The Next Disruption in Shopping
Shopping has changed dramatically in the past few years. This change has been set in motion, in large part, by smart phones. We at Indix believe that this phenomenon will accelerate with the further adoption of smart phones, smart speakers, smart TVs and a host of other smart devices and eventually IoT.
The phenomena below, together, are the necessary ingredients for the next disruption in shopping. We believe this disruption is in its initial stages, with the different phenomena operating separately. Whoever can pull these ingredients together will lead the next generation of shopping by enabling AI-powered, contextual product discovery and shopping in every device.
- From keywords to multi-sensory input. Three years ago, the predominant method for finding products to buy was by entering a keyword or search phrase in Google or Amazon. Now, it’s likely that the discovery process is initiated by voice (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Bixby, Google Assistant), via a camera (using product image recognition), or by applying product image recognition or product phrase recognition to photos and text in social networks, videos, chat, messaging and content. Any device with a sensor (or sensors themselves) is going to be a point of discovery for products.
- From ‘walled gardens’ to infinite channels. The internet has shown time and again that walled gardens give way to open ecosystems that are accessible through every possible channel. AOL, Windows, cable TV and music labels are all evidence of this phenomenon. Shopping is going the same way. Walmart and Amazon and their respective marketplaces offer a vast assortment of products that satisfy customers – up to a point. But now, consumers, encountering products on social networks, chat, messaging, ads and in the physical world (based on location) are expecting more from these new channels for shopping. The driving force behind this phenomenon is the digitization of product information, which makes it possible to shop anywhere and at any time. The digital ‘content is the product’. Apps are being built that showcase product content and make them shoppable (Pinterest, Houzz, Ebates and others). Non-traditional commerce players (banks, insurance companies, logistics companies) are developing product discovery engines to front end their business experiences, adding to the ever-growing list of channels for shopping.
- From top products to infinite shelf. ‘Variety is the spice of life’ and this has never been truer for everything from music to videos to travel experiences. You can access an ‘infinite shelf’ of music on Spotify, videos on YouTube and micro-tailored travel experiences on Expedia. This phenomenon of an ‘infinite shelf’ of products is now in full swing in shopping. Consumers feel comfortable shopping for products available anywhere in the world (cross border shopping is growing fast) aided by friction-free shipping and improving customer service and product quality. US consumers shopping for products directly from merchants in China is a recent phenomenon that is evidence of the desire for consumers to access new brands and products. Consumers are searching for and buying ‘long tail’ products from wherever they are available in the world.
- From recommendations to perfect personalization. Amazon is best in class at recommending products based on one’s shopping and browsing behavior on its site. Spotify and Netflix have pushed the envelope of personalization based on knowledge of one’s physical and emotional context. Location-based offers, targeted ads based on Internet-wide clickstreams or prior purchases are finding acceptance. Context has become an essential component for presenting the right product, at the right time, at the right place and at the right price. Consumers, for their part are expecting to be offered the ‘perfect product’ that matches their current state, every time they go shopping on the web or in the physical world.
Also published on Medium.