Category : Retail

Mobile Opinion Retail Tech Talk

The Role of Tech in Last Mile Delivery: Integrated Approach is Key

Last mile delivery is tech enabled

In his book, ‘Measure what matters’, the venture capitalist John Doerr said famously ‘Ideas are easy. Execution is everything’. In business, last mile delivery of virtually any idea, especially in services sector is akin to getting the execution right. In retail, it is even more critical as it refers to the last leg of a package’s journey; from the time it is picked up at the transportation hub to when it reaches the customer. We can say that while first impressions matter, this is a powerful moment for brands to make a lasting impression. Not surprisingly enterprises are betting on last-mile delivery to be quick, smooth, and as frictionless as possible.

As online buying continues to boom, the environment is one of intense competition. Exclusive offers, online buyer engagement, delivery times, and easy returns are important differentiators and factors influencing customer loyalty. That’s why a streamlined and cost-effective delivery process can promote brand affinity and become a business edge.

Tech that collaboration

Technology is the fundamental enabler of this entire last-mile segment, now an industry of its own. Estimated at USD 40.5 Billion in 2021, the global last mile delivery market is predicted to return revenues of USD 123.7 Billion in 2030.

In every delivery aspect of e-commerce, technology is already bridging the demand-supply gap between the seller and buyer through innovative solutions and services. For instance, specialized and affordable, online, on-demand services like Postmates, Deliveroo, DoorDash have truly gone the extra mile to help smaller, local retailers in overcoming the delivery limitations of global logistics giants such as UPS and FedEx.

Technology interventions also enable opportunities for retailers to experiment with delivery models, innovative solutions, and collaborations to create market differentiation and optimize costs. When fast-food chains like Domino’s and McDonald’s built in-house delivery capabilities, they turned to technology to orchestrate online customer experience, automate order taking, and coordinate driver delivery, giving them greater control over the delivery experience. Emerging technologies continue to redefine the last mile segment, offering businesses new ways to evolve all the time.

Here are some innovative technology solutions that truly stretch the possibilities of the last mile for ecommerce players and delivery service providers:

• Drones complement autonomous delivery modes

The use of drones to deliver packages has immense potential to solve last-mile reach and challenges of speed and cost, while also offering an environmentally safe and sustainable option to ground-based delivery vehicles like trucks or cars. In 2021, retail giant Walmart partnered with DroneUp, a global leader in drone technology, to launch multiple airport hubs that would cater to delivery on demand. Today, Zipline’s drones drop off medicines and healthcare products in parts of the US as well as the remote corners of Ghana and Rwanda.

• Bots which help buyers

While home delivery bots are not yet fully autonomous, they are drawing a lot of investor attention. Starship Technologies is one example; the company uses self-driven delivery bots that can cover short distances, moving at pedestrian speed to deliver parcels, groceries, and food. They have successfully fulfilled millions of orders around the world without human intervention. Domino’s partnership with robotics company, Nuro is another example where bots deliver pizzas.

• On-the-go traceability and route optimization through GPS

GPS technology has been the foundation of the last-mile delivery segment. Using GPS tracking for customer orders not only helps the retailer/fleet service provider track the number of orders out for delivery but also optimize the number of drivers deployed, chart faster routes and service pending orders. In fact, driver management and route optimization by robust algorithms are making a huge difference in improving operational efficiencies and reducing fuel consumption. A delightful benefit of tracking technology is that customers are able to see where exactly their order is, and delivery staff can coordinate directly, reducing the load on operations teams and customer service. Static optimizers which create one-time optimal routes for delivery can become ‘dynamic’ by taking into account real-time traffic scenario of the area and re-adjusting the route.

Technology is set to play an even bigger part in transforming last mile delivery

While millions of stores have rapidly adopted technology, they have not completely eliminated last-mile challenges like cost and process inefficiencies. Traditional retailers need to make additional investments to match up to the popularity of direct-to-consumer brands who have ready access to mature last-mile solutions and logistics service providers.

