Amazon’s recent launch of their Amazon Key camera & smart lock system will allow Amazon to bring packages directly into your home… but what’s the endgame? Here’s why more than simply retailers should be worried…
To put things in context, the Amazon Key seems an imminent response to Walmart’s plan to use August Home’s smart lock system to allow Walmart personnel to deliver groceries directly to your house, even when you’re not home. The key part of Walmart’s plan, however, lies in the fact that they intend to stock your fridge for you. Something the average consumer might be weary about. Considerable worry emerged across social media when the plan was first announced, though seemingly less since Amazon Key became trending today, suggesting some customers are warming-up to the idea. But while Amazon hasn’t announced plans for grocery shipments just yet, Peter Larsen, Amazon’s Vice President of Delivery Technology, recently said to Reuters, “This is not an experiment for us. This is a core part of the Amazon shopping experience from this point forward.” So what exactly are they planning?
Moving away from Amazon Key, you may recall hearing about another Amazon project, the ecommerce giant’s first grocery store, Amazon Go. Currently setup in Seattle, the store (video below) allows shoppers to walk in, pick up their groceries, and walk out, while a range of Internet of Things devices carefully track which items are removed. The system then adds them to the customer’s cart via Amazon app and charges their account when they leave. While it’s currently only open to Amazon employees, the system is so precise that Amazon challenged their employees to try to steal anything, which appeared to be impossible… So it looks like this technology is ready for a wider testing group sometime soon. Another big news item that shook up the markets earlier this year was Amazon’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods. Now do you smell a connection?
While Amazon hasn’t explicitly noted their intention to stock fridges yet (and that’s a fat YET), this move seems directly poised to counter, or at least match Walmart’s intention to stock your fridge, which would have given Walmart a convenience edge in this race. As customers grow accustomed to this level of delivery service, it wouldn’t be such a stretch to say Amazon’s Prime Air drones could soon be stocking your fridge. What’s more, once these companies get into your home, maybe Amazon’s drones will be helping you try on clothes before a purchase, or open a whole new range of services like walking your dog and straightening up the place like Rosy from the Jetsons. While those things might be a stretch, at least we can agree that Amazon Key looks and acts suspiciously similar to Walmart’s smart lock concept (below).
We’ll find out soon enough what plans these ecommerce megaliths have for us. In the mean time, if you’d like some help keeping your edge in the world of ecommerce, shoot us an email today, or click on the red speech bubble in the bottom corner!
Earlier this month, IKEA emerged as the sleeper champ of retail’s augmented reality arms race. On the AI front, companies like Emarsys and Edgecase released ecommerce products that use advanced machine learning techniques to automate time-consuming data analysis and predictive forecasting strategies for retailers.
With such tools available to manage mass audiences and their data, this is an opportunity for tech-minded shops to get a leg up on the competition. As a result, we can expect to see some large retailers (those who fail to adapt) fall behind in a relatively short amount of time. Survivors of this retail purge will make themselves known in the next year or two as these technologies become cornerstones of ecommerce. Here are some big changes to expect in the new paradigm of online shopping that everyone will be adding to next year’s budget.
“The IKEA Effect”
Diving into Apple’s ARkit early-on, the home furniture & appliance giant successfully launched an AR app that lets users view how IKEA’s furniture will look in their home by selecting products from an online store. Released with iOS11, the brand was primed for a massive market reaction. Sure, the items still have some issues (they don’t adapt to lighting too well and their textures aren’t quite realistic), but as the first retail brand to jump into AR, the starting gun has been fired, and many companies are racing to capture value through this technology.
Redstage CEO Adam Morris sees huge potential for AR in ecommerce, stating, “There’s certain industries that I see really benefiting from AR, especially companies where seeing the item in-person plays a huge factor. I believe jewelry sales could be completely revolutionized with AR, and then on to home goods like furniture.” However, Morris notes that the ecommerce industry typically lags a few years behind the latest tech trends, relying on major user adoption for companies to jump on the bandwagon. “For instance,” he recalls, “we talked about ‘mobile-first’ for years, well before companies would begin implementing it. Most didn’t pull the trigger until they had no choice — when mobile users made up more than thirty percent of their user base. It’s easy to argue that the industry is still doing a horrible job at mobile commerce, even now with roughly two-billion online shoppers using mobile.” Perhaps the companies that have been slow to catch up with mobile will double-down on AR, or risk giving up their market share to the brands that do.
So what happens when health and beauty retailers jump onto this train? If Snapchat can already morph your face and add eye-shadow, will brands like Ulta Beauty and Maybelline step up to the challenge? How will consumers react to no-longer trying on makeup in-store, or to saving bundles of cash testing it through your app? Years down the line, this may even change the supply chain, because stores can test products without actually making them, without buying in bulk, and never worry about hemorrhaging money selling-off failed product. Will proactive make an AR filter to show what you’d look like without acne? Will Schick and Gillette face-off for a chance to show you how to carve up that beard? Furthermore, what will become of Snapchat, now that the company announced it will let brands create their own AR features? The possibilities are endless, and the brands that don’t engage AR or continue to view it as a passing trend will feel it in their bottom lines sooner or later.
