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brick and mortar store front

The Path to Upgrading Your Brick and Mortar Business

The Path to Upgrading Your Brick and Mortar Business 

Brick and mortar retail is often overlooked in the age of digital transformation. Many believed that the digital age would spell doom for physical stores. The “retail apocalypse” predicted the end of the brick and mortar retail model. However, this is not turning out to be the case, and a vast majority of shoppers still want to engage with retailers in a brick and mortar setting. A physical store gives customers the opportunity to get a feel for the products they are buying. It also presents retailers with a chance to provide customers with an unforgettable experience. Customers today want personalized shopping experiences.

Having a brick and mortar presence is also a good way to attract new customers. This is illustrated by the wave of innovative and trendy new retailers like Bonobos and Everlane who started off as online retailers but are looking to expand to physical stores across the country.

Omnichannel Experience

It is a mistake to believe that retailers are either only online or offline. Successful retailers today are operating across multiple different channels. The ability to deliver a highly engaging experience across all channels is the holy grail for retail success in the digital era. Brick and mortar form the cornerstone of this sophisticated omnichannel model of retail. However, physical stores must be able to provide customers with a multidimensional experience that touches all of their senses and enables them to connect with brands.

This retail experience begins the moment a customer enters the store for the first time. Customers intuitively react to the lighting, cleanliness, organization and flow of the store. Getting the physical design of the store right is crucial. So is the way products are arranged and displayed. Retailers today are also experimenting with technologies such as Augmented Reality(AR) and Virtual Reality(VR) to provide unforgettable in-store experiences to their customers.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence(AI) and Machine Learning(ML) may sound like futuristic technologies, however, the reality is that these technologies are being widely applied in retail too. For example, AI and ML are already helping retailers make smarter choices when it comes to preventative maintenance. AI systems are used for product tagging and management, enabling retailers and employees to keep track of important products through a network of sensors. These technologies have changed the way retailers operate their business by enabling them to be able to understand what’s going on at all of their stores from an operations perspective.

There is no doubt that the brick and mortar retail model is here to stay. However, things are changing and the status quo is being disrupted. But this is only for the better. The importance of technology remains crucial for the success of any brick and mortar store. That is why you must understand and fully embrace the new technologies that can bring your business to a brighter future.

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two women in a store looking at merchandise

Approaching Stock-Out: 5 ways to Prevent the Out-of-Stock Problem and Boost Sales

Approaching Stock-Out: 5 ways to Prevent the Out-of-Stock Problem and Boost Sales 

Managing inventory and predicting sales is a difficult process for every retailer. Customers hate it when an item isn't in stock and they are quick to take their business to another retailer who has the item in stock. A stock-out or an out-of-stock situation can have devastating effects for a retailer. A stock-out can be defined as a situation in which the demand or requirement for an item cannot be fulfilled from the current inventory. They are also known as oversells and out-of-stocks. A stock-out leads to a loss of sale due to not having a product any longer. Too many out-of-stocks can ruin brand trust, decrease customer loyalty and result in increased customer care costs. Therefore, preventing stock-outs ought to be at the top of your list of priorities.

Understanding the causes of stock-outs will put you on the right path, but you’ll need actionable solutions if you want to keep your warehouse well-stocked.

Here are 5 solutions to help decrease and prevent stock-outs:


Forecast Demand

Stock-outs are caused by inaccurate demand forecasting. AI and machine learning enabled demand forecasting is one of the most promising applications of AI for the supply chain. Apart from AI based inventory management, here is what you can do:

  1. Determine what to measure and how often, for example, the frequency of stock-outs, competitors sales data, POS data, etc.
  2. Integrate data from all of your sales channels, especially if you’re running an omnichannel e-commerce strategy.
  3. Create a regular monthly process that analyzes previous forecasts and compares them to actual market results.


Refer a Reliable Order Point Formula

A reorder point for​​​​mula can tell you approximately when you should reorder stock to minimize stock-outs and maximize inventory turns. Ideally, this occurs when you’ve reached the lowest amount of inventory that you can sustain before you need to order more stock. Instead of falling victim to erratic spikes and slumps in the market, you can plan ahead by using a proven, mathematical equation that helps you consistently order the right amount of stock each month.

