Tag Archives for " retail technology "

Person taking a photo of a dish

AI in Images and Video: How can it benefit e-commerce?

AI in Images and Video: How can it benefit e-commerce?

With the growing popularity of image-based social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, there has been a significant rise in UGC (user-generated content) on the internet. Users upload photos not only of their lives but also of interactions with different products or brands they encounter online. Retailers and brands can leverage this information to engage and interact with users building brand awareness. However, with the increased use of UGC, it has become a challenge for them to track and categorize unstructured information. This challenge can be addressed using image recognition and computer vision.

Helping with Product Search

If a user while looking for a type of furniture is unable to use the right terms to describe the item in the search query, he/she could always depend on voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri or Google Home. However, the voice command is really just fulfilling a text query.

Instead, by taking a few pictures of the object and uploading it online using image search, the user can find what he/she is looking for. Using image-based AI, the search breaks down different elements of the image and enables the user to choose which aspects of the results are important.

couch in the living room

For instance, there is a beautiful couch in the living room but it is missing a coffee table. The user can take a picture of the couch and upload it as a search item. The image AI picks up on the couch and detects the elements such as color palette, wooden legs, etc. It then provides results of coffee tables that can match and complement these elements. Furthermore, based on its database, the AI can also recognize elements such as the brand, price range, etc. of the couch allowing the AI understand what type of budget the user may be willing to spend on furniture items. This goes beyond the simple search that people see today. 

Personalized experience on social media

Social media is empowered by AI, and brands and retailers can now detect and analyze every mention on the social media platforms using image recognition. They can also view how the brand is portrayed through the various images and videos shared on a daily basis. This further allows brands to interact with the users as well as collect and reshare their images helping the users to develop a personal connection with the brand.

Brands are also leveraging computer vision to provide a more targeted ad experience for users. For example, after browsing through an Instagram feed of a famous fashion celebrity, the user may get ads of fashion lookbooks featuring some of the pieces worn by that celebrity. These type of ads provide a subtle recognition for the user, which in turn helps brands build awareness and engagement.

AI in video content

For video content, brands and retailers can use AI to scan the video and index objects, scenes and audio sounds such as a dress from a popular brand or a painting from a famous artist or a song from a famous musician. Leveraging these elements, brands can then promote their products that can relate to these items such as bags that may match the dress in the video.

For video advertisements, brands can insert their products into a “placeholder” dynamically. Video producers can mark areas in their videos that can easily incorporate an inserted image and depending on the geography, language, and demographic segregation of the audience, AI can dynamically insert an ad into the video. This personalized approach enables a more local advertising experience for the users.


The e-commerce landscape is evolving with technological innovations changing the way people shop online. Images and videos are a largely untapped resource for retailers and brands to get insights from but with image recognition and computer vision gaining momentum, it is now possible. Giants like Amazon have also recognized its potential and have incorporated image-based search into their shopping experience. The applications for AI in images and videos are still limited but with deep learning, it is evolving and has the potential to change the shopping experience completely.

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How AI helps to optimize e-commerce product content

How AI helps to optimize
e-commerce product content

With online sales growing faster and the e-commerce landscape changing with technological innovations, traditional retailers are increasingly investing in omnichannel strategies and doubling their efforts in order to meet consumer demands. An effective way to keep pace with e-commerce giants and stay relevant in the marketplace is to offer high-grade product discovery and selection. This requires providing detailed product content with product-specific attributes, along with semantic search.

The current product content problem

As more retail businesses are moving towards e-commerce, the need for quality information and powerful search platforms has become crucial in order to entice shoppers and help them make effective purchase decisions. However, this is a challenge as they are unable to easily deliver complete product content.

Retailers rely on the suppliers to provide all the coordinating images, videos, attributes, etc. for each of the products. Suppliers use various methods to provide content such as printed or digital catalogs or in different formats like Excel, PDF, etc., making it difficult for retailers to properly source and extract the right data required for the right product. In some cases, retailers even purchase content from third-party providers or online databases. However, the challenge here persists, as most of the time, content differs from suppliers to third-party providers and validation of the information becomes tedious.

Besides the price of a product, detailed product information along with superior quality-images, videos play an important role in a consumer’s buying decision. 

There are numerous technological challenges while extracting content from the product images - some including region segmentation, diverse product backgrounds, natural settings, typography and fonts, lighting conditions, and low-quality images. For instance, inconsistent product image sizes would limit the system to capture the product details completely from all the images.

