In 1871, the city of Chicago was devastated by an immense fire that destroyed a vast portion of the city, burning almost 9 square kilometers to the ground. Yet, within three years so much of the city had been rebuilt that disaster tourists complained there was nothing left to see. Out of the tragedy of the Great Fire arose enormous skyscrapers transforming the city into a hub of people and ideas. The reason the city was able to transform itself was the tragedy gave avant-garde architects like Louis Sullivan the opportunity to use new materials, such as steel girders to create skyscrapers that gathered people to create new ideas and businesses.
The tragedy of 2020 and the countless heartaches caused by a tiny virus may have transformed the way people shop and interact in a new and unique way. The tragedy has given the software architects the opportunity to use new tools such as machine learning and AI to create tools and platforms to allow people to interact and collaborate in new ways.
The change is already felt by most companies operating online. A poll conducted by the World Retail Forum with senior global retail executives found that although 29% have yet adjusted to the “new normal” for retail, a full 67% are currently improving their eCommerce solutions. All retailers have learned that online commerce must be a core part of any strategy. What is that strategy though? Retail Store Tours developed the Consumer Engagement Index to help stores understand what customers value. Among their seven metrics, three are the use of technology, the ability to change quickly and unique value proposition- all of which are key concepts for online commerce.
If we recognize the need to change, what are the barriers to the greater online adoption of new tools? We can identify five factors that cause many retailers and brands to hesitate before going all-in on eCommerce:
In each of these cases, new tools such as machine learning and Visual AI can overturn these barriers and create new and exciting ways to interact with your customers. Below we will highlight a few ideas and successes for each of these problems.
A suite of analytic tools and machine learning tools has allowed companies to upscale their customer service reps. Issues like returns, tracking or website FAQs can now be handled by simple and accurate machines. Successful brands like Gucci used this opportunity to retrain customer service reps and turn them into “online sales associates”. They receive specialized training in product knowledge and emotional intelligence and can form direct meaningful connections with customers to solve the unique and unusual requests from customers. They spend more time with customers instead of less, turning the online into a new communication forum.
Physical stores do offer some benefits that cannot be replicated online but there have been advances in AI that replicate and enhance online experiences. Visual AI has given us a way to connect our most powerful sense, sight, to the online journey and deliver more exciting experiences. By transforming your product catalogue into a visually searchable journey, customers can iteratively view a suite of related products and find inspiration in the same way they do when browsing racks of similar items in store. Groups of items can be linked in a visually stimulating way creating an endless array of brand perfect images and collections.
Events are prehaps the easiest experience to replicate online. Many consumers are used to having their phone with them at all times and using their phones to interact with the world. By giving your customers the opportunity to connect digitally you can create mini-events. Ask your customers to snap a picture of them using one of your products and give a prize for the most colorful or unusual use of your product. The game becomes a mini-event skillfully using Visual Search to match the products in customer’s pictures with your catalogue creating new shopping opportunities. Over the past few years in Asia, live streaming events have created enormous buzz and excitement around drops and new releases. Your visual offering can be as simple as the opportunity for your customers to be connected virtually to events in-store or in exciting locations.
Selling used to rely on in-store shelf space and product placement to capture and induce purchase. The problem with these placements was they had to aim for the “average” customer and required frequent and expensive rotation. With Visual AI, you can transform your online shelf space to a unique personalized shelf space. Our machine learning tools transform all your online interactions into a unique and personalized rotation of products. Each time you visit the store, the product line up you see changes – making each visit new and engaging.
Many stores have already adopted BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up In Store) but curbside pick-up has taken it to the next level. In the U.S., stores ranging from grocery stores to big-box retailers and specialty stores have started offering curbside pick-up, and customers appreciate the safety and convenience. Curbside orders increased 208% during the pandemic, and 59% of customers say they are more likely to continue curbside pickup after the pandemic is over. However, the offline to online does not stop curbside. More and more shoppers are using review sites or rely on other consumers’ ratings to make their purchase decisions. With Visual Search, you can take a picture of an item in-store and be immediately directed to a site with the product details and customer reviews on your phone. Seeing is believing and positive reviews combined with physical proximity can be one link for your customers.
Your online transformation does not need to involve upheaval and whole business change. Each of the scenarios outlined above can be implemented with SaaS solutions that allow businesses to try out the “best fit” and customize their customer experiences in a gradual and thoughtful manner. Let Visual AI help you transform your company into a leader.
Get in touch with our team today to understand how you can implement Visual AI to boost your business!