The considerable increase of present day connectivity is going to become as big as a full blown balloon. It is estimated that by 2026, consumers will be living in a hyperconnected, high-speed world where the Internet of Things (IoT) will be a norm of life. By 2020, there will be 660 million machine-to-machine (M2M) connections. But, what is important to know here is that these interactions will race off far away from the dominance of mobile and tablet only world. We will see a more evolved form of interaction between online sellers and online shoppers. And at the heart of that interaction will be connected devices in ecommerce.
We’ve already seen the beginning of connected devices in ecommerce in the form of the Amazon Dash Button. This technology lets shoppers re-order predefined goods with the touch of a button. We’ve also witnessed how Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, and other devices can be used to order your mom a bouquet of flowers when you remember that her birthday is next week. But looking at the speed with which ecommerce world moves, I believe that this is just a launching pad for the future possibilities of over- or hyper-connected shopping experiences. One significant outcome of this is that it will transform ecommerce into predictive commerce. These connected devices will allow etailers to help people find products before they even perceive that need them–and whether or not they’re logged in or ready to click a “buy” button on a screen. Consider the following scenario to grasp how connected devices in ecommerce will transform our routines from searching and browsing to merely thinking.
Just visualize that you are about to leave the house to reach the office. As you are about to lock the door, you hear a voice from the device on your coffee table: “It looks like you are running short on milk, and yogurt is on sale for $1.19. Would you like to pick up an order from XYZ store, for a total of $5.35?” You say yes, and Alexa confirms. The order will be ready for curbside pickup, on the way home from your office.
The scenario isn’t a stretch of imagination. Tech pioneers like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple are looking to figure out customer needs before they actually register in customers’ minds. With machine learning and behavior analysis, machine-powered image recognition, AI, and VR, it’s not at all an oblique or opaque possibility. It’s very real and plausible. Besides, the scope of such devices will not be limited to the early prediction of customer needs. It will be much more than that, which will take care of the customer’s convenience, and journey points. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how connected devices in ecommerce will affect consumer habits.
Augmented reality (AR) has been defined as a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. AR, thus, is well placed in blurring the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds. With AR, it will be possible for online stores to give an experience of store shopping. Such device can be a boon to the apparel, cosmetics, home decor, and jewelry industries–among others–as it will allow consumers to virtually try products. It can significantly reduce return rates– the scourge of modern ecommerce. According to a survey by the U.S. National Retail Federation, returned merchandise cost U.S. retailers $284 billion in potential sales.
How can it work? With the example of a clothing business, It’s possible to collect the measurements of customers through the device along with the preferences like color, pattern, and fabric type. If the business integrates their connected devices in ecommerce, as soon as that device comes across such a garment on that particular site, it can notify the customer immediately. As the device will have the AI abilities, he can try that garment instantly. If he finds it suitable, he may just order it from the same device. Remember that the smaller the hurdle between the product and the customer, the lesser the chances of cart abandonment.
Even though the ecosystem of wearable technology is still in its teething days, it is believed that the future will be consumed by wearables. Ovum expects the installed base for wearable devices to reach 650 million by 2020. Of course, there are some visible constraints associated with wearable devices; the tiny screen being the most glaring one. But they also have an advantage as most wearables are companion devices. They can act as a perfect reminder giving device or a modern messenger.
Note that wearables of the future will have the ability to capture a broad array of data related to a user’s contextual activity, health and emotional state. This can be used effectively to tailor both products and marketing messages to a very high degree. This can be used in scenarios where connected washing machines take the center stage and automatically orders washing powder. This machine uses dual-phase liquid detergent in replaceable cartridges. When the detergent in one of the cartridges gets low, an app sends a message via the home’s WiFi router to the user’s smartphone so that they can order refills. The wearable can easily replace phones.
Naturally, in both the previous scenarios, prediction is the most important factor. And any business perdition needs a proper detection of subtle patterns from massive data sets that are constantly in flux. This flux may include consumers’ purchase histories, product preferences, and schedules; competitors’ pricing and inventory; and current and forecasted product demand. Machine learning holds importance precisely because of this factor. In general, machine learning is all about understanding data and statistics. It’s a process where computer algorithms find patterns in data, then predict the probable outcomes. That’s why Etsy acquired a company that specializes in machine learning. The aim is to make its searches more predictive by surfacing nuanced product recommendations that go beyond simple purchase histories or preferences. It’s a natural evolution of product recommendations and it will have a huge role to play in the future designs of connected devices.
Clearly, online selling is witnessing a paradigm shift. Till now, online shops were hell bent on being a good responsive seller. It was a reactive way of engaging with a customer. But, connected devices are set to change that. By predicting needs earlier and suggesting products to fill that need, it has taken a proactive stance. They are not ready to wait for the chances of buying. They now want to create those chances. It is according to the buying behavior of online shoppers which has become less of a deliberate activity. It has developed as an organic mode of living for many. And that’s why there is a scope for such chance creations and proactive thinking. No online seller can afford to overlook it by not matching his pitch with this new tone. It can pose a threat to his existence. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has deliberately said for such situations that what’s dangerous is not to evolve!
Note: We keep a close eye on the happenings in the retail world. Check out this blog about 9 innovative ways businesses are implementing in-store technology, and this one to learn about the most important ways of differentiating your stores in 2017.
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