Shop.org Takeaway: Three steps to next-gen personalization
Consumers are becoming more digitally influenced on a seemingly daily basis — but omnichannel retailers find themselves hard-pressed to keep up the pace. Retailers need to meet their needs across all touchpoints, and create a frictionless shopping experience despite where the shopping journey starts and ends.
To achieve this goal, successful retailers are adopting a new digital tools that allow them to “connect the dots,” and personally engage shoppers before, during and following the shopping experience. Industry observers discussed this new level of personalization during Shop.org, held in Los Angeles, Sept. 25-28.
Among the top solutions are:
Voice: Conversational commerce is shaping up to be one of the year’s hottest disruptors, and momentum continues to grow. As customers grow more comfortable using digital voice assistants found on devices like Amazon Echo and Dot, Google Home, and others, retailers have a new way to personalize the shopping experience, and remove some of the friction that still occurs via online and mobile transactions.
Jet.com Walmart’s e-commerce arm, is so bullish on voice that it is one of the company’s “top priorities this year,” Marc Lore, president and CEO, of Walmart e-commerce U.S., said at shop.org.
“You have to look beyond the technology and toward what it enables,” Lore added. “It’s more than a tool that helps customers order product for delivery. It gives us the chance to connect with shoppers one-on-one. And we can use data to become better merchandisers.”
Artificial intelligence: Retailers that use AI are essentially adopting programs that teach their computers to learn patterns. Then brands can use results to deliver better customer experiences.
AI is playing a critical role across Disney’s retail channels. Committed to delivering “a more immersive, personalized, and robust omnichannel experience than ever before, “Disney is adding AI to our e-commerce site so we can help improve the guest experience online and in-store,” said Mike White, senior VP and chief technology officer for Disney consumer products and interactive media.
AI is helping Disney understand its best-selling category SKUs searched online, and then using this data to evaluate customer affinities. “Then we can expand online and in-store assortments, which add more value to their experiences,” he added.
Next-gen search tools: Kohl’s is becoming increasingly bullish on the value of its search tools. Why?
“Search is the top way that most of our customers begin their purchase journey — and most searches are happening on customers’ smartphones,” Sarah Rasmusen, the company’s VP, digital/e-commerce, merchandising & analytics.
That’s why the company is already exploring how to expand the value — and functionality — of this important omnichannel tool. For Kohl’s, this could include a new component Rasmusen described as “findability.”
Kohl’s envisions a solution that will bridge the gap between digital and physical stores. It could also solve what she described as “analysis paralysis,” or collecting so much information that the shopper can’t make a buying decision.
By integrating findability functionality within search, customers will “gain specific details on desired merchandise and where to find it inside of a store,” she explained. “This is the next evolution of search — and it will only be successful if it can merge physical and digital retailing.”
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Gifting retailer to launch ‘voice-activated’ shopping
1-800-Flowers.com continues to embrace the conversational commerce game.
The gifting brand is preparing to launch a program that will enable its customers to place orders via Google Assistant on their Android phones and iPhones. Using their voice or text, they can access a menu of gifting categories, and place orders for delivery nationwide. The service also enables users to specify same-day delivery or schedule a gift’s arrival for a future date.
“As a company, we continue to embrace and invest in technology that makes it easier for gift-givers to shop with us, wherever, whenever and however they choose,” said Amit Shah, the retailer’s chief marketing officer. “Voice interaction and artificial intelligence are rapidly transforming the customer experience, and we are thrilled to team up with Google to offer shoppers yet another convenient way to connect with us.”
The Google Assistant joins other recent technology initiatives by 1-800-Flowers.com designed to enhance the customer experience, including the company's first online gift concierge, GWYN (Gifts When You Need) powered by IBM Watson. The company also features services that enables users to order gifts through a conversational chatbot on Facebook Messenger, as well as a voice-enabled Skill on Amazon Alexa.
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Walmart goes live
Walmart has officially gone live with voice shopping on the Google Homeplatform.
As it was announced back in August, the discounter is partnering with Google to allow its customers to shop for Walmart items through voice via Google Assistant, the search giant's online shopping platform that lives on its smart speaker. On Wednesday, the partnership went live, with more than two million Walmart items available through voice.
(Read more about the partnership here.)
In addition, Walmart noted in a blog on its website that Google is launching the Google Home Mini, a voice-activated speaker that sells for only $49.
"Everyone should have access to a virtual assistant, especially when it can be a tool to help make shopping more convenient," Walmart stated. "That’s one of the reasons why we’re excited about the launch of the Google Home Mini. With a price tag of $49, it offers an affordable option for consumers who want to experience how a voice assistant can help them with everyday tasks – from getting answers to hands-free shopping.”
Walmart is offering an incentive to encourage shoppers to use voice shopping. Any customer who buys a Google Home or Google Home Mini from Walmart will receive up to $25 off (Between Oct. 4, 2017 and Jan. 15, 2018) a Walmart order when they link their Walmart account to Google Express. By linking their accounts, customers save time and money by receiving recommendations based on their previous purchases made in Walmart stores and on its website, the retailer said.
Great move. I will buy one at this discounted price and stop writing paper store list.