They need to choose from the wide array of technologies available to them, to understand the capability and benefits, as well as the integration, scalability and security challenges of each.

Besides GPS, which is the backbone of last mile delivery to customers, it’s also important to integrate technologies that link up the warehousing and storage aspects with the delivery to customer service sector.

Like the RFID tags popular in warehousing for tracking inventory, barcode and QR code are set to play a key role in last mile delivery wherein the delivery person scans the code that sets off a notification and status update corresponding to it. Feedback links can be sent to the customer so that they are fully engaged during the last-mile journey of the package.

Sensors are proving to be a cost-effective means to are being delivered. They can also be strategically used in automating certain processes of warehouse management, which is now a critical area as retailers scramble to fulfil reduced turnaround times.

Using GPS live tracking for customer orders will not only help the retailer/fleet service provider track the number of orders out for delivery but also optimize the number of drivers deployed and available to service pending orders. Here too last mile fleet solutions like GPS and Google Maps Platform are helping ensure the end-user is able to track and review the last leg of order fulfilment.

Technology is also available to help the system to accurately pick the item from the nearest store in which it is available thus speeding up the process. These include pick indicator systems, which could be voice- or light-operated that locate the item and apprise the system accordingly. Smart glasses like the ones offered by Google Glass are making their way into warehouses helping operators locate, pick, and place the item(s) for delivery.

Last mile delivery software and cloud capabilities embedded in shipping will help optimize routes and direct delivery operators with updated information and maps throughout the journey. The software eliminates guesswork by mapping routes based on actual data of traffic jams, road repairs, detours, weather forecasts etc. and thus, averts stressful traffic situations and delays for drivers.

Technology at each stage of last mile delivery

Designing the UX for the last mile in retail needs business insight and user contexts

The ecosystem of the last mile is like the players of a complex symphony in which technology plays the role of an orchestrator – bringing together the warehouse, the products and inventory, the delivery staff and the customers. It unifies and coordinates the roles of different players who come with deep understanding of their specific domains and processes. Therefore, designing any application in the last-mile must draw from the needs of the multiple users – the warehousing staff, fleet operators and drivers, delivery staff, customer service staff and of course, the customer.

To start with, they’ll need to design apps and websites that have the right architectural framework, audience connect and personalization with end-users, and integrate seamlessly with last mile delivery platforms and warehousing. Like ecommerce giants such as Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, and Otto, they must capitalize on technological advances to enhance the overall customer experience and secure their brand loyalty.

McDelivery Case Study by Robosoft

Here, thoughtful design that draws its information from technology, can play a crucial role in addressing changing expectations and needs of modern buyers while ensuring the last-mile-delivery platform is set up in a way that facilitates fast, frictionless, and enduring experiences.

Typically, last mile delivery can be split into four main stages based on which design of the user interface can be developed by strategically thinking and mapping the various aspects and requirements of each stage.

Stage 1: Goods are picked up from the warehouse based on order requests that need to be delivered to the end users.
Stage 2: Routes are optimized, and delivery personnel allocated to fulfil the order.
Stage 3: Tracking of orders to avert any losses along the route.
Stage 4: At the drop location, the fulfilment of order needs to be verified.

At each stage, design thinking uses insights from technology to play an important role in ensuring seamless and smooth order fulfilment. At stage 1, for example, it needs to pivot around aspects such as:

• What is the type of delivery?
o Regular
o Refrigerated – medicines, blood, organs, food perishables- end to end cold chain

• What are the possible delivery methods?
o Delivery person/van/bot
o Drones (remote places, urgent deliveries, small payloads)

• What are the delivery options?
o Home delivery
o Kerbside delivery
o Pickup at nearest showroom/center

At stage 2, specific design considerations must be made. One essential design feature is for checking the end user’s availability at the time of drop so that the delivery route is worked out based on availability.

At stage 3, the tracking feature must be embedded in the design to ensure the delivery proceeds as per schedule and any changes or detours are noted, and updates are provided to the end user accordingly.