Impact of poor quality data

Missing information and uncertainty are two leading factors for consumers to abandon their shopping journey. Consumers tend to leave their shopping journey when they sense that the product does not have clear or complete information. This could range from unclear product descriptions to missing or inaccurate product attributes such as size, materials used, ingredients, etc. or even product reviews.

While there is no definitive rule stating an optimal number of product images or videos or a recommended character limit for product information, the quality of product images and videos have a direct impact on the ability of the e-commerce business to generate sales. With complete and comprehensive product information (description along with attributes like size, or weight, etc.) and high-quality images and videos would enable shoppers with the information they may need to make a purchase decision.

Effective Extraction of Product Content

With IceCream Labs CatalogIQ, retailers can effectively address the problems they face while onboarding product content to their catalogs. Leveraging machine learning algorithms, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems, and Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques, it can effectively extract the right information needed for the retailer to optimize their content as well as maintain their content health. Some of its capabilities include:

CatalogIQ extracting content from a product

Attribute Extraction: ​

Images would be clicked from all angles of the product and would be fed into the machine. Leveraging NLP techniques, brand attributes such as brand name, sub-brand, tagline, flavor, net weight/volume, and calorie information would be extracted.

Brand Name Detection (Logo detection): 

Leveraging OCR, the product image is scanned for text and the output is further sent to an NLP engine specifically to identify text logos (ex: for brand logos like Zara). If the text is not detected, image processing is further applied using the brand name parameters (ex: for brand logos like Nike)

Standard Certification Detection:

In this step, a preset database with standard food certification parameters is applied to detect and extract food certification labels such as “gluten-free”, “non-GMO”, “100% organic”. Here, the images are scanned using these parameters. This is similar to how the Brand Name detection functions.

nutritional label data extraction

Nutrition Facts Extraction:

Using OCR and region segmentation, nutritional facts text is extracted. This text is further corrected using a predefined vocabulary to streamline the content. A rule-based approach is then applied to the corrected text to extract nutritional values.

Product label images are a trusted source of product information for consumers. AI can ensure that the process would improve the quality of the information and maintain data consistency across all product pages. Retailers can further benefit from this as it would alleviate the burden of validating product data provided by various suppliers, online databases or third-party providers and can provide additional information that is critical for product discovery like brand or certification logo information.

The future of Product content

Applications leveraging AI and machine learning have projected tremendous potential for applying process automation to reduce data inconsistency and enhancing data quality and thereby, improving the product data extraction processes.


At IceCream Labs, we strive to address the challenges that businesses face in e-commerce using AI and machine learning. Are you ready to enhance your product content and take your e-commerce business to the next level? Reach out to us at sales@icecreamlabs.com for an AI-based solution for your business.


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woman taking photo food display

Online Shopping and Grocery – building consumer trust

Online Shopping and Grocery - building consumer trust

Online shopping has skyrocketed in the past few years. While it will continue to grow, majority of consumers still prefer to shop in-store - especially when it concerns grocery shopping. It’s no secret that the grocery industry has been the slowest major retail sector to join the e-commerce bandwagon.

As grocers are investing their resources to move their businesses online, there is competition among them to provide the best customer experience.

There have been a lot announcements made recently in this space. Retail giants like Walmart, announced the pilot of a new robotic back-end which would manage online orders in its super centers. Amazon added curbside grocery pickup for online orders as a Amazon Prime membership perk at Whole Foods. Whereas Target, rolled out same day delivery for groceries and other categories.

Consumers are concerned

While there is a lot of talk about omnichannel and online efforts, research suggests that people today still go to grocery stores.

According to a Gallup survey of 1,033 US adults, 84 percent said that they would never buy their groceries online. About 11 percent order groceries online for pickup or delivery twice in a month or lesser. While only 4 percent order once a week or more.

The survey highlights the fact that people still use the traditional means to purchase grocery. To ensure that the majority of the purchases are made online, it is imperative for the online retailers to provide an incentive to engage and help users purchase groceries online. The incentives could be in the form of timeline delivery of goods, competitive pricing, trusted & reliable products.    

The familiar feeling of a traditional store infrastructure cannot be replaced. Hence, the need of hour is to make the underlying technology for groceries feel human, comforting and intuitive.

lady buying apples at a store

Enabling technology for groceries 

By investing in technology and infrastructure, along with access to instant delivery channels, online grocers can build trust among consumers. 

Detailed product information 

Consumers have often been able to verify the quality of groceries such as fruits and vegetables with stores. When not physically present in the store, the consumer is unable to verify the quality of the products, thereby, increasing risk and uncertainty.

