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User-generated Content: Playing a crucial role in e-commerce

User-generated Content: Playing a crucial role in e-commerce

Content is an extremely crucial part of any e-commerce business as it has the ability to drive a large amount of organic traffic onto a website. Businesses must be sensitive to providing the right content which provides the brand a wider range of audiences across the web for minimal cost.

One challenge that e-commerce brands face is the ability to create engaging content across all platforms. Moreover, the true challenge lies in creating engaging content as well as producing enough content.

Producing being the operative word, e-commerce brands have a distinct advantage wherein they don’t necessarily have to create or produce new content when sourcing user-generated content. They can leverage the content sourced from user-generated content (UGC) via various channels such as social media in many forms, such as messages, posts, videos, pictures, etc.

The rise of User Generated Content

Over the past decade, there has been an exponential rise in the amount of user-generated content on the internet and with the popularity of the various social media platforms out there, the growth comes as no surprise.

Customers have been talking about different products and brands for a long time now. With the ability to capture those conversations and interactions across the various social media and other marketing channels, e-commerce brands can avail the benefits without spending too much time attempting to produce newer content.

Why is UGC so effective?

One reason why UGC continues to have increased conversions is:  trust.

Multiple surveys showed that UGC plays an important role in a customer’s shopping journey. Some important findings being - 84% of people trusted online reviews as much as they trusted recommendations from their friends, and 74% of people said that positive reviews dramatically improved trust in a business.

Furthermore, almost 82% of consumers said that user-generated content (like reviews, for example) was extremely valuable in helping them make a purchase decision.

Sourcing UGC is not difficult, yet, deciding what needs to be done after, is important.

Incorporating Customer images in Product pages

Product pages benefit greatly from high-quality images. That being said, every brand going online is upgrading their images to better quality images. E-commerce brands can make their products stand out by skipping the usual images provided by the suppliers and manufacturers and instead, are turning towards customers.

Ex: Popular video streaming service Netflix utilizes UGC to promote fans’ posts about specific shows or movies on Instagram. UGC shows that other people are also getting excited about new shows and movies.

Instagram Netflix screenshot

This can be done if e-commerce brands do away with models, and start looking at their customers as models. Seeing real customers using and wearing products builds significant trust and generates interest in the product. Furthermore, it can also help deliver powerful messages during campaigns using the target audience as representatives for the brand.

Showcasing product benefits

Some brands have to come up with innovative ideas to use user-generated content. While brands selling tangible products such as fashion accessories, or home care products can easily benefit from using UGC easily, brands selling either a service or a software have to get creative.

When there are no tangible products that can be showcased, e-commerce brands can focus on the benefits to the customer and what they may experience using the service or product.

Example: Social media scheduling tool Buffer created #BufferCommunity to showcase photographs and personalities of its many users from all around the world. The aim for this campaign was to source UGC featuring exotic spaces to promote the freedom that Buffer provides.

Instagram Buffer community screenshot

Brands have to focus on how customers use their products and find ways to source UGC, and then insert that into various marketing campaigns - or reshare onto social media to boost engagement and brand awareness.

Including photos with product reviews

Reviews are the easiest UGC on the internet. E-commerce brands generate reviews without doing anything other than providing tremendous customer service and quality products.

To create a more lasting impact with reviews, e-commerce brands can opt for a review platform that enables users to add images as well as videos alongside their written reviews. E-commerce giants such as Amazon leverage this facility for their users.

Customers are more than happy to share their experiences, and that matters tremendously for brands. Many customers prefer to view the product reviews before choosing a particular product as it gives an authentic sense of how the product would appear on them.

The more customers share images alongside their reviews, the more value it brings to the e-commerce store.

Featured photo credit: Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

A Tour of CatalogIQ for Grocery

Kick-start eCommerce sales with awesome product data

E-commerce requires awesome product data to support successful search and conversion. Product data for the online grocery market is currently being created manually. Retailers are struggling to acquire the rich product data necessary to support their online needs. Brands are struggling to generate good data.

