Online Shopping, AI And Predictive Commerce

29th June, 2017 by

Coming to a life near you. How will predictive commerce change us forever, like it or not? 

We’ve never loved ‘know-it-alls’ but in no time at all we might all be living with one.

Shopping, nagging and tech will combine to create a behemoth. Ha! Predictive commerce might well rule us. Just imagine a house with a device barking out the orders: ‘ Hey we’ve run out of cereal/ toilet rolls, milk.’ ‘By the way toilet paper is on special offer at Lidl or Walmart. Want to get an order together ready for you to grab?’ ‘Don’t forget your partner’s birthday shall we order flowers? I’ve found some special white roses on special offer’ What else is there to say but, ‘yes’? I would imagine it would be a very meek ‘yes’ too.

Relinquish control. Predictive commerce is here.

Alexa, and other devices that are all knowing, all seeing will continue to organize your life. All hail the omniscient! Remember, there was a time when you were in control. Count the days until that’s over; and it will all be our fault. Why? We are driving up expectation. The ‘I-want-it-now-delivered-by-drone-generation’ has landed and they have no intention of hitting the ground and running anywhere, thank you very much.

Predictive commerce may give us back some time.

All the big players we have come to rely on, such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, know the thing none of us have is time. We’re not much into making an effort either. We haven’t even got the wherewithal to book tickets on different websites. Nope. Siri and FB Messenger is all we need or want it seems. So what is all this about? Responsive retail is dead, long live predictive commerce.

Want, need, must have now!’ I said, NOW!

It’s simple. The old fashioned walk around the supermarket is consigned to the history books. Leaning on the trolley thinking ‘Omg what can we have for dinner?’ belongs in the past. Sitting at a desktop going through virtual aisles to order dog food, cat litter and kitchen towels is also somewhat passé. It’s all about ‘want, need, must have and now’. This is where retailers employ AI to suss out just what people need at their second of ‘need’. It’s caveman style ‘me want pizza. Give it to me!’

We all want the ultimate retail experience.

Actually, that’s not entirely fair, it’s all about creating the ultimate experience. Shopping is tarnished. People have too much ‘stuff’ they want an experience. They want the feel good, pampered factor and retailers will need to combine data integration, with significant automation, a deep understanding of human psychology and the resulting behaviors to give us something new. There are too many shops, selling too many similar things based on an old style of shopping. How can that ever compete for a new generation of switched on ‘digitistas’?

If you like reading about the future of tech, ecommerce and artificial intelligence, check this out.

Predictive commerce means nothing is left to chance.

OK this is not in essence, particularly new. Look at Amazon’s operations. Without knowing what demand is likely to look like, or predictive stocking, how could Amazon has managed to grow so successfully and become a household name? For three years already, machine learning has been shaping our Amazon shopping experience. The data they hold is quite likely to be unprecedented. Their whole modus operandi has been about investing in tech. You feel nothing they do is left to chance or climate vagaries. It all began with the ‘customers who bought this also bought’ which was incredibly innovative. Remember, I’m one of the generation where ordering a physical book online and receiving it in the post within 48 hours was mind blowing enough!

Predictive stocking will never be enough.

Of course, we have to move on. Predictive stocking is not enough. Something more subtle is needed, maybe one might say more democratic (I’ll leave you to decide) is on its way. This is where everyone and everything has its price and is at the fore of retail transactions. Think about when you would pay more for something. That’s when need is greatest, right? You know those crisis moments when you’ve forgotten a razor, phone charger, shoes, tampons, headphones, earplugs. The list is endless. If your retailer can organize a price to get what you need exactly when you need it and be super speedy about it, what would you pay?  If they have information about your capacity to pay a premium, well……

Bearing in mind our digital exhaust follows us, it wouldn’t be difficult to predict the kind of buyer who’s looking at your goods. If you have the capacity to analyze histories and product preferences alongside locations, schedules and so on, you can be quite canny in your pricing for that individual and no one else need know.

Machine learning and AI is coming to get us for sure.

Even Etsy has got in on the act. “Hey, I thought they specialized in bits of driftwood and crafty things?” I hear you say. Well yes, but they want to improve their search features. Etsy decided they would acquire Blackbird Technologies. These guys have been developing algorithms to process natural language requests. These can be used by anyone. So you see it’s happening in every retail sphere and beyond. You want nuanced product recommendations? Of course you do. This will take companies way beyond your purchase history or any preferences into something that’s no longer sci-fi but sci-fact.

The evolution of retail is well underway.

You may have Siri, Alexa’s Echo at home and you’re going to be part of one massive shift. The evolution of retail is rapid and those zero moments of truth, those micro moments are going to drive change. When you realize there’s no more honey or peanut butter you hit the various buttons that will be part of your home furniture for more. The minute you have a thought it can be translated into action. The trajectory is incredible. This is just the start.

Your nuances and behaviors will meld together.

You and your devices will be symbiotic. Your habits will drive learning. From the environment in which you operate, to the time of day you do specific things, all will be stored. What would Orwell or Huxley have made of it? If you have read 1984 or Brave New World you’ll know what this might mean.

Look out for department stores that become your own entertainment playground.

Those ‘ I went out for one thing and forgot to get it but bought these instead’ moments will be over. You will never forget a purchase but you might come home laden with other associated items and a pocket full of experiences.

Does predictive commerce etc. sound far-fetched?

Nope. Looking at the range of smart devices and the development of biometrics available already anything might happen. Stores may well be able to assess your mood, stress level and tailor your shopping experience to match. If you’re wearing your favorite old jogging pant,s an embedded chip will tell the store they’ve been washed x number of times, and it’s likely they’ll have experienced color fade. As you pass the shop where you bought them you could receive a push notification for the latest range and maybe a time sensitive discount code. Alongside a store map and an assistant waiting with your size and choice of colors available what’s not to like? Unless of course you’re into conspiracy theories then there’s probably quite a lot to be worried about.

Further Reading:

Total Retail

Narvar Post Retail Experience

Harvard Business Review