Emarsys’ ecommerce platform is taking the world by storm. Using artificial intelligence to automate various customer retention and acquisition strategies, the AI uses machine learning to quickly create the perfect online shopping experience for each customer. Designed by Forrester, the system quickly crunches oceans of data about site visitors to cater to their needs and desires. After uploading two years of historical user data, ecommerce companies can maximize ROI on existing users. For new users, the Emarsys AI takes an average of 8 weeks to optimize the customer journey and activate recurring campaigns to keep engagement high. While there are many AI competitors out there, Emarsys boasts a robust, user-friendly platform that creates a truly personal experience for each shopper. As Morris describes it, “AI is becoming essential to work personalization into ecommerce, and machine learning systems offer huge advantages over rule-based systems. Marketers do not need to spend nearly as much time tweaking and administering a rule-based system when the AI is optimizing it automatically.” He adds, “We had a customer that doubled their newsletter list from 50k subscribers to 100k. However, since they did not employ any personalization strategies for what products were beingpresented, they only received a 15% increase in revenue from that channel.” As ecommerce threatens to surpass in-store sales (Business of Fashion) personalization of branded messages is critical. What are you doing to cater to each customer?
Fringe Shoppers Beware
We all do it. We’ll aimlessly surf Amazon or another online retailer looking for something cool to buy, even when we don’t know exactly what we want. Edgecase, the company formerly known as Compare Metrics recently released a new product that helps convert shoppers who have a vague idea or even no idea of what they want. In a time where ecommerce and marketing penetrate the lives of every consumer, tools like Edgecase that help convert the shopping addicted masses are becoming hugely important. When integrated with an online store, the software makes selections for users based on what they’re thinking of (i.e. a blue dress in a certain size) rather than a specific brand. Users can also receive lists of recommended items when shopping for a specific event like a wedding or graduation. As we enter that special time of year, consider how a system built to convert fringe shoppers can have massive impact.
As the holiday season looms, companies taking advantage of AR and AI pose the biggest threat to your bottom line. As the ecommerce arms race ramps up, winners and losers will be defined by how they spend their 2018 budget. Make sure you’re planning to implement these tactics by next year’s holiday rush, or risk being left out in the cold.
Imagine the year is 2020… You awake in your home of the future. The light buzz from your smartwatch pleasantly rouses you from your slumber. You hear the steadily crescendoing notes of your favorite song play through wireless Bluetooth speakers. Morning sun filters into the room as the smartglass on your windows transitions from opaque to clear. As you step out of bed you notice your connected shower is already running, set to the perfect temperature. Meanwhile, your Wi-Fi-enabled coffee machine prepares to brew just in time for your arrival in the kitchen. This is the automated dream of the Internet of Things, and believe it or not, these patterns emulate how B2C companies should be marketing by 2020.
According to Adam Morris, CEO of Redstage, “The most profitable companies in 2020 will be those which seamlessly integrate content, product development and lifestyle marketing into the customer journey — and benefit from the data.” As an IoT enthusiast (already automating his household with Google Home), Morris believes “top brands will meet customer needs almost instantly, anywhere, and make customers view brand interactions as a constant benefit to their lifestyle.” In this world, your coffee would never be too hot, and your shower, never too cold. It combines elements of growth hacking strategies from the world’s most successful marketers to the best “freemium” channel managers. However, there’s one bump in the road to this bright, utopian brand vision… B2C companies are still playing catch-up with today’s technology.
Thinking Ahead: Winners & Losers
As Forbes reported in 2015, “only 10% of companies are using marketing automation.” However, in 2016 marketing automation exploded, rising to 49% of B2C companies on average. Still, we’re not seeing the utopian lifestyle we were promised. Why? Blame the learning curve. Because marketers are
still getting used to the software, the investment has not yet matched the results for many. While millennial companies are diving right in, established giants are taking time because this software is changing centuries-old business models, and mass firings of outmoded workers don’t resound well in the minds of shareholders… At least for now… Regardless, young or old, many companies are still not using automation to its full potential.
As a marketing professional, I recommend taking a look at this list here. These marketing platforms have near-endless integrations with programs most companies already use, and that’s the point: Automate and optimize your existing operations, then innovate, restructure and repeat. One notable member of this list, Magento, contains such immense customization capabilities for B2C and B2B marketers that there are now numerous sites solely dedicated to downloadable integrations for the software.
Preparing for 2020
Companies like Redstage, Zapier, IFTTT (If-This-Than-That) and even freelance developers constantly build new programs and apps to simplify massive processes for businesses. So if you know your company isn’t ready for the next wave, what’s your excuse? It’s time to hop on the innovation train or risk falling behind when 2020 Marketing comes around. And just in case you’re the one writing the budget proposal, start with the bottom line. As CMO.com reports, “77% of CMOs at top-performing companies indicate their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to grow revenue.” The recipe works. What’s your excuse?
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