ContentIQ Add Product

IceCream Labs CatalogIQ is designed to automatically extract attributes from product images. Using either label mechanicals or actual product images of the packaging, CatalogIQ can extract text from the labels. From there, the artificial intelligence in CatalogIQ understands what the text is and inserts it into the appropriate product attribute. The AI can also determine which images are the hero image, and front, back and side images.

CatalogIQ Extracted Attributes

CatalogIQ identifies brand names, sub brands and variants, normalizing the brand to the appropriate text. titles are generated from various attributes to create an SEO-rich title to optimize search. Other key attributes include feature/benefits, ingredients and nutrition facts.

CatalogIQ extracting content from a product

Sample CatalogIQ extraction (front/rear)

How complete is your data?

ContentIQ Catalog List view

CatalogIQ can score the data to help the merchandising and ecommerce teams understand which product records have been enhanced.

  • Missing attributes
  • Accuracy of attributes (are all of the attributes congruent?)
  • How unique are the attributes?
  • Is your product record SEO optimized?
  • Do you have relevant search keywords?
  • How well does your product data match up to customer site searches?
catalog IQ demo screen

Support for Grocery merchandising teams

Grocery merchandising teams have the chore of uploading new catalogs from suppliers and manufacturers. Often this data arrives in the form of a spreadsheet. CatalogIQ can easily upload a new catalog file (in spreadsheet form) to quickly and easily complete the ingestion process.

ContentIQ Add Catalog screen

Support for Grocery and CPG Brands

Grocery retailer and channel partners expect high quality product data to list and sell your products online. Can you deliver the content?

CatalogIQ allows brand and product managers to auto-generate high quality product data directly from product label mechanicals and/or product images. If you're currently using manual processes to create product content and to check the accuracy of product data, then let CatalogIQ help you automate the creation process. You'll be able to complete the data creation process much faster than manual methods. CatalogIQ can also validate the content and ensure that it matches what is contained on all of the product labeling.

CatalogIQ Features

  • Quality product images including relevant Nutrition Facts
  • Accurate meta-data, including attributes like: allergens, sugar free, Kosher certified, Non-GMO and other facets
  • Complete, standardized and SEO enabled titles
  • SEO rich descriptions
  • Correct product categorization

As a merchandising manager with a large product catalog, you know the difficulties of reviewing your product data and ensuring that everything in the catalog is ready to publish live to customers. There is always the nagging concern that something is inaccurate or missing when you push the “publish” button. Every time that you receive new data from your suppliers, it’s a chore to process the data. You have a long checklist to complete before you can publish data to the live catalog. Processing this checklist can consume all of your time.

CatalogIQ Benefits

  • High quality product data
  • Improve product page discoverability 
  • Increase product sales
lady using a credit card to make a payment online

Transforming the Payment landscape with AI

Transforming the Payment landscape with AI

People have increasingly become comfortable using technologies such as AI and machine learning in their day-to-day lives. Various companies also have increased their use of AI and machine learning into their product offerings as well as their processes. With the computer processing technology advancing increasingly, companies, institutions and even governments are gathering massive amounts of data as more consumer interactions move towards digital. This type of technology is already transforming the payments landscape in the following aspects -

Improving Efficiency

AI and machine learning have the potential to revolutionize the way payments are processed by enhancing operational efficiency and decreasing costs involved. For instance, AI enabled chatbots are reducing the load for customer service representatives.

With machine learning being incorporated into payments, learning algorithms play an important in helping speed along authorization of transactions and monitoring.
Furthermore, AI helps reduce the processing time for payments. It also helps eliminate human error and save time for correcting those mistakes.

For a business, processing large amounts of data to generate financial reports to satisfy regulatory and compliance requirements would involve a team that would perform repetitive data processing tasks. Leveraging AI would involve training the models to do these tasks, and the model can ensure completing the tasks faster and more accurately than humans. These technologies can improve efficiency while gathering important user insights in real-time.