At stage 4, design needs to consider the delivery option chosen. For example,
• In case of kerbside delivery, the facility to generate a QR code must be embedded so that items can be matched with the customer’s details.
• If C.O.D is included, then a feature to collect inputs on the customer’s availability must be included.

The technology behind last mile can be anything from autonomous delivery modes using robots, drones to big data analytics and forecasting using IoT systems, connected vehicles, sensors, and even smart dust. All of them want to remove any cause of friction, delays, and unnecessary expenses in this all-important phase of delivery.

With thoughtful design, countless innovation possibilities unlocked by technology will come alive for ecommerce businesses – from industry leaders to freshly sprung entities. And so, they can aspire to breach the last mile while guaranteeing the last impression of the brand is as good as the first.

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Opinion Retail

What’s Next For Q-Commerce: The Golden Child Of E-Commerce

What's next for Q-commerce?

Fast & Furious. It is not just a reference to the famous franchise, but a principle the time-scarce millennials today live by. Whether it is content to be streamed, coffee or noodles – everything must be instant, and the sooner it is, the more appreciated it is. The latest to join this trend is Q-commerce, promising to deliver customer delight in 30 minutes or less.

Valued at around USD 20-25 billion in 2021, the quick-commerce industry is expected to grow to USD 72 billion by 2025. A major contributing factor for this is the ongoing pandemic, which has not just fast-tracked digital transformation by decades for businesses, but also altered consumer behavior, a shift that will stay for years to come. Consumers who were earlier willing to step out and visit their neighborhood mom and pop stores or malls now prefer to stay home and be served. Add to this the work-from-home lifestyle for the busy professionals and the concerns of the aging population to step out, the consumers today are willing to pay a higher price for on-demand instant delivery. As shifts like urbanization, rising disposable incomes and single households continue to grow, this number will only multiply.

Beyond US, quick-commerce is a global phenomenon. According to a report, 30 new quick-commerce companies have emerged in ten months in Western Europe alone. Berlin-based Gorillas became the fastest company to achieve unicorn status in Europe – just nine months into launch. In India, while existing delivery startups are overhauling their operations & supply chain to cater to this segment, specialty players are now targeting this segment, with a promise of 10 to 15-minute deliveries. A consumer tweeted that a brand delivered groceries in unbelievable 2.5 minutes – which was then used on its billboard.

The Q-commerce ecosystem consists of:

Third-party delivery platforms: existing delivery platforms who deliver items from neighboring retail outlets, usually just fulfilling delivery or picking the order. From promising one-day delivery, they have now moved to several hours to 30 minutes or less.

Popular retail giants: both offline and online giants have initiated the shift to an omnichannel experience & Q-commerce with drone deliveries, faster processes

Vertically integrated specialists: These companies create neighborhood warehouses, called dark stores and delivering often-purchased items to shoppers, typically within 10–30 minutes. In India, many of them target the ‘top-up and unplanned purchases’ of Gen-Z and millennials, by solving inefficiencies of the familiar neighborhood store.

With the threat of further lockdowns looming over the consumers, convenience and safety will be paramount, leading to a large influx of consumers ordering online. It will also subsequently lead to more players & investors entering the ecosystem. However, players will be under immense pressure to acquire customers as fast as possible and with low profitability margins, especially on grocery items; this will be a challenging exercise. The key will be to find a differentiation factor outside of similar items, offers and prices for the brand.

Here are some trends apparent in Q-commerce in 2022:

Diversification of inventory: While grocery items today form most of the stock of a Q-commerce setup, the premise of <60 mins delivery can be extended to other categories like medicines, books, food items and even electronics & accessories. With the right infrastructure & logistics, this is a plausible option with startups like Glovo a Spanish quick-commerce start-up, leading the way with electronics & furniture.

Better inventory & supply chain Management: The constraint of a rapid delivery makes inventory & supply chain management an essential part of the equation. The supply & inventory management for dark stores will be more tight-knit in 2022, with the delivery partner able to check in real-time the nearest next store option in case of stock-out. Real-time inventory management tools will have a critical role here- constantly updating the status of inventory, calculating & estimating times for delivery and freshness of products (especially for perishable items) to ensure that the delivery partner does not waste precious minutes figuring this out.