In an online platform, the product page must provide the right data of the particular product in terms of the images, the product description, the product specifications (size or weight/volume) along with the date it has been manufactured and the expiration date to be clearly mentioned.

This helps the consumer get the right information to make a decision. When consumers gain more knowledge about the product, and gain trust towards the platform, their uncertainty towards purchasing decreases. Furthermore, products that are from familiar brands also help reduce the perceived risk as the consumer already knows what to expect from a product that he/she is already familiar with.

Making reviews count

It is important to engage customers and community to rate the service of online retailers -   delivery of goods, the ease of ordering groceries through the platform, pricing, availability of groceries, etc.

Reviews are one way of building trust amongst existing users and new users alike to use the platform for their requirements. The more positive the reviews, the more users are likely to purchase through the online grocer.  

Instant Deliveries to instant gratification

Unlike appliances, groceries are mostly perishables and need to be consumed as early as possible. Sometimes, the need for groceries is almost instantaneous and requires delivery at the earliest. One way to make it readily available is strengthening the supply chain and the underlying technology to ensure instant delivery. 

Conclusion

While consumers today still prefer the traditional method of buying groceries, technology is fast catching up to cater to the needs and convenience of the consumer. There is tremendous scope for innovation and increase in grocery technology that can solve the problems for the retailers who want to move online and provide value to consumers. 


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Shop.Org event

IceCream Labs demonstrates Intelligent Data Mesh at Shop.Org

IceCream Labs demonstrates Intelligent Data Mesh at Shop.Org

Las Vegas - Shop.Org, the leading retail event hosted by the National Retail Federation (NRF) that has been bringing together top retailers across the country, was hosted last Thursday and Friday at  The Venetian in Vegas and brought in yet another excellent cohort of attending companies such as Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, Target etc. The show’s headliner Serena Williams was on stage on Friday, discussing the challenge of being an entrepreneur, a new mom, and a world class athlete, all at the same time. She launched her new fashion line, in collaboration with Nike and HSN, in May.
IceCream Labs, being at the forefront of the retail AI space, was invited to host a booth in their Innovation Lab sector.

The NRF Innovation Lab consisted of 4 segments of the shopping experience, namely - Awareness, Consideration, Engagement, and Logistics & Loyalty. Each of the companies in these segments is focused on creating applications to improve the retail space with the help of  Facial Recognition, Data Analytics, Robotics and Augmented Reality. IceCream Labs was a part of the Awareness segment which showcased products that helped brands retailers entice new customers.

As part of our showcase, we released Intelligent Data Mesh (IDM) which is an AI-based platform that leverages machine learning for unparalleled eCommerce / digital merchandising for brands & retailers. The IDM enables retailers, brands, and suppliers to maximize the potential of digital commerce by bringing in the great experiences in traditional retail, resulting in immediate impacts to revenues and operations. By leveraging the vast amount of product and social data online, using machine learning, merchandising managers & e-commerce managers can now create experiences of dynamic discovery and visual merchandising online.

This release, we are proud to say, won the Innovation Award in the Awareness segment. The judges' panel including some big name VCs and top executives in the retail sector (Full list: https://shop.org/nrf-innovation-awards-exhibitors)

As a result of this award, we are going to be featured at the NRF Big Show in NYC in January 2019, and our CEO, Madhu Konety, will be a keynote speaker.

Read our blog for all things AI in ecommerce

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four people looking down at their phones

The Importance of m-commerce in e-commerce

The Importance of m-commerce in e-commerce

We have witnessed the advent of e-commerce and how it quickly became a part of all our lives. With over half of American consumers now doing most of their shopping online (51%), businesses find it crucial to have a web and mobile presence.

Approx. 1.2 billion people are in habit of using their smartphones to access the internet daily. Trinity Digital Marketing publication reports that in the US, nearly half of the population uses smartphones to connect to the internet

Mobile apps are the primary driver of digital media consumption, proving that creating a mobile-friendly website is imperative to ensure the success of the business.

However, creating a website is not the only goal for a business. It has to be an efficient platform that would allow customers to purchase their products. This is the key to increasing sales in tandem with growing the business’ digital footprint. Building a viable e-commerce site that is also optimized for mobile commerce (m-commerce), should be in forefront of the business strategy.

What is M-Commerce?