Machine learning has already proved to be an invaluable part of fraud detection, but there are many opportunities that lie in product sales, customer care, and retention. Machine learning can draw vast amounts of available data and utilize it to profile customers to guess their product needs while offering new opportunities for upselling.

This model can also help identify which customers that companies are at risk for losing as well as halt customer loss before it happens. Machine learning can help automate many customer service interactions. This model which uses deep insights, cognitive engines and natural language processing is already widely available and the usage will only grow with time.

Fraud Prevention

There are various methods for customers to make payments today. They are no longer limited to paying with cash or even cards. There are new payment methods on the rise such as card-not-present (CNP) transactions, but as it gets popular come new opportunities for fraud. AI and machine learning are at the forefront of not only detecting fraud but also preventing it before it happens.

These technologies already have the capability to uncover patterns and drive hidden insights and are working towards fine-tuning these insights. Companies are choosing to move away from a static model where the reliance is on supervised learning with input towards unsupervised learning wherein the deep belief neural network does not require a labeled training set, but continuously updates the model as new patterns emerge, allowing for a more robust and flexible fraud prevention detection tool.

As more commerce and payments move online, more data is accessible. This new robust algorithm uses machine learning to decrease the false positives and more agile detection of the actual frauds.


AI and machine learning have come a long way in the past decade. These technologies have already been adopted by many sectors and have transformed many aspects of traditional processes. Though exciting new technologies have been adopted by businesses to improve and enhance the payment process and customer experiences, the scope for future implementation is endless.

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The Role of Interactive Content on Product Detail Pages

The Role of Interactive Content on Product Detail Pages

Consumers are most impacted by the things that they can see, touch, feel and understand. E-commerce businesses often lose out on customers if they cannot provide the same effect that brick and mortar stores do with their products. This is where providing a rich consumer experience plays a crucial role that engages their sensibilities.

To make consumers feel that they understand the product and resonate with the brand, the product story plays an important role in enriching the customer experience with interactive content that not only provides information but inspires and engages with the customers.

Bridging the product discovery gap with a compelling product story


The product story is the process of enlightening the consumer about the product and assisting them with making informed purchase decisions. It consists of content such as lifestyle images, warranty, and guarantee information, demo videos, product specifications, customer reviews, and any other information that the customer may need to know about a particular product.

A complete product story helps bridge the product discovery gap - which happens when the information on the product page is inadequate and the customer still has queries and is unable to move ahead with the purchase.

To understand the product discovery gap, retailers must think of their products from the customers' perspective - what can be perceived with the product information and what sentiments are felt while browsing through the product page, etc.

This gap can be closed be enhancing hero images and other aspects with rich media content which is both informative and exciting. This further encourages users to interact and learn more about the products a retailer has to offer.

The difference between basic content and interactive content


Basic content consists of standard product information that is unengaging such as SKU data or price. The text is often formatted plainly and with limited images, there is no engagement and interaction with the customer. The customers only absorb information passively if they stay on the product page.

Interactive content engages the user because the information provided is based on the user feedback. Consumers are rewarded with engaging and informative experiences for clicking and exploring the page. This rich media content then educates the user as a salesperson and accelerates their purchase decision.

There are certain expectations about product pages that customers have that need to be met before they can make a purchase. Shoppers need to see three or more images while shopping online and 86% need to read at least three user reviews before making a purchasing decision.

User engagement matters

At present, the lack of engaging content is a weakness for brands and retailers. While they spend a lot of time and money into building advertising campaigns to promote their products and drive traffic to their product pages, they lose the sale due to the lack of a compelling product detail page. This is often the point where consumers look to competitor websites to find what they are looking for.

There is a struggle across various e-commerce websites to keep customers engaged on their sites in order to make a sale. As the internet has grown more dynamic, the standard for engaging with a customer has also increased. Retailers need every solution available to meet the challenges and stay relevant and ahead.

These solutions are supported by data. A behavioral research found that users depend on information taken from the most engaging content to guide them to other page content and while users do so, they tend to fixate efficiently only on the information that is relevant to the task at hand. This point further emphasizes the need to put the most engaging and informative content ahead and center and set the process for the customers to follow throughout the sales journey.