For example, you could use the following formula to help you beat stock-outs:

(Average Daily Unit Sales x Average Lead Time in Days) + Safety Stock = Reorder Point


Implement RFID Tags

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags can allow you to track every product you store quite easily.

It can make your inventory more efficient and allow for faster stocktaking processes. You can swiftly search for and find the products you need to ship. RFID tags can also allow you to scan any product and, find out in real-time how many of those products you still have in stock.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas found that RFID technology can reduce stock-outs by 16%. If you experience regular stock-outs too, then implementing RFID tags can be beneficial for your business.


Maintain Safety Stock Inventory

Safety stock inventory is a small, surplus amount of inventory you maintain on hand, to guard against lead times and variability in market demand.

It can help you to add a buffer for longer-than-expected order lead times, compensate for inaccurate market forecasts, protect against unexpected spikes in demand, and ultimately prevent stock-outs.

Here’s a formula to help you calculate safety stock:

(Max Daily Sales x Max Lead Time in Days) – (Average Daily Sales x Average Lead Time in Days) = Safety Stock Inventory


Prepare a Hierarchy of Recommended Substitutes

For some classes of e-commerce, customers will accept an alternative or equivalent product when one item is out of stock. In grocery, this can be in the form of suggesting an alternate brand of the product, or an alternate form of the product. For example, suggesting a frozen or canned form when the fresh item is out of stock. This enables a customer to prepare a planned meal without wasting time going to another store or having multiple delivery charges. Likewise, in fashion, a popular or necessary item might be back ordered or sold out, and a competing brand or color might be able for immediate shipment. For example, if it’s the rainy season and the customer needs a new pair of rain boots, they may be satisfied with a different design that is available for immediate shipment. In this situation, a machine learning based recommendation engine can be leveraged to help determine the correct recommendation from the real-time inventory of available options.


Preventing stock-outs won’t be an easy task and neither will it happen overnight. But keeping these pointers in mind and implementing them as part of your inventory management will go a long way in safeguarding against stock-outs. You could always continue to test solutions while paying attention to the market. To do so, we recommend using an AI-based tool that can collect, measure, analyze, discover patterns in and provide accurate forecasts.

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a flatlay of clothes

Impact of Great Product Content in Fashion Retail

Impact of Great Product Content in Fashion Retail

 When it comes to e-commerce, merely displaying a robust collection of products on your website will no longer do. Customers today want to do their due diligence before committing to any purchases. This initial evaluation of product content is considered one of the most essential parts of a customer shopping journey. It is also a crucial prerequisite for you to make sure of sales. Incomplete, missing, error-riddled and misspelled product information causes customers to lose faith in your e-commerce website.

In a physical store, consumers are used to touching, feeling and trying on clothing before buying. However, in the case of online shopping, you need to provide rich descriptions along with complete details about the product for a customer to make up their mind about buying a fashion item.

Engaging imagery is key for selling a fashion garment, however, accurate descriptions help educate the consumer and help search engines present accurate results. However, adding a title, description, facets, proper categories and relevant attributes to your product are essential to guide your customers from Google search results or your website’s search bar to the product description page.  Textual content actually makes your products easier to discover.

Here is how great product content can impact fashion retail:

Effect on Customer Experience

Product descriptions answer questions that your potential customers have as they are shopping. Customers comparison shop on multiple websites to find what they are looking for, hence providing all the relevant information is important. A majority of customers will abandon a site or even a partially filled cart if they are not able to find what they are looking for.

Inadequate product content will fail to convert the shopper if it doesn't do a convincing job of communicating the features and capabilities of a product. Fashion Retail is now competitive online. You need to create an engaging experience for your customer that communicates your brand, both visually and with rich information about the product.

Drive Conversions

In the world of e-commerce, enriched product content is the difference between making a sale or losing customers to your competitors, which makes it a top priority for any online retailer. Merely offering content that shows price, short description, sizing and color, doesn’t provide anything for your customers to get excited about. 

We have explored how your product description page is the key for a customer to make a purchase. It is a virtual salesperson who is present at all times to pitch to your customers. Any missing or misleading information will have a negative impact on sales as customers will abandon a purchase . Having rich content will help your customers to understand your products, building trust to find what they’re seeking. This will, in turn, increase sales for you.