Simply put, mobile commerce or m-commerce is sales and commerce using wireless hand-held remote devices. These devices can be smartphones, phablets, or tablets. The main concept behind m-commerce is bringing a simple, accessible and user-friendly shopping experience to the consumers.

M-commerce is becoming increasingly popular and e-commerce companies and retailers are slowly moving away from strategies catering to creating awareness about their online stores and moving towards integrating m-commerce in their business strategy.  M-commerce can also be used as a method to enhance overall revenue and increase customer base.

Why is m-commerce important?

M-commerce is one of the major influencers that accelerate business growth. Here are some areas it plays an important role:

The positive impact of Increase in mobile sales

There is a steady increase in the number of mobile users. Now consumers surf the internet via their phones. This generates more than the traffic created with it on the web. The idea of purchasing something on the phone at a time and place of comfort, and having it delivered on the doorstep is a lucrative option for shoppers.

The mobile furthermore is a pocket-friendly device that is available 24/7 for any individual. Any necessity of shopping at any point in time can be satisfied with the mobile instead of hunting for a laptop or using a desktop. Overall, the increase in mobile sales creates a remarkable impact on online shopping which benefits the e-commerce sector.

Phones now have bigger screens - enhancing the shopping experience

Technology is constantly changing and enhancing, as is the competition. Bigger sized phones with larger screens have completely changed how people use mobile phones.

Online shopping is one of the major trends that are set by bigger screens. The comfort with large screens is recognized even with aged people as they can easily use the phone to view products or details easily without having to reach for their eyeglasses.

Innovations resulting in better business

There is a race to provide something new and exciting that the customers would use, ultimately enhancing the user experience. Due to this very race, many brands have started using various innovations as part of their marketing strategy enhancing the user experience.

Single Click Options
On e-commerce sites, buy buttons and checkout options are often the prominent features. With single clicks the site allows the user to complete the user journey fast and efficiently.

AI and Chatbots
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots are some of the latest technical integrations in the mobile phone for a better experience. AI voice assistants and chatbots bring in an ease of shopping. The tedious process of manually typing in product names, searches, address details can be eliminated - All of this, in the palm of the hand.

Capgemini's Unadkat stated that Artificial intelligence and chatbots will be a key area of focus for retailers in the coming years.​​​​​

Web pages and mobile apps are majorly used for online shopping

There are two main ways to reach the remote masses. One way is through mobile web pages, and the other through mobile apps. Both these methods have enhanced e-commerce experience for customers.

Mobile web pages
With a mobile web page, user data analysis becomes easy. Companies can understand and segregate the target customer and market. They can then, go ahead with the changes in the company portal.

Mobile Apps
Mobile apps are used widely by nearly all e-commerce dealers. They are considered more beneficial as the app customers are more loyal as they spare time and put in the effort to download the app. The chances of purchase from these users are very high.
Moreover, online retailers can avail the benefit of personalized communication with their users. Leveraging analytics and purchasing behavior, they can tailor make the promotions and send messages accordingly.

Push Notifications
Retailers use this feature to send updates to the customers for promotional offers. Many other such features have helped the online retailers get a greater grasp on customers.

Social Media Benefits

Social media networks such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have become a vital part of daily life. Every mobile app company has integrated social media features like share and like with their app and online portal. Mobile users prefer to keep everything from shopping to mobile apps handy. Within no time, they can share updates from online websites on social media.

Future of mobile commerce

More and more consumers are selecting mobiles as a medium to shop rather than laptops or desktops. M-commerce holds a lot of promise for the future.

Business Insider stated that 45% of e-commerce revenue will be coming from m-commerce, by the end of 2020.

While the e-commerce industry is expanding, mobile commerce is not far behind. The innovations will continue to drive the growth of m-commerce. Today, the tech innovations can be seen with the implementation of AR, VR, and wearables, but in the near future, m-commerce will drive innovation to reach new heights.

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smiling woman in black and white checker print shirt riding on push cart during daytime

Customer Loyalty Programs: Why Retailers Need Them

Customer Loyalty Programs: Why Retailers Need Them

We have already established that there is cutthroat competition present in the e-commerce and retail industries. This is forcing many brands to re-evaluate how they deliver value and stay relevant to customers. Retailers want to understand what drives their customers to visit their stores and make purchases, and how to reinforce those loyal behaviors.

Loyalty programs is one method to help achieve these goals like increased foot traffic, repeat visitors, build deeper engagement and reap a successful financial return on this loyalty investment. Customer loyalty programs are becoming increasingly popular and they offer a lot of benefits, to both the retailer as well as the customer.