Today, with customers seeking more personalized and relevant information, retailers must deploy interactive content experience. This can be more informative, rewarding the customers seeking final details such as product specs before adding it to the bag.

Conclusion

Rich media content is a familiar experience for the consumers. Videos are increasingly replacing text in news outlets, and GIFs, animations are consumed more than static images. Furthermore, PDF documents and manuals are easily accessible on websites.

Different types of audiences adapt to different learning styles and varying needs. By having a deep understanding of the customers and reaching out to diverse audiences with engaging content that adapts to the different learning preferences, retailers will be able to have a wider reach and network.

Working with a global retail network requires unique contexts in order to sell to people all over the world. Not every customer may react to packaged food items in a similar manner. Product copy has only one voice, but rich media experiences converse in a universal language.

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woman buying groceries from a stall

Revolutionizing grocery retail with artificial intelligence

Revolutionizing grocery retail with artificial intelligence

While there is a lot of chatter around artificial intelligence and the potential it has to transform retail, it has the capability to impact the most fundamental shopping experiences: the grocery store. Most retailers are moving towards building a better grocery store experience, with the rise of subscription meal kits and competition from pure-play grocery delivery services. With the abundance of customer data and product information available, grocers today are in a special position to apply machine learning and AI in other areas of the business as well.

The grocery industry has a heavy reliance on the movement of perishable goods and with supermarkets struggling to plan, promote and sell goods in a short period of time, it is not efficient. Furthermore, there is a lot of food wastage that happens in this industry - while some of that waste happens in consumers’ homes, a good amount is also lost in the supply chain - anywhere between the farm and the store shelf. And with the various options for when, where and how to buy groceries, grocers compete on prices that are most likely to be profitable.

While grocers are faced with these challenges, they have a fairly good idea of their customer base, who they are and what they want to buy at what price point. With the data available, there is a lot of opportunities utilizing the data in the right manner. This is where AI comes in. Using machine learning capabilities and analytics, more grocers are leaning towards adopting this technology to strengthen the relationship with customers, as well as address some of the biggest challenges they are faced with today.

Leveraging the abundance of customer data

The grocery industry was one of the first industries to collect shopper buying data through programs such as loyalty programs and in-store promotional offers. These methods helped grocers gather information about their key shopper demographic as well as brand preferences. This information is already leveraged to provide discounts and special promotions, the new technology can help enhance the relationship between the grocer and shopper even further.

AI helps grocers to provide a deeper understanding of context and intent by answering the questions behind customers' shopping decisions. It also enables the grocers to parse the customer data and automate the ability to offer targeted promotions to each customer.

Enhanced inventory management

AI can change the entire way of managing inventory. AI can help stock shelves with the right mix of products and ensure that the supply chain is aligned to avoid out of stock products using point-of-sale information and inventory visibility.

Machine learning can build on grocers' rich customer data and combine that with contextual data such as weather, climate, holidays and events - providing a more accurate forecast compared to traditional methods.

Reducing waste

With better inventory management and data analytics, AI can provide better visibility on produce and perishables. Automation can help stores dynamically re-adjust orders based on demand or automate product promotions for the items that are not performing well or selling fast, and helping stores to protect margins, and reducing the amount of food that goes into landfills.

As AI and machine learning advances, grocers should begin to position their systems for a seamless transition towards a highly automated future.


AI must integrate into the commerce platforms and connect across systems to maximize its effectiveness throughout the business. While AI is a valuable tool for customer service, the impact of it will come through its ability to reward loyalty, understand consumer behavior, ensure reduced wastage and increase revenue for the retailers.

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The growing importance of customer loyalty programs in grocery retail

The growing importance of loyalty programs in grocery retail

Grocery loyalty programs have been around for years, but with the changing landscape as well as customer shopping behavior, it is now more important than ever. The goal for loyalty programs is to be relevant and timely to shoppers and their preferences and to create a continuous dialogue between the customer and the brand or retailer.