Build Credibility

Inconsistent or misspelled product content adversely affect your credibility. The language you use on your website reinforces your identity. Incorporating a specific style and tone-of-voice that is unique to you will help you differentiate your website from competitors, strengthening your brand image in the process.

It is important to be consistent in the ontology and terms you use for categories and items, and avoid misspellings, typos and grammar mistakes. Auto-generated product attributes and categories could help avoid these issues and help build better credibility.

Displaying vibrant, engaging product content on your website ensures that your product listings rank higher in search engines. When your website is the first one that customers find, it leads them to believe your site is more popular and reliable. It also lets you outrank your competitors, getting your site more clicks as a result.

When you take the time to produce great online content for your products, your customers take notice and reward you with their purchase. In the same way that a smart and personable retail clerk can convince a customer to buy in the store, your web store content must be convincing for an online customer. Your products need complete and well-crafted content if they are going to sell.

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woman scanning barcode in a warehouse

Top Retail Trends in Supply Chain Management

Top Retail Trends in Supply Chain Management

As we move forward into 2019, it is only fitting to look at the latest trends in supply chain management. The supply chain is the backbone of e-commerce and in today’s age, it is more diversified than ever before. New technological innovations are being introduced in an effort to dilute this complexity. The supply chain is changing from being technologically enabled to being technologically driven. The high complexity of online markets, as well as the ever-changing and increasing customer demands, requires proactive stances from retailers. Here are some trends that you should consider in your supply chain to stay ahead of your competition.


Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is the technology of the future. A wide array of self-learning algorithms are available in the market today. Huge amounts of data are generated, analyzed, linked and patterned by data scientists. With machine learning operating on this big data, decisive knowledge can be derived from it, regardless of the amount of data. AI also has multiple applications in the supply chain. Logistical coordination and organization in warehouses is being driven by intelligent and autonomous technology such as drones, robots, and self-driving vehicles. Chatbots can also be a function of logistics, for example, they can be programmed to give information such as "Your package has just been shipped", or "your order is going to be delayed". Zion Market Research published a report stating that global AI in supply chain management is estimated to cross 6,548 million USD by the year 2024. AI is an all-encompassing solution that will fundamentally revolutionize and influence the future of the supply chain.


Immersive Technologies

In the supply chain, the use of augmented, virtual or mixed realities isn’t a novelty anymore. Augmented Reality (AR) offers various assistive technologies that facilitate the employees in their day to day work. Hands-free picking aided by AR could take care of simple picking tasks. Employees wearing smart glasses enhanced by AR can immediately view barcode data on the screen and improve their productivity. Tasks in the future of the supply chain could be significantly simplified using smart glasses, displays and simulators. From the customer’s vantage, AR makes virtual trial and test of products possible without the need for actual physical products. This customer behavior could impact the supply chain in the long run with fewer products being kept at store locations and speedy shipping from larger storages in warehouses. Gartner forecasts that by 2022, 70% of enterprises will be experimenting with immersive technologies with 25% having deployed them in production.


3D Printing

This technology has found its way into almost every imaginable industry and continues to provide limitless opportunities. 3D printing is not only used for prototypes and small series products but is being utilized in mass production of items such as car parts. The advantages of 3D printing will be even better utilized in the future. 3D-printed parts can be manufactured easily, at a cheaper cost and without compromising on quality; these factors make it especially attractive for the production of cost-intensive individual parts required in the aerospace industry, for example. Ever since its introduction, 3D printing has been evolving and improving, which makes it a viable addition to the supply chain of the future. 3D printing can not only meet rising customer requirements but also significantly shorten the supply chain. With the possibility of faster prototyping and reduced cost of production, the applications are endless, particularly in the field of consumer goods and medical care. 


These are only some of the trends that you can keep in mind while upgrading your supply chain. Artificial intelligence currently holds the highest potential as it is being rapidly innovated and integrated into every aspect of e-commerce. 3D printing and Immersive Technologies have their own upsides and will only help shape the efficiency and ramp up the dynamics of the future supply chain. Keeping up with these trends will give you a significant edge over the competition and assure lasting viability in the market.

