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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.

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How Brick-And-Mortar Stores Can Compete With E-Commerce Businesses

How Brick-And-Mortar Stores Can Compete With E-Commerce Businesses

With every passing year, there is a tremendous increase in online sales, with a majority of brands and retailers taking their business online. While this is true, there is a parallel conversation happening about how the brick and mortar stores are shutting down.

Many big retailers have come in the news about closing their physical locations. Well known brand, Payless ShoeSource closed down about 400 physical stores across the USA and Puerto Rico. Over a year ago, Ralph Lauren announced that they were closing down their leading store in Manhattan as a part of its plan to move towards a new and innovative customer experience.

This movement towards building new and innovative customer experiences have trended towards online shopping which can be done from the comfort of one’s home or via a smartphone. Many retail giants today heavily invest in e-commerce in order to meet the demands of the growing customer needs. With the competition getting tougher year after year, how can the traditional retailers attract customers to their physical stores?

beverage aisle

Creating a simple, fast and friction-free commerce

One thing that online shoppers detest is having to wait for their purchases to arrive (some even have to pay overnight shipping) so, as a brick-and-mortar merchant, the ability to provide instant gratification can stand out. It is a good strategy to work around customers in a neighborhood that the merchant is well known.  This can be done with proper local advertising and an online presence that provides accurate directions to the store.

Traditional retailers often have a more difficult time creating a friction-free environment. While considering the hurdles, they must determine why a customer would decide NOT to make a purchase. They must explore questions such as - is an item not in stock? Are the staff unable to answer questions?

It is imperative to understand the possible pain points and take initiative to alleviate them. If there an item that is out of stock, consider providing a complimentary shipping to the customer’s home, or make proper arrangements so that the staff is able to answer customer questions.

Strengthen customer relationships using social media

Customers today are no longer enticed by discounts and special offers. They are also looking for rewarding shopping experiences. Retailers can engage with their customers by creating a vibrant and interactive social media presence. If the retailer provides kitchen goods, they can share recipes online that the customers can try at home, or provide cooking tips and in-store demos. Leveraging social the right way can help build a tight-knit community for the retailer’s customers.

Creating smarter in-store experiences

There are a number of ways that can change the in-store experience for the customer. Making things easy with clear signs, organized shelving, clear pricing can make a great difference. If the retailer provides gourmet or specialty products, additional descriptive tags can pique customer interest. Furthermore, marrying the in-store presence with the online presence can create an interactive experience for customers as well.

Another critical component while creating a smarter in-store experience is the checkout.  This is last, most important component of the customer’s purchasing journey and the need for it to be smooth and friction free is important. One of the things to keep in mind, for instance, could be ensuring that the technology that the store uses for payment is up to date and secure, which accepts all major credit cards.

A new thing that is taking the brick and mortar stores to another level is the incorporation of mobile point-of-sale solutions so that the customers do not waste time while standing in long queues at checkout.


Brick and mortar stores, contrary to the negative conversations, are far from being irrelevant. By providing unique, shopping experiences that is seamless as shopping online, with the added advantage of providing a personal touch, traditional retailers can maintain their share of the business and combat the growing e-commerce trend by riding on its growth.

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Two women walking down a street with coffee in their hands

What Can US Retailers Learn From Asian E-Commerce Companies?

What Can US Retailers Learn From Asian E-Commerce Companies?

There is stiff competition between Asian e-tailers and their American counterparts for the battle of global leadership. This is an extremely probable future as the e-commerce giants Alibaba and Amazon are already gaining momentum in India and Australia.

Nearly two-thirds of the US e-commerce industry is dominated by retailers such as Walmart, eBay, Best Buy and Amazon (that covers this space by over 40%), the local market is becoming more consolidated and less flexible. This is in comparison to the agile, data-driven, and fragmented Asian e-commerce industry.

Can the mature American retail market learn something from the comparatively young and rapidly growing Asian e-commerce market?

Modify selling strategies to Local markets

US-based brick and mortar stores and online retailers focus on domestic and English-speaking homogeneous markets. On the contrary, the nascent Asian e-tail market is constantly expanding beyond borders to markets with varying population sizes, purchasing powers and cultural backgrounds.

Here’s something to ponder upon — Amazon is the world’s third-largest retailer, it uses its universal selling strategy regardless of the market it scales up to, while its Asian competitor, Alibaba, the world’s sixth-largest retailer, acts on a different vision — “Act Local, Think Global”. This strategy works well in the rather fragmented Asian market and therefore, by extension, in the global market. Alibaba acts through local players or players that know the local market by offering a variety of affiliate programs.