The benefit retailers get utilizing loyalty programs is the access to customer data, shopping patterns and behavior with direct engagement with the shopper, elevating the communication and optimizing the offers to meet their needs. This ultimately leads to help drive sales for the retailers.

The current scenario

Customer loyalty programs build large customer databases and retailers can leverage this information to create more personalized and targeted promotions tailor-made for every customer. A successful loyalty program is a well-crafted blend of rewards and recognition features that change shopper behaviors. However, grocery loyalty programs are challenged not only by the economics of the industry but also the limited opportunities to differentiate the customer experiences for each customer.

However, compared to other industries, the grocery retail industry today still does not have a completely organized, leveraged and utilized customer data to deliver the optimum level of personalization and relevance to the customer, unlike in industries such as travel or banking.

Limited impact on shoppers

The grocery retail industry operates at small margins, which limit the rewards grocers can offer to the program members. Furthermore, compared to other retail loyalty programs, grocers depend on subsidizing their programs with discounts provided by the CPG manufacturers they are partnered with. Most loyalty programs have followed suit and use the same strategy, enabling shoppers to spread their loyalty across different brands.

Digital coupons - a primary feature of most grocery loyalty programs are offered by most of the retailers in an equal capacity. Another perk is the member pricing feature is an attractive way to entice shoppers into joining the program, but this feature too is replicated across all of the programs, limiting the impact these programs can create.

One feature of the grocery program that does create an opportunity cost and loyalty is reward points. Some shoppers even consolidate their shopping to a single brand in order to maximize the points earned and get a chance to get more discounts with every purchase. While most grocery programs prefer CPG subsidies, retailers should not limit the programs only to create more loyal customers. With e-commerce retail giants like Walmart and Amazon leaving no stones unturned to engage with shoppers, grocers need to double up on creating successful customer loyalty.

Looking ahead


Grocery retailers are facing several options today, they must decide among differing formats, both online and in-store, and seek the best combination of program features available to them.

A growing demographic - Millennials, in particular, seek immediate gratification, support, rewards, and recognition. Moreover, they do not invest a lot of time while planning grocery lists as they center their grocery visits around recipes more than replenishing a set stock. They are also far less price-sensitive in their menu planning as compared to previous generations. Additionally, as shoppers are increasingly opting for healthier lifestyles, produce as well as non-processed foods have become important aspects for grocers to drive retention and loyalty.

With the rising popularity of Walmart and Amazon among shoppers, grocers must foresee the future from both physical stores as well as digital capabilities. A well-managed loyalty program uses analytics and insights to enhance customer experience and elevate shopper journeys. Another major trend is the development of artificial intelligence. Leveraging AI, grocers can use unused retailer data and create additional value from it and tailor more relevant communication and improved personalized pricing and promotions.

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customer experience in a grocery store

Customer experience- Why it matters most for grocery retailers

Customer experience- Why it matters most for grocery retailers

With the rapid advancements in technology and the shifting shopping behavior of consumers, grocery retailers are now faced with the challenging task of competing for customer loyalty. Every retailer wants shoppers to consistently make purchases from their business rather than their competitors. Many retailers often sell the same products, so the shopper can purchase from almost any retailer without having any preference to buy from a specific retailer.

For instance, while needing to buy Purina Friskies Wet Cat food, the shopper has several retailers to choose from, from Kroger to Target to Walmart to even Amazon. The aspect to keep in mind is that shoppers are often loyal to the overall shopping experience provided by retailers, and not to the products it sells.

The term 'customer experience' is used synonymously for providing a positive, seamless and wholesome shopping experience. This includes the integration of digital into the physical sphere where retailers can interact with customers across every touch point.

Here are 3 ways in which retailers can enhance the customer experience and keep customers coming back to their store for more:

In-Store efficiencies

For all the benefits that online shopping has to offer, the downside is the inability to touch and feel the product before making a purchase. In an effort to bring the convenience and efficiency of online to the brick and mortar, retailers are changing the design and the business model with the ultimate goal - to make the in-store experience as smooth and easy to navigate as possible.