Read more about how leveraging AI could improve supply chain efficiency for Grocery Retailers.

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empty shopping cart in an aisle

Impact of Stock-Out on Retailers

Impact of Stock-Out on Retailers

One of the worst nightmares for a retailer is to have a stock out or out-of-stock situation when it comes to selling products. This is a very serious issue and can be detrimental to the bottom line of any business. Aside from lost sales, stock-outs also lead to reduced customer satisfaction and lowered loyalty levels. When a customer requests to buy a product that is out of stock, they are going to end up unhappy with the inventory issue and you most certainly don’t want to disappoint your customers. Many cases of stockouts may be easily prevented by taking steps to better understand your business and products, and by refining your e-commerce processes.

Common Reasons for Stock-Outs:

Let us start by taking a look at some of the most common reasons for stock-outs: 

  1. Inaccurate data: It can be hard to maintain accurate inventory counts. This may be due to several reasons such as misplaced products, product returns, shipment variances, and even stolen goods. As a result, the data in your inventory management system may not reflect what's in the warehouse.

  2. Failure to reorder on time: This especially happens with your best sellers. Items with high-turnover, such as consumer products and grocery items are the most commonly affected. Due to either a poor forecast or a missed signal on a hot seller, you may run out of products before you’ve had a chance to reorder and restock your inventory.

  3. Unclear communications with suppliers: Another cause of stock-outs is when you don’t have clarity in your communications with your supply chain. Failure in effective communication with suppliers may lead to missed or delayed orders, resulting in stock-outs.

Effects of Stock-outs on Business:

If a product is not available for delivery to a customer who has placed an order, there are four possible outcomes:

  • Customer agrees to wait for the itemFor important items, a customer may be willing to wait for it. However, the customer is likely to still harbor some disappoint in the interaction. 
  • Customer back orders the item: While not the ideal solution, the order still gets fulfilled. Again, customer satisfaction declines and most customers won’t repeat this process with you unless you are the sole provider of the item.

  • Customer cancels the order: Customers today are savvy. They are shopping the competition. If the customer knows that the item is available from another retailer, they may simply cancel the order and ask for a refund. The customer may be unhappy, but they may still order from you again in the future.

  • Customer cancels the order, and never returns: This is the worst case scenario as a result of a stock-out situation. An angry customer here may be so disappointed in your fulfillment process that they never order from you again.

Implementing demand forecasting is one of the most important steps to avoiding stock-outs. You can try to forecast demand on your own by factoring in stock turnover, sell-through, historical sales data, and other factors such as promotions, economic state, seasonality and using your judgment. Analysis of these data points could give you insights into how products will perform. Stock-outs also tend to form patterns such as recurring on a particular day, at a particular time. Through analysis of stock-out patterns, you can better predict potential inventory and consumption problems and build a better forecast.

 In the next article in this series, we'll look at how artificial intelligence can be leveraged to help you see patterns in your data, and make suggestions to a more accurate forecast.

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scrabble keys form the word search denoting product discovery element in ecommerce

Product Discovery: Enhancing the customer shopping experience

The Path to Better Product Discovery

Discovery is essentially the most important part of product management in e-commerce. The search functionality differs across different websites, but overall, customers must be able to access relevant results quickly and easily in order for you to raise conversion rates for your business.

In this article, we shall explore how you can optimize your website for better product discovery.

Product Discovery: The Key Factor

‘Product Discovery’ is the process through which a customer comes to your online store and discovers a relevant product. The time taken to get to the product is called ‘Product Discovery Time’. As a retailer, quick product discovery is imperative, because unless your customer can find a product he/she wants to buy, no amount of traffic or conversion optimization will be able to drive revenue. 

In a study conducted by ClickTale, it was observed that for e-commerce sites without an optimized search functionality, shoppers spent more time attempting to find their desired product, but left because they were unable to find it. Alternatively, on e-commerce sites with better search functionality, they spend less time but actually find the desired product faster. As a result, the customer sticks around to make a purchase despite spending less time on the site. If a customer has a sub-par experience while searching for products, they are likely to ditch the store resulting in an overall disappointing experience.

Up The Product Discovery Game

Now that you understand how product discovery drives revenue, let’s take a look at how you can optimize the e-commerce experience for your customers. Relevance is an important theme to base an e-commerce site on. The more relevant your site is to each individual shopper, the better your product discovery experience will be.