Personalized customer experiences: In a market where everyone has the same inventory, offers, and prices a personalized & seamless customer experience will be the key that differentiates a brand and makes them a market leader. With AI & ML, tailored customer preferences based on past purchases and frequency can be suggested. Personalized messages & notifications can help users feel more connected to the brand and lead to user retention. A distinct UI, intuitive design & hassle-free user journey can also drive retention. For instance, here is how McDonald’s India enhanced their delivery experience & conversion through a revamp of experiences on their website & app.

Brand Partnerships & Influencer-based marketing: Brands have already started to see Q-commerce as an opportunity to get their product to their consumers the instant they think about it. Even premium brands like Estee-Lauder signed up with Uber in 2021 for a 60-minute delivery of their products. 2022 will see a rise of many brands trying this out. Another prevalent trend might be the rapid delivery of brands promoted by influencers

More strategic warehouse hub locations: At the heart of q-commerce lie the dark stores, the mini-warehouses located conveniently across delivery points. The strategic location of various hubs and their proximity to each other can determine the efficiency of the delivery process. AI & ML have a vital role in providing valuable insights about the purchase volumes & values, suggesting locations where a new store can add value.

Sustainability & eco-friendliness: As Sustainability & Net-zero emissions initiatives take global center stage, sustainable options must be chosen in every process. Some low-hanging fruits here can be using eco-friendly or reusable packaging options for delivery and electric vehicles for delivery executives to save unnecessary strain on the environment.

Quick commerce is a great opportunity globally. The right mix of technology, infrastructure and an unwavering focus on customer experience can succeed in this rapidly evolving landscape. 2022 promises to be an exciting watch-fest, with popcorn delivered in 15 minutes or less.

This article was originally published on Forbes Technology Council.

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Retail

Experiential eCommerce: The new norm in retail

Over the course of the last decade, eCommerce platforms have become an integral part of our lives. In the post-COVID world, they have become almost indispensable and not just for the essentials such as groceries & medicine. Last year, in April, U.S. retailers’ online year-over-year (YoY) revenue growth, went up by 68% According to QuantumMetric, online conversion rates increased 8.8% in February, reflecting a level of shopping urgency typically seen during Cyber Mondays.

The pandemic rapidly changed consumers’ behavior toward online channels, and these shifts are likely to stick even after the pandemic is over. To succeed in this new era of online retail, enterprises will have to shift from an omnichannel and multichannel experience to a customer-centric multiexperience mindset.

 In the new normal creating multi-experiences is an imperative not just for the retail sector but for enterprises across industries.  What this means is retail enterprises will have to move beyond enabling consumers to engage anytime and anywhere to allowing them to interact in any way that is most convenient for them Srinidhi Rao, Senior Vice President – Solutioning and Account Management

In this article, we will take a look at how the retail sector is evolving and some of the shifts that are enabling the new-age retailers to create customer-centric digital experiences for the experience economy.

The rise of experiential eCommerce for the experience economy

Experiential retail is a term that has gained popularity in the past few years. It enables eCommerce platforms to create an engaging in-store shopping experience – virtually. Experiential retail helps retailers to:

  1. Engage buyers via an immersive and shareable experience
  2. Prioritize customer engagement—not sales
  3. Experience in-store online
  4. Create experiences that not only addresses consumer-specified needs but their latent needs

Augmented Reality has been an enabler in the shift towards experiential retail. AR is not just a vanity technology but also helps shoppers make a purchase decision. Take for example in apparel and fashion, one of the main impediments to online purchasing has historically been the inability for customers to see how items would look on themselves. Jewelry brand Kendra Scott is tackling that problem via their platform, Virtual Try-On, which uses augmented reality (AR), machine learning, and computer vision techniques to enable customers to try out items from the comfort of their home.