Incorporating technology in the brick and mortar stores is becoming imperative as shoppers find that innovations such as auto-checkout, online ordering, mobile app offers, etc make their shopping experience easier and quicker.

In an effort to lure shoppers back into physical stores, some retailers are even altering the design of the physical store and creating smaller format stores, adjusting store displays to prioritize convenience, and incorporating new technologies. Grocery chains like Tesco and Food Lion are undergoing major store redesigns to compete with giants like Amazon and Whole Foods.

Some chains are even including experiences such as wall climbing activities and special events and even dining into their physical stores to encourage more in-store engagement with shoppers.

Personalization

Personalization improves the customer experience making it easier for shoppers to locate products they want easier and faster. This also makes shoppers feel like the retailer understands them and who they are. In the online format, personalization will involve product recommendation based on past purchases or curated homepages. In the store, this would involve features like digital fitting rooms, product customization based on saved items or past purchases.

Shoppers want personalized experiences, and retailers are trying to deliver this expectation. Successful personalization comes down to customer data to be able to provide a memorable tailored experience. Retailers like Home Depot and Walmart are heavily investing in personalization.

Retailer loyalty programs

Once customers are delighted with the shopping experience, loyalty programs are one method to keep them coming back. These programs track and incentivize purchasing behavior and engagement. The more customers shop and spend, the more they are likely to receive in return.

It is much easier and profitable to engage and convert existing customers rather than new ones, so driving loyalty becomes more important. Loyalty programs when done right, can enhance the customer shopping experience tremendously. Retailers must create a program that both incentivizes and connects with customers.

To build a strong customer base, customer experience plays a very pivotal role. Customer loyalty programs along with personalization are just a few methods in which retailers can improve the shopping experience for customers.

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Modernizing the grocery shopping experience with Mobile

Modernizing the grocery shopping experience with Mobile

Nearly every industry has been revolutionized with the advent of the Internet. With the technology continuing to advance and online connectivity becoming stronger and synonymous in daily life, mobile tech played a significant role in shaping this revolution. Many retailers across fashion, electronics, etc. have made mobile an integral part of their marketing strategies.

Food retailers are not far behind while going mobile. To retain the current customer base and win over new ones, grocery retailers are implementing solutions that offer unique mobile experiences that not only provide convenience but also increase brand awareness and inculcate customer loyalty.

Besides the overall rise in mobile shopping among consumers, there are many reasons for grocery retailers and other players in the food retail industry to pivot towards implementing mobile solutions for their businesses.

Providing a complete brand experience


Grocery retailers often apply the omnichannel approach while appealing to consumer groups and mobile is becoming a crucial part in this process. By providing a tech-savvy shopper an interactive and immersive customer experience, grocers increase their chances of creating a lasting effect which amplifies their brand while resonating with the user.

For instance: A retailer can leverage social media sites, image based platforms such as Instagram to interact as a brand, vocalizing brand values through the platform. Retailers such as Amazon push promotions to showcase some of their products via Instagram on the user's feed, allowing the user to browse before selecting a product of his choice and be taken to the Amazon website. 

Keeping pace with the competition

Consumers today use the mobile as a means to search for products due to the sheer convenience it provides. Realizing this, many grocery retailers started leveraging the power of mobile technology to keep pace with their competition.

Businesses who can successfully adapt to the changing shopper trends and deliver seamless shopping experiences via integrated mobile solutions would more likely be able to convert users into loyal customers.

Personalization

Digitization has drastically transformed the way people shop while widening the berth of opportunities for the grocery retailers. With mobile sites and apps, grocers can provide their customers to have personal and unique shopping experiences where every consumer is the most important element in the scenario. This would allow grocery retailers to engage with customers in a personal manner. by providing them access to products and helping them curate their shopping experience.