Begin with an optimized homepage that features current promotional offers, current sales, and time-sensitive offers to drive urgency. After this, you can add:

  1. Personalized product listings based on recently viewed items to save time for a shopper looking to make similar purchases.

  2. Showcase trending and popular best-selling products to draw in new customers visiting for the first time that lack browsing history.

  3. Display new arrivals to give your customers a chance to view and possibly purchase your newest offerings.

  4. Include educational content such as guides, product reviews, and product videos. This kind of content pre-sells your products to customers who are merely browsing through your online store.

Hook By Navigation

Customers use navigation when they are searching for products but are undecided on what exactly they are looking for. So the navigation on your site needs to be both fast and intuitive so as to not lose a shopper at the start of their search journey. 

Here are a few points to bear in mind:

  1. Navigation menus must display a varied collection of categories and sub-categories to narrow the range from which a shopper can search for a product.

  2. Fly-out menus i.e, menus that "fly out" from the left or right side of the screen, and are hidden until the mouse is moved into the area of the screen, are a popular option used by retailers for this purpose.

  3. Adding filters to the search menu can help shoppers to selectively filter products based on necessity.

  4. Make filterable and sortable attributes per product as complete as possible, such as tags for colors, sizes, brand etc.

  5. Allow mix and match of the filter and sort tags to make search easier. For example, You can allow customers to search for pink and black dresses in one view instead of making them go through two separate searches for each color.

Faster, Accurate Results

Customers expect to get exact results from quickly typing in words into a search box. Your site search must be capable of handling input such as product names, product types, categories, FAQs, product features, keyword variations, and misspellings for an optimized solution. Create and optimize dedicated landing pages for users coming in from search engines. In these cases, it is critical to feature relevant products immediately and include a call to action or conversion action. As an example, if a user searches for black boots, they should ideally be redirected to a page showcasing boots under shoes with black pre-selected as a filter. You must also make sure to create dedicated landing pages for top search terms relating to your products and display the correct product listings.

Error 404 pages are an often-overlooked opportunity in e-commerce. For such pages, instead of discouraging a user away from your site, you may include best-sellers, current sales, promotions, trending product lists, etc that help customers discover products they want to buy.

Dedicated Landing Pages and Secondary Product Discovery

For customers who are looking for gift ideas, landing pages dedicated to best-sellers and trending product listings can be a boon. These pages are also great to include in subscriber email series. Popular products are automatically more desirable and dedicated landing pages are a great way to take advantage of that. 

All of the above takes place fairly early in the customer shopping journey. On the other hand, there is a further possibility of upselling using product discovery that you can place at the time of purchase. You can add product recommendations and items that are frequently bought together, and include products to ‘complete the look’. Another enticing option for online shoppers is to provide them with an opportunity to get free shipping by adding extra products to increase the size of the order or provide discounts for bundled products. These practices can aid in driving up average order values by cross-selling and upselling products.

We hope this was a helpful guide to optimizing your product discovery. From creating an optimized home page to offering secondary product discovery options, it is up to you how to implement these ideas in your online store to drive revenues.

Now that we’ve seen how product discovery can be a crucial tool for conversion, here’s how leveraging AI for product categorization can help narrow search results.

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man holding the smart phone, using the Augmented Reality buy some food in the supermarket

Augmented Reality v/s Image Recognition – The better bet for your business

Augmented Reality vs. Image Recognition - The better bet for your retail business

There's a lot of chatter around how Augmented Reality will change the way people shop. While Augmented Reality holds value, every technology created has its specific use case. Retailers and brands must bear in mind the several aspects each of the technology provides and select those that align to their objectives and goals. Let's delve deeper into each of these technologies -

Image recognition

Image recognition technology enables consumers to search for products by just taking a picture of them. These visual experiences are usually more flexible in nature when compared to Augmented Reality experiences for the following reasons -

No requirement for users to download an extension or app 

While there are some versions of AR applications out there for mobile websites, it's still a long way from delivering a seamless experience for its users. AR experiences that perform well often require a user to download an app. Image recognition, here plays a pivotal role as it enables interactive experiences within a retailer's mobile web, and not just the native app.

