

Augmented Reality in Retail – a Useful Customer Experience

Not so long from now. There is an eerie quietness in the retail store.  Almost all the customers are wearing identical glasses and head sets, slowly walking through the aisles like humanoid robots. No, it’s not a new episode of Star Trek in the making – this is Augmented Reality (AR) in action.   Retailers are now experimenting with AR to get customers back in the stores.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is the practice of augmenting a real-time direct or indirect view of the physical world with virtual information 1. Scholz and Smith (2016) describe the practice of AR as: “Marketers layering digital information (e.g., text, pictures, and videos) over objects and spaces in the physical world (e.g., product packaging, advertisements, or street scenes). And consumers experiencing these hybridized realities via digital screens (e.g., smart phones or video installations) or projections (e.g., holograms)”.

AR can also be explained as the co-existence of virtual and real in the same space, as well as the interactive alignment and mutual registration of computer generated sources with physical reality 2.

Scholz and Smith (2016) have identified the five ingredients of AR:

  1. AR content – is virtual information that is often perceived by consumers through digital devices (e.g., smart phones, large-screen AR installations);
  2. Users – are the people who directly experience an AR layer. Users can share the same physical space. For example, if a screen displays an augmented view of the street behind a bus stop (e.g., bogus window paradigm). Or they may view the same AR layer while dispersed across different locations – for example, when readers of a magazine access the AR content of an active print;
  3. Bystanders – are people who do not experience an augmentation themselves but instead observe a user’s actions either directly – by sharing the same physical space – or indirectly – by viewing content (e.g., images) that a user has generated during his or her augmented experience. Bystanders can affect users’ willingness to engage in AR experiences because they form the social context of the experience;
  4. Targets – are entities in the physical world that are augmented with digital information. In many cases, targets are objects; for example, a marketer might digitally overlay a brand narrative or ingredient information on product packing. Targets may also be people – for example magic mirrors in fitting rooms that superimpose digital images of their merchandise over live images of customers;
  5. Background – those objects and ambient conditions that share the same physical space as the target, but that are not augmented in this particular AR layer.

AR has the potential to be a life-changing technology application. In a recent interview by Bloomberg, CEO Tim Cook of Apple said: “We’ll all have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.” What is the value of AR for the retailer?

Augmented Reality in retail

AR can help Bricks and Mortar retailers to let their customers enjoy their shopping experience and come back for more. Shauna Heller writing in Media Leaders propose that retailers offer headsets for people to wear while in their stores, to guide people through the store with pop-up characters, animations, or even a virtual assistant right through the visor popping up as people walk around. According to Augment.com, AR helps in the following ways to stop buyer uncertainty:

  • Proximity, presence, and interaction – a customer who is shopping for home furnishings can launch models of a bed or lamp to see how the item would actually look and fit (to scale), rather than playing a guessing game. AR advocates for purchases with more certainty and satisfaction.
  • Modify or customize selections – Augmented Reality makes it easy for consumers to explore their options and make personalized modifications.
  • Visualize or understand products and features – a customer must be able to understand and visualize how a product works and functions. AR augment sophisticated demonstrations that make it easier for customers to visualize and understand the intricate features of a product before they purchase.

AR marketing campaigns open new possibilities for brands to engage and interact with consumers, especially those from social media generations. Yaoyuneyong 3, et al found that AR is “immersive, persuasive and powerful” and the two benefits of AR marketing that they’d identified are:

  1. Enhancing communication by engaging and increasing consumers’ level of immersion and
  2. Improving sales strategy and sales processes.

Also, augmented reality can make a difference to the shopping experience for both online and offline retail customers.

Concluding

After all, it took a game like Pokémon GO and millions of people with smartphones a couple of years ago to bring Augmented Reality under the spotlight. However, the real value of AR is not just for the entertainment of its users, but also as a dynamic marketing tool for retailers.

Remember Pokémon GO?

Further reading

  1. How successful are Retailers in the Omnichannel?
  2. Bricks and Clicks Retail – Shopping Experience makes the Difference

Notes

1 Scholz, J. and Smith, A.N. 2016. Augmented reality: Designing immersive experiences that maximize consumer engagement, Business Horizons, 59(2):149-161.

2 Javornik, A. 2016. Augmented reality: Research agenda for studying the impact of its media characteristics on consumer behaviour, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 30:252-261.

3 Yaoyuneyong, G., Foster, J., Johnson, E. and Johnson, D. 2016. Augmented Reality Marketing: Consumer Preferences and Attitudes Toward Hypermedia Print Ads, Journal of Interactive Advertising, 16(1):16-30.

Image and video

  1. shortfilmwindow.com
  2. Pokémon GO

Retail and the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IOT) may be an opportunity for Bricks and Mortar retailers. The proliferation of connected devices coupled with less-expensive technology platforms can be used by retailers to get customers back into their shops…

Jonathan Gregory, Managing Director – Accenture Strategy says IOT offers retailers opportunities in three critical areas: customer experience, the supply chain, and new channels and revenue streams.