Crafting loyalty programs

To encourage and reward purchasing behavior of a customer while increasing their urge to stay loyal to a specific brand, grocery retailers can leverage mobile to deliver the loyalty programs to offer benefits and entice and retain customers.

Ex: Loyalty programs such as providing reward points that can be redeemed at the end of the month or special discounts on products as an exclusive members-only benefit.

Integrating mobile app with the in-store experience

Retailers can utilize mobile apps to enhance the in-store shopping experience, making it an enjoyable shopping journey for consumers. The mobile apps could entail all the information for the products that the consumer may need, before even entering the store or providing the location of the desired product without having to go through aisles and aisles.
Another great example is the use of Beacons - when a customer would walk into the store in the range of the beacon, getting activated, it would automatically and immediately send an alert to the customer of all the special offers that the store provides.

Mobile payments

With the variety of payment options available such as mobile wallets, consumers are steadily moving away from cash and credit card payments. A mobile payment system can easily be integrated into an app to help deliver a seamless grocery shopping experience. This adds a level of convenience for the consumer, as they can easily pay using the mobile instead of having to look for their wallets and picking out cards or cash.

Amazon launched Amazon Go, in an attempt disrupt the grocery industry with its new cashier-less way of shopping. A brick and mortar setup that allows users to walk in and walk out of the store without the hassle of check out. All of this is done using the customers' smartphones. The technology automatically detects when products are taken and, or returned. When a customer is done shopping, he can just leave the store. Amazon automatically charges their account for the items they’ve walked out with and sends them the receipt.

As more people depend on their mobile devices to do regular tasks, integrating mobile solutions to help retailers interact with their customers will enable them to build innovative strategies that will elevate marketing products more effectively while adding convenience to consumers. Grocery retailers while making use of mobile apps and mobile-first sites, can apply a consumer-centric approach to their offerings. This would also have an immediate effect on the way customers perceive the brand and on the potential to build customer loyalty.

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An Evolving AI retail experience: Transforming the way consumers shop

An Evolving AI retail experience: Transforming the way consumers shop

The retail experience of a shopper is the latest area that AI and machine learning are causing disruption. Most retailers recognizing the potential of these technologies have started aligning them into their business goals. Two crucial aspects - data and computing power have changed in the past few years in the space of AI, which has opened up new opportunities for retailers today.

Computing power is easy to see, with the advent and rise of smartphones which have phenomenal computing power when compared to the bulky phones and computers used decades ago. Businesses today have unlimited computing access to train their AI algorithms. Furthermore, the data available today is extremely rich and scalable. AI systems that leverage learning techniques such as Machine learning thrive on large, rich data sets. When fed appropriately, these systems discover patterns and correlations that would be otherwise difficult with a human intervention. These machine learning approaches automate data analysis, enabling users to create models that can then be used to make useful predictions about other similar data.

Retail is a perfect fit for AI, here’s why -

The speed at which AI can be deployed depends on specific critical factors. The first is the ability to test and measure. Retail giants can effectively deploy AI and test and measure consumer response. They can also leverage AI to measure the effect on their entire supply chain.

There is some innovative and interesting robot technology taking place in retail such as Grocery giant partnering with Nuro.AI to deliver groceries to the customers’ doorsteps. But most significant changes will come from the deployment of AI rather than the use of physical robots or autonomous vehicles.

Here are 3 AI-based scenarios that will transform the retail experience -

Shopping habits

AI can detect underlying patterns in the shopping behavior of shoppers from the products that they buy and the method used to buy them. This could be a simple weekly purchase of groceries from the supermarket, the sporadic purchases of wine from the liquor store or the complex midnight icecream cravings from the local convenience store.

At a larger scale, analysis of the behavior of millions of consumers would enable supermarkets to predict the number of households that cook pasta every week. This would then inform the inventory management systems, and automatically optimize the stock of pasta. This information can also be shared with the suppliers, enabling more efficient inventory management and organized logistics.