There is no need for creating 3D models 

Developing 3D models for AR experiences can often be time-consuming and expensive. Due to its complicated nature, it even requires technical skills to deliver the experience. Image recognition can be used with the existing marketing and web collaterals and can be implemented with ease. Moreover, the changes made to the content will automatically be updated in the apps, keeping the experience up-to-date.

Providing a universal and inclusive experience for shoppers 

Devices play an important role when Augmented reality is concerned. The experience may differ between low-end and high-end user devices, with the highest quality devices getting the best results. This is not an issue with Image recognition as it allows brands and retailers to ensure that their content is delivered to their customers in the same, interactive manner, irrespective of the user's device.


Limitations of Image recognition vs AR

While Image recognition provides the aforementioned benefits, there are certain aspects that set Augmented Reality apart from Image recognition:

Content is visualized in a three-dimensional manner

The type of content linked to Image recognition often includes videos, promotions, product information pages, etc. which often aids the customer's purchase journey by allowing them to learn more about the products and it offers at one go. In AR, the content is represented in a three-dimensional format. The content visualized is not three-dimensional, unlike what many Augmented Reality experiences build upon.

Image recognition provides a transactional experience, not immersive

If a user/customer aims to visualize objects in their environment, Augmented reality can be a good option to choose from, as Image recognition limits the user or customer to place digital content into the real world. This comes especially handy while buying expensive furniture - with a 'try before you buy' functionality. The customer can use the functionality and get a feel of how it may appear against a realistic setup - and nudge him or her towards a purchase.


Conclusion

To put it briefly, image recognition helps create a smooth transition between the physical and the digital worlds and help customers through a shopping journey. It allows them to interact with real products with the help of the images and the product information. For instance, it allows the user to learn more about a product's nutritional values, the user ratings, allergens, check for its alternatives, similar products, complementary products, etc.

On the other hand, Augmented Reality goes from digital to physical. It lets customers interact with virtual products in their own environment when, in fact, are not present.

While they may support different use cases, both technologies can provide customers with different kinds of engaging experiences.

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woman wearing VR headset

Virtual Reality: Playing a growing role in retail

Virtual Reality: Playing a growing role in Retail

New technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are gaining popularity. The technology to enable VR and AR is now inexpensive enough and powerful enough for anyone to experience. Have you considered how it can improve the selling experience for your customers?

Virtual Reality is an Immersive Experience

VR is now mainstream in a variety of applications across different fields such as education, gaming, military and movies. When users experience VR in these mainstream applications, they are no longer intimidated by how it works.

Retailers can benefit from this trend as they start to look for opportunities to leverage VR to help sell products or educate customers.  VR can be used to entertain customers with a virtual experience of your offerings. VR can supplement the bright colorful images, detailed product descriptions and reviews that customers are currently using to make a buying decision online.

Virtual Reality is still in its initial phases with companies like HTC, Oculus, and Samsung. VR is still growing in popularity with thousands of headsets being sold. The price for headsets has come down dramatically with the release of products like the Oculus GO retailing for under $200. This is opening up the market for retailers like Alibaba (see video below), Lowe’s and North Face to start using VR to promote their brands.

Including VR in retail could possibly offer efficient data and analytics, which in turn could benefit retailers in coming up with effective strategies. It could also help in reducing both marketing costs as well as product returns. Major challenges include that VR headsets are uncomfortable and require hardware, as well as the fact that they are expensive. Fortunately, many companies such as Apple, Google, HTC and Samsung are developing affordable standalone headsets or applications that operate on mobile phones.

Augmented Reality changes the Rules

Augmented Reality (AR) can be used to add information or graphics to a live image seen through a mobile phone camera. In the market for home furnishings, AR can be used to position a new couch, chair or lamp in a scene on a live view through your mobile phone camera.

How you might implement and use AR depends on what you're selling. If you have an item that can be seen through a mobile camera and enhanced with virtual elements then it might be a good candidate for AR.