For instance, Alibaba acquired a majority stake in Lazada, a major player in the South East Asian marketplace, an ideal platform for introducing Chinese vendors to non-Chinese buyers. Furthermore, another great example of Alibaba’s adjusting to local markets would be the expansion of Chinese marketplaces Taobao and Tmall in Russia. Alibaba’s strategy envisions adaptations to various local markets and finds ways of making the local systems reinforce each other.

person using smartphone

Cross-Border selling is the name of the game

Alibaba is not the only e-commerce company that wants to increase cross-border sales. Recently, South Korean retailer GS Retail made a $29 million equity investment in the U.S. e-tailer Thrive Market. US e-tailers are not far behind. Even in the US, retailers have begun to realize that buyers outside the English-speaking markets can also generate revenue. This trend could be seen when Walmart, one of the biggest retail chains in the US, acquired a majority stake in India’s largest online retailer, Flipkart, making the transaction “the world’s biggest purchase of an e-commerce company.”

To function in an unfamiliar environment, retailers need expertise, which in today’s market, only the Asian players have. They can soon be well equipped to battle American retail in the global market with optimized operations and the ability to cover different markets with subsidized prices.

Retailers who are tech-savvy, stay ahead

Innovation is a crucial element for businesses to compete in the market whether it wants to play internally, externally or globally. More and more businesses are opting for technology including AI and machine learning to gain an edge over the competition.

ML and AI are disrupting retail by enabling businesses to observe competitive prices and monitoring trends, helping them to react to changes and forecast demand and sales. This way, retailers can boost their revenue and can build data-driven strategies and make better business decisions. No algorithm can be useful if the data it processes is not of high quality. Trained on the data, can it recommend optimal pricing and forecast sales which directly affects the business performance.
The better the data is, the better the outcomes are.

Conclusion

Successful businesses will be those that recognize and adjust their strategies and offerings to that particular market. Moreover, building several channels of communication with customers and leveraging the marketplace as a way of accessing consumers as well as integrating innovations and data into their operations will further strengthen their success.

It’s a no-brainer — Data-driven companies are already dominating the market. The other retailers need to jump on the bandwagon if they want to stay competitive.


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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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shopping cart in a grocery store

Blockchain — The Retail Advantage

Blockchain — The Retail Advantage

The retail landscape has changed over the last decade. With newer technological enhancements, more retailers are opting to incorporate the latest technology to stay ahead of the competition.

From drone deliveries to one hour deliveries, companies are increasingly investing in virtual assistants and AI to engage with customers and enhancing customer experience.

Blockchain is not far behind. With its satisfying results by effectively creating a complete virtual financial market, it is here to stay. It’s no surprise that blockchain is revolutionary technology. The retail industry has finally recognised the power blockchain holds.

Here’s how blockchain can play a crucial role in the future of retail:

Data Collection and Analysis

Data enhances the shopping experience for customers. Blockchain does that, by delivering an efficient way to collect and analyse the available information. Leveraging AI, Blockchain can gather and assess data in real time from different sources like consumers and retailers.

There is a lot of data now that is available from different locations. Unfortunately, the data that is available is fragmented. This makes it difficult to sift through and detect patterns that can let the retailer know which direction they have to take to enhance their customers’ experience and address their pain points. These become missed opportunities for retailers. Here, the blockchain technology can aptly address this problem and make it easier. A blockchain platform collects data from across the supply chain and leverages machine learning to structure the data. Blockchain can enhance the inventory tracking process, including reducing overstocking and under-stocking. Since blockchain uses a secure ledger format, the product data is more reliable and secure from tampering. Furthermore, it can reduce supply chain product waste.

blockchain-technology

Supply Chain Ledger

There are several ways that blockchain can help strengthen relationships. The entire supply chain is one major aspect retailers need to keep secure as it directly impacts the shopping experience for the customers. Using blockchain as a supply chain ledger can make a huge difference in all segments of retail. This especially can impact and enhance retailers that are involved in perishable goods.

Blockchain ensures that the supply chain and logistics is secure and authentic. This means that every record and form is being checked and time stamped in the supply chain. This ensures no tampering of data with everything being independently verified. Thus, there is greater control over product manufacturing location, process, and timing.

Furthermore, a blockchain supply chain model also enables retailers to control all aspects of transportation, storage, delivery, and presentation.

Payments and e-commerce

Blockchain is a trusted means of payments. The majority of retailers are integrating bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as means of payment processing. The big advantage here is, compared to credit cards, the integration of cryptocurrencies is that it is cheaper and transparent to process transactions.

Blockchain allows for retailers to accept cryptocurrencies along with digital records which helps streamline refunds and return processes.

Besides, purchasing items that need a large amount of money such as cars or land property with cryptocurrency can track the ownership and verify resale of stolen goods.

e-commerce

Retailers must now realise that Blockchain is here to stay. While there are other developments happening in the industry, they need to keep an eye out for this technology.

The possibilities have only just begun.

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