Pricing dynamics

The pricing challenge for supermarkets involves applying the right price and the right promotion to the right product. Retail pricing optimization requires data analysis at a granular level for each customer, product and transaction. To be effective, many factors need to be considered such as the impact of sales due to the changing price over time, seasonality, weather and competitors’ promotions.

A well-defined machine learning program can factor in all variations, including details such as purchase histories and product preferences to develop deep insights and pricing tailored to maximize revenue and ultimately, profit.

Customer feedback

In the past, customer feedback was collected through forms and feedback cards that were filled out and placed in a suggestions box. The feedback had to be manually read and acted upon appropriately. With the rise of social media, the platforms were leveraged to express feedback publicly. Retailers subsequently engaged in social media scraping software to respond, resolve and engage with customers.

With the growing innovations, machine learning will play a larger role in this space. Machine learning and AI systems will be able to analyze unstructured data from multiple sources such as verbal comments or video content.  

The evolving retail experience

As a shopper moves through various stages in life, the circumstances and spending habits change. AI and machine learning models will adjust and be able to predict the needs of the consumer before the consumer even searches for a product.

This shift to predictive marketing would change the way shoppers purchase products, bringing in suggestions and recommendations that they would not have even considered. The possibilities would widen, all because of AI - for both consumers and retailers alike.

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CPG Brands: Engaging with shoppers using the Direct to Shopper approach

CPG Brands: Engaging with shoppers using the Direct to Shopper approach

Until a decade ago, shoppers would walk into a store with a handwritten shopping list. However, they wouldn’t necessarily have written down specific brands for those items. Shoppers at that time would be informed about different brands either through the advertising or the interaction they would have had with the brand or what the label on the product explained.

Today, shoppers are no longer restricted to the labels or brand interactions. They are fully equipped with multiple resources to make purchase decisions. They can discover anything about a brand just by using their smartphones to browse product or brand reviews and other shoppers’ opinions. Today’s shoppers are better informed about products even before having to enter the store.

The current situation

The economic conditions of the past decade have impacted the way people shop. However, Consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands have not been able to scale with the rapidly changing consumer behavior at the same pace.

Shoppers today are more demanding of the products they purchase and expect that every product that they purchase is worth the expense, so they invest time and effort into researching and purchasing products via social media platforms or online outlets. While this bump in the volume of data generated by shoppers is valuable, CPG brands are still yet to make business decisions to align themselves with this new wave of shoppers.

The direct to shopper approach

CPG brands need to have end-to-end capabilities to market directly to today’s demanding and high value-focused shopper. However, brands need to better understand how today’s shopper has evolved. The technology today is directed towards a seamless customer experience and is placing the power into the shopper’s hands, opening a wealth of opportunities for brands as all the touch points with a shopper have become digital.

Millennials shoppers are the prime focus as they are technologically savvy and adapt to new technologies far more easily than their previous generations. This group of shoppers also prefer to have social interactions to inform their shopping decisions. Millennials, compared to any other demographic, expect their shopping experience to be personalized and don’t hesitate to express their grief via social media or other portals if the brand fails to deliver on their promise. CPGs can not only leverage this data to influence the shoppers’ purchasing decisions but also to invest in digital platforms to be more involved in their shopping journey.

Implementing an effective Direct to Shopper strategy

CPG brands can leverage email addresses and build on shopper preferences, allowing shoppers to indicate product interests, lifestyle preferences, and communication channels. This would help build a holistic view of the shopper, and develop basic shopper segmentation. These shopper segments can then be used to develop offers and shopping experiences. This further helps evaluate the Direct to shopper effectiveness in an e-commerce environment and help design e-commerce into the greater business model.

This enables CPG brands to acquire complete shopper data including information such as browsing history, purchase behavior information and help develop a true personal shopper experience.

Shoppers are constantly interacting with different brands through digital and mobile. The key for CPG brands to make meaningful revenue growth is to directly target today’s shopper by directly being involved in the shopper’s journey by interacting directly with them. This would help them to further emphasize the shopper needs, leading to an increase in shopper activation, and drive stronger revenue growth.

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