Nielsen found that 84% of consumers are more likely to choose retailers that offer such a program, and 59% report that they’re available where they already shop.

Retailers need to capitalize on this interest in loyalty programs and create an active user base that eventually keeps them engaged with the brand for a long time.

What is a Customer Loyalty Program?

The idea is simple: The more you shop and spend, the more you receive in return. Nielsen describes them as “marketing programs that reward members with purchase incentives.”
With these programs, retailers can track and incentivize purchasing behavior and reward customers for their loyalty to their brand. This is a powerful customer retention tool as it motivates existing customers to continue engaging with the brand and therefore, spend more.

Different types of Customer Loyalty programs

Customer Loyalty programs come in different forms. Some retailers use only one type while some others create combinations of two.

Loyalty Points
This tactic can be seen especially in the grocery chains where customers get points for making purchases or perform certain actions such as providing some personal information.

Social Media
In this approach, retailers abandon the traditional approach to purchasing a product. They award certain points to their customers for social engagement with their brands such as sharing, liking or commenting on an ongoing campaign. Many brands even run contests and raffles that reward loyal fans with amazing prizes.

Paid Programs
Not every reward program is free. Some of these programs require their customers to pay a certain fee that could be a one-time payment or a recurring payment in order to enroll. Amazon Prime is a great example of this type of model.
Furthermore, these programs can also include partnerships with credit card companies who may provide special benefits and offers in exchange for reward points. Some of these benefits may include discounts, cash-backs, free shipping, access to exclusive shopping events, free services, upgrades.

Retailers may use these programs to modify buying behavior by incentivizing the action they want their customers to take. These programs also provide data to help retailers understand their customers more deeply. With this kind of data on purchasing behavior, it’s easier to segment, create personas, and gain insights to help guide new initiatives.

Role of AI in Customer Loyalty Programs

AI has found its way to many retail companies across different verticals and now have slowly made their way into loyalty and marketing programs as well.

Customers as well, to an extent have become familiar and comfortable with using these technologies. A research states that customers are increasingly willing to rely on algorithms and smart devices for enhanced and personalized retail experiences. This, in turn, fosters an expectation for convenient, low-friction shopping experiences with loyalty programs. AI and machine learning may help in streamlining customer experiences, but they are apt for managing and interpreting customer data captured by loyalty activities and customer interactions. A marketing strategy with an integrated AI and machine learning technology can create a single customer view dynamically, in real time. This can help brands and retailers with large footprints or multiple locations can understand their customers faster and predict trends and offers accordingly. Moreover, this helps them to stay ahead of the competition. Of course, enthusiasm for these technologies is at a high point, and there are many varied predictions about the impact AI will have on the world at large.

Summary

A research shows that retailers spend 5 to 10 times more to capture a new customer than to retain the currents ones. With Customer loyalty programs, engaging with the existing customers could cost less, and reap larger benefits in the future. Effective execution of these programs can increase the customer lifetime value and ROI. There is a huge chunk of consumers that modify their spending amounts in order to maximize points. Hence, program members are more likely to shop on a regular basis. Furthermore, they also activate word of mouth marketing as one customer’s experience with a brand can influence another’s choice or preference for a brand.

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gift box

Disrupting the gifting industry with G-commerce

Disrupting the gifting industry with G-commerce

Gifting isn’t the same as it used to be. Thanks to last minute gifting. This has led to a massive change in the gifting industry, with Loop Commerce.

Loop Commerce is disrupting the $200 — $300 billion gifting market with their understanding of gifting commerce — changing the gift buying and receiving experience for customers. Loop Commerce have reasons to believe that all consumers have different mindsets while they shop and so the experience can’t be the same.

lady holding tablet, shopping on app

The platform takes care of virtual gifting by making all products easily giftable. Gift recipients can unbox their gifts virtually through a beautiful experience online. They can also exchange their gift with something else. One of the main issues retailers face is a decrease in the number of transactions per customer that results in lesser sales. Professor Dan Ariely, expert in Behavioral Economics works closely with Loopcommerce, a lot of studies on consumer psychology and behavioral economics confirm that gifting is an emotional process.

Loop Commerce data suggests that around 40% of the gifts are purchased on the day of the occasion or the day before, since a lot of people forget to buy gifts. Many retailers don’t take this last minute gifting habit into consideration , which leads to customer drop off. Some of the largest retailers are slowly adopting Loop’s solution. Implementing G-Commerce can help retailers increase customer satisfaction and double conversions.

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