Ikea AR app

IKEA app demonstrates live AR placement of virtual furniture

How to Incorporate VR in Retail:

While there are many applications of using VR, here are two ways in which it can be effectively applied in the retail industry:

Interactive VR Experience

Retailers like Swarovski include virtual tours and apps that let customers interact with their products. Virtual tours can provide customers with an immersive experience by allowing them to visualize products virtually before trying them out in the store. To deliver an interactive VR experience, retailers need a team of 3D artists, copywriters, graphic designers, software engineers, sound engineers, and quality assurance experts. The overall cost of such a set up could easily cost $100,000.

360° Videos

Video storytelling can be an engaging way to educate customers. A 360° video experience can enable customers to get a feel of a product in space from different angles. The production of a 360° video requires live action shooting, basic video production, special effects, and post-production. Retailers would also need to provide VR headsets with relevant apps to deliver the content. The cost of making such videos could range anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 depending on how immersive an experience the retailers choose to offer.

Potential Advantages for Business:

Virtual Reality in retail has advantages as it removes the limitations on space and time and reduces the overall marketing costs. Here are a few of the potential business advantages it offers for retailers:

Specific Store Design and Layout

It is much faster and more cost effective to put together a virtual store design. In this example, customers can tour the virtual store and test store layout and design principles before the physical store is built. Virtual Reality technology is evolving and improving, meaning there are options to visualize store, test out different layouts and test customer acceptance. In addition, with a VR project, shelf and assortment layout can be tested and validated.

Customer Feedback

VR analysis can allow retailers to understand the customer journey better. Retailers identify the best performing tactics and analyze customer shopping patterns. By following customer interactions in a virtual world, a retailer can gather data on the way that a customers shops. This data can be used accordingly to adjust store layout and optimize product placement.

Dominate the Marketplace

VR is still in the early stages of market acceptance with scarce content. Innovative retailers can take advantage of this fact and learn along the way as the underlying technology keeps improving. If your target market includes shoppers who might be enticed by VR or willing to try VR, then you should consider it. V-commerce can be one element of your marketing plan to help differentiate you from a competitor, and draw in consumers who appreciate the experience. 

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Advantages of Leveraging User Generated Content for Retailers

Advantages of Leveraging User Generated Content for Retailers

Customer shopping habits have changed rapidly over the past decade. Customers today are looking for retailers that they can connect and engage with. Retailers must also change their marketing methods to interact with customers in an organic manner and provide an authentic brand experience.

One of the methods that is gaining popularity is the use of user-generated content (UGC). UGC is social media content created and shared between customers. Consumers want to be recognized for their input and as a result, retailers can benefit from the online discussion of their products. UGC can allow retailers to engage with their customers before, during and after a purchase. It provides customers with opportunities to promote the brands they like.

UGC in Marketing

UGC goes beyond mere likes or shares on social media. Customers often upload well-captured photographs or videos of the product. This content may even include comments and feedback about their experiences while using the product. Customers also leave reviews or offer recommendations of products they’ve purchased and used. UGC lets existing customers speak to future customers.

Given a choice between believing an advertisement by a retailer or a recommendation by another person, consumers tend to choose the latter. In fact, 93% of the consumers feel that UGC is helpful when making a purchase decisions.

Customers are continually bombarded by advertisements, but the impact is especially powerful when a customer feels a connection with another customer's experience. UGC works best when the message is real and authentic.

For example, cosmetics retailers benefit when their customers share pictures while wearing their products. Make-up artists are very popular on Instagram and they endorse the cosmetics brands they like. Followers of these make-up artists see these recommendations as credible and as a result, they are more likely to buy based on the recommendations. This user generated content showcases how the product works with a practical example, and without a heavy sell by the manufacturer/retailer. The result is that the credibility of the make-up artist is translated to the product and subsequently to the manufacturer/retailer.

UGC in Customer Retention

As a retailer, your job is to attract customers. However, it is equally crucial for you to nurture existing customers. How often are you creating rewards or special offers based on your customers purchase history? Have you considered utilizing UGC to showcase related or compatible products to existing customers?

You've made a big investment in attracting and nurturing your customer base. Don't lose it!

  1. Find UGC for your products where ever it exists and get it in front of new customers. Let your existing customers and fans do some of the hard marketing work for you. 
  2. Use social media to create an online community where users can discuss the products they’ve bought and offer recommendations to each other. Repost the best content on your official channels.
  3. Encourage customers to discover and share multiple uses of a product. Use UGC to showcase the versatility of your products. This retains old customers while drawing in. Retailers can also hold events like sales to boost customer interaction.

