Get Ready for an Ambient Shopping Assistant

Recently, we’ve published posts about how the consumer journey has been completely redefined over the past few decades. We know the perfect product offer is formed at the intersection of Product Intelligence, Business Intelligence, and Customer Intelligence. In our continuing focus on Product Intelligence and its role in the new era of shopping, today we will elaborate on one of the scenarios that it will help realize in the near future.

The current iteration of the Internet is largely focused on user-generated content and social media. The next generation of the Internet will be structured around context, which means that every user will have a personalized and customized experience based on their intent for accessing the web. Shopping will see one of the biggest impacts of this evolution. By 2020, personalized and enhanced shopping experiences will become a reality attainable by all those with smart devices.

ambient shopping assistantImagine the presence of a super-concierge attending to our product needs and wants. We can call this concierge an Ambient Shopping Assistant (ASHA). It might bear a likeness to digital assistants used today, such as Siri and Cortana, but it will offer much more customized and intuitive services. Here’s a scenario that ASHA could enable. You tell it: “It’s my friend Megan’s birthday tonight. What gift should I bring, and where can I find a good bottle of champagne on my way?” As your super-concierge, ASHA has access to your contacts, your calendar, your address, and other personal data. It also knows Megan’s address, her likes, dislikes, and other details from her social profile. ASHA will find the appropriate gift at the right price, get your approval on the purchase, and place the order on your behalf. Enhanced supply chain logistics will ensure that the gift is waiting on your doorstep by the time you return from work, and ASHA will map your trip, leaving you time to pick up a bottle of champagne from a store near Megan’s house.

Services like Google Now already provide some of this functionality. What it lacks is the scale and accuracy that Product Intelligence brings. There are several other ways in which ASHA will make your life easier. When you are walking back from work, ASHA might remind you that the cast-iron skillet that you were viewing on a cooking blog a few weeks ago is on sale at a store just two blocks away.

Such a system is based on Product Data Science and machine learning. Over time, based on what you choose to share with it, ASHA will generate increasingly refined product offers. You will train it, it will learn from you, and generate increasingly relevant product offers. Consider this. You have a preferred brand of toothpaste and you typically run out every 4-6 weeks. ASHA would learn this behavior, alert you in advance and prompt you to place an order when the price of the product is just right.

So whether it is everyday products that you use on a repeated basis, or occasional purchases such a birthday gift, or clothes and shoes, ASHA will make your life much easier by offering intuitive, personalized, and customized services.

The main challenges inhibiting this scenario are the access, accuracy, and security of consumer personal data—Customer Intelligence—and the lack of a universal product catalog that provides information at scale and in real time—Product Intelligence.

Data privacy has been an issue of major debate off late. The reason for that is the lack of transparency about the way that consumer data is stored and used. The scenario where ASHA will be a part of our lives, will be permission-based—people will get to opt in and out of services as they desire. Think of it like a personal data bank. In fact, researchers from MIT have already hypothesized a solution for this problem. Instead of several different services owning a consumer’s data, the consumer owns it and selectively grants access to different apps and services. Logically, this is the simplest solution to the problem.

By 2020, there will be interoperable services that talk to each other and use consumer data in a transparent yet protected manner. Giving consumers absolute control over their information and empowering them is the only way to execute on personalization without crossing over the line from cool to creepy.

The other critical piece of this puzzle is Product Intelligence, the force multiplying technology foundation that enables businesses to deliver the right product, to the right customer, at the right price, at the right place. Every time.

Next week, we will talk about what exactly Product Intelligence is and how it will enable services like ASHA to become a reality.

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