Before discussing the opportunities of IOT, we must first explain what IOT is.

What is the Internet of Things?

There are many complicated, high tech definitions for the IOT. However, Jacob Morgan contributing to Forbes puts it simply – IOT is the concept of connecting any device with an on/off switch to the internet (and/or to each other).

How many things can you think of that has an on/off switch? In your home – TV sets, air conditioners, lights, alarms, stoves, geysers, garage doors – the list is never ending. Now imagine connecting all these devices to your smartphone or, connecting them with each other.  And then connecting everything with other persons…

The IOT is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people).  Hence the relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things, suggests Jacob Morgan.

Let’s get back to the opportunities that IOT render for retailers.

What opportunities do the Internet of Things offers retailers?

The author of this blog has previously mentioned the challenge that Bricks and Mortar retailers have to stay competitive in the digital economy (http://bricks2clicks.co.za/retailers-can-remain-competitive-turbulent-times/). How can the IOT help retailers with their activities?

Customer experience

The customers of retail are adopting digital devices at a staggering rate. They are eager users of smartphones, tablets and digital watches.  Digital devices make their lives easier, and they want the same experience from them in shops as what they get at home or at their workplaces.

“The digital transformation of retail is driven by customers” says Tony Stockil, CEO and Founder, Javelin Group. Most customers want to experience shopping as part of their entertainment.  Shopping is now a form of entertainment, available 24/7, wherever people are. Retailers therefore need to ensure that the brand experience is seamless and constant at all touch points.

James Wilson, Baiju Shah and Brian Whipple did an open-source analysis of IOT user behaviour (“How People Are Actually Using the Internet of Things”, HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW, October 28, 2015). They found that consumers want an IOT that provides personalized services that can be adapted to different contexts.

The data show that the most heavily used IOT programs are ones that make home life easier, more distinctive, and more pleasant. According to the results, customers show a big preference for services that don’t require them to go out of their way to make something work.

The supply chain

Connected devices and products provide retailers with the opportunity to help optimize operations in the face of a more complex supply chain, increasingly important digital channels, and a more demanding customer.  By utilizing the IOT, managers can track inventory more easily, and adjusting pricing in real time using smart tags.

IOT allow small retailers operating an eCommerce channel to automate their warehouses. By upgrading to automate warehouse retailers will be able to process orders rapidly, accurately, and in real time says the OPEX Corporation. The upgrading may put retailer’s service and standards on par with the “big boys” in their retail sector. The cost benefits of a goods-to-person picking system are that it saving time and it is accurate. The system ensures getting the right product at the right time at the right place.

Automated warehouse system

Automated warehouse system

Creating new channels and revenue streams

The power of the IOT lies in the opportunities it presents to retailers to create new revenue streams or build entirely new channels. As such, household appliances, home security and comfort products, even health and wellness products are all becoming part of the IOT ecosystem.

Some retailers are taking further advantage of the wide array of connected products by becoming an integration “platform.” According to Jonathan Gregory, the idea behind these platforms is to make it easier for customers to make all of their in-home devices talk to one another.

Grocery retailers may partner with the suppliers of connected platforms that would give them  direct channel to customers. Subsequently  a potential gold mine of customer data can be created – information associated with almost every aspect of the household, from utility usage to consumption trends.

What are the dangers of the Internet of Things?

Jason Bloomberg, President of Intellyx writing in Wired, gives seven reasons he thinks the IOT is doomed:

  1. Security – with products and people connected, savvy hackers can easily access important information about you and the way you live.
  2. Privacy – it is about ‘Big Data’. Therefore, the more IOT you have, the more Big Data they collect, and the more Big Data they collect, the more they know about how you behave.
  3. Digital fatigue – too much social media, too many smartphones, too many YouTube videos to watch. There are also too many apps to download, too much of everything digital and wired and online.
  4. Ecosystems – with the IOT the battle is starting again to dominate this technology ecosystem. There are many dealers, both large and small,  trying to establish a foothold, hoping to create their own ecosystem.
  5. No Killer App – so far, the IOT has no Killer App. However, the Killer App could be just around the corner. They have a nasty habit of appearing on the market suddenly with no warning.
  6. Enterprises will mess things up – for an enterprise to succeed with the IOT or any other part of their Digital Transformation initiative, there are no shortcuts – only hard work.
  7. Rather put customers in control of the IOT – let the consumer control the security of each device. Let them determine what data the devices upload to the Big Companies.

Are you ready for the IOT?

Customers want IOT programs that make home life easier, more distinctive, and more pleasant. Also,  the IOT gives small retailers the technology to do their logistics more efficiently and cheaper.  Further offer the IOT retailers the opportunity to collect data from their customers at their homes and place of work.

There are however a couple points about the IOT that should be considered before using it:

  • Is the IOT system developed and secured enough to use without facing financial of legal liabilities?
  • Are you certain that by using the IOT it will be done ethically?

Lastly, let’s hope that the IOT will add value to both retailers and their customers not long from now…