Artificial Intelligence in Curation of UGC

UGC is a key element of a successful marketing plan. With the growth of social media, content is being created every second. This can become an invaluable resource. The problem is that most of this content is uncurated as it's published. 

Learn to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) to augment your marketing team. You can employ AI to curate UGC and use it for your benefit, by helping your human curation teams to curate faster and with higher accuracy. A side effect is that you can quickly become aware of product issues or bad publicity from a user review, and avoid the business risk associated with that. New ways of employing the content are coming out as the digital channels continue to diversify. You must curate UGC if you want to harness its power.

Trust is key. The conversations initiated by UGC can boost your bottom line. Nurture and reward your best content creators, and you'll see your customer base grow.

Of course with a growing customer base comes increased brand awareness, customer reach, and revenue.

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Social Media: A New Way to Shop Online

Social Media: A New Way to Shop Online

 E-commerce has changed the way people shop, giving retailers and businesses new avenues to interact and engage their customers. Millennials are currently the most valuable target demographic for modern retailers. As they are also the most avid users of social media, a crossover was all but inevitable.  

Retailers, realizing the power of social media, have used these platforms for a while now to engage with their customers online. Social media also lets retailers market their products in a more interactive environment.

Recently, social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have been investing in retail. This captures wide consumer interest and boosts both revenues as well as followers. As for retailers, they can use social media platforms to better understand consumer behavior and trends.

UGC or user-generated content is one of the most valuable data sources for retailers. Millennials put a lot of trust and faith in peer evaluation of products. Studies show that reviews and recommendations by fellow shoppers, rather than brand messaging, motivate customers to buy products online.

Here are a few instances of how social media platforms are leveraging the retail space:

Facebook Shop and Marketplace

Facebook has a feature called Facebook Shop. Retailers can add the Shop tab to their business page. It lets retailers display their products and sell directly from their company page itself. Considering the huge number of users on Facebook, this offers retailers a wide audience to convert into customers. Retailers can upload a product catalog to their page and customers can browse the products and buy them without having to leave the page. It also allows retailers to manage orders, and mark them as shipped or canceled right on the page itself.

Facebook also introduced Facebook Marketplace, an online market for retailers to display products. This offers free organic distribution for retailers’ products. It curates content and provides product recommendations based on user preferences and relevance. This ensures higher conversion from a user to a consumer. Like Facebook Shop, there is no listing fee involved. It is an online platform for retailers to sell to their customers.

#Instashopping on Instagram

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms with more than 1 billion active users; and about 60% or a whopping 600 million people, seek out and discover products on the app. Instagram has introduced shoppable posts which allow customers to go from discovery to buying without having to leave the app. Retailers can add up to 5 product tags per picture on business accounts only. They can only tag products from their Facebook Shop catalog. These tags redirect the customers to a product page that allows them to buy the products.

This seamless and hassle-free shopping experience has a wide appeal for the customers. In June 2018, they added Shoppable Stories which are an added advantage as about 400 million users view Stories every month. As of late 2018, Instagram also added a shopping channel to the Explore page, which is in its testing phase.

Shop and Cop by Snapchat

Snapchat  has introduced ads and product catalogs through its self-service ad buying platform. Recently, they released a dedicated shopping channel called Shop and Cop on the app which will feature exclusive offers and limited time deals through Shopify. These channels will be available in the Discovery section of the Snapchat app. Shop and Cop will feature social influencer posts and content. Shopify capabilities will allow in-app purchases ensuring a smooth shopping experience without the user leaving the app. Snapchat will curate products while Shopify will take care of the buying end. Moreover, Snapchat and Amazon have announced a partnership on a visual search tool. This will allow customers to use the Snapchat camera to search for products on Amazon.



2018 saw a lot of innovations with social media intersecting with e-commerce to give the rise of social commerce.  Retailers stand to make big bucks off of these popular platforms by better understanding shopper purchase behavior and using it to their advantage. They can conduct market research, market their products better and even sell, all in one place. With these innovations, it's only a matter of time before social media takes over the world of retail.

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