Image source

Shopify, which allows its merchants to add 3-D models to their product pages, found that conversion rates increased by 250% when consumers viewed 3-D products in Augmented Reality. We MakeUp, the Italian cosmetics brand, created an AR filter on Facebook that allowed users to ‘try-on’ different shades of its lipstick. Users could find their perfect match which increased order placement percentage

Burrow, a DTC furniture brand, is using AR to help customers visualize how their couches will fit in their living rooms. Eyeglass maker Warby Parker is playing in the AR space, allowing people to see what a pair of glasses looks like on their faces before making a purchase.

At Robosoft, we worked with a leading American kids’ retail store to create an engaging digital experience for kids with exciting games, quizzes, stop-motion videos, and interactive AR-based shopping experiences. The app allowed kids and parents to scan in-store items & book pages and experience a game or video experience, get 360-degree views, bring characters to life, and take selfies.

Livestreaming is another trend that the retail sector is leveraging to offer an engaging experience to shoppers. Recently, Nordstrom unveiled its Livestream Shopping channel. Klarna, the payments platform partnered with Cosmopolitan Magazine to host its second Hauliday by Cosmo x Klarna,” a virtual shopping holiday event in the U.S.

In one of our earlier articles, we outlined how the retailers are benefitting from the rising adoption of video streaming and OTT.

Shift towards niche marketplaces and brand exclusive eCommerce platforms

While the aggregator eCommerce platforms have had success in the recent past, the preference for direct-to-company brand stores is rising. Retail brands see increasing merit in building their own eCommerce platforms. Nike is focussing on its direct business to increase sales from its own website.

In January last year, Ikea said it would be moving away from selling on aggregators – a move which was also taken by retailers like Birkenstock and PopSockets. One of the major reasons for this shift is maintaining brand reputation. According to this CNBC report, Birkenstock’s decision of moving away from an aggregator platform was due to the large number of counterfeits and unauthorized sellers, which it felt had the potential to jeopardize the brand.

We are already witnessing the emergence of niche marketplaces such as Mamoq, ASOS, etc. These marketplaces offer niche product categories like fashion and apparel, vegan and organic products, designer decor, and more. According to a McKinsey report, 35 percent of consumers shop at niche marketplaces, especially for apparel, sneakers and other footwear, and home products.

The reason why retailers are establishing their own Experiential e-commerce platforms

Retailers can offer an experience in line with their brand and create a stronger brand loyalty among their consumers

  • Consumers get access to a select range of products and services.
  • Consumers get guaranteed authenticity of a product or a service and no product is sold by multiple sellers as it is on an aggregator platform.

Hyperlocalization for customized experience

According to a Salesforce study, more than 75% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations and offer personalized experiences. One of the ways to engage customers today and leverage personalization is through hyperlocalization. This means tailoring the offering of a store to the specific needs of the local customers. However, Hyperlocallization doesn’t mean offering a unique set of products for every location – rather offering a core minimum assortment (CMA) relevant to ‘most’ of the shoppers of that store. 

A hyperlocalization approach includes a wide range of tactics like using analytics to make personalized recommendations, mega brands offering products and services that meet local demand, retailers sending customers localized offers on their preferred channel at the right time (and in real-time), etc. 

Now, more than ever, customers are online with a clear intent. With customer behavior evolving at a rapid pace, personalizing the customer experience via hyperlocalization is increasingly delivering results and gaining traction. Incorporating hyperlocalization into the CRM strategy is an important step toward driving growth and giving your brand a competitive edge.

Leveraging data science and analytics will play an important role in driving Hyperlocalization. This case study outlines how a leading grocery retailer leveraged customer data science to personalize its store and digital experiences and drive a more local, personal, and deeper relationship with its customers. They also Integrated its merchandising analytics with its automated assortment planning technology.

Personalizing shopping experience with Voice technology

In 2017, 13% of all households in the United States owned a smart speaker. That number is predicted to rise to 55% by 2022. A Google report suggests, 41% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say it feels like talking to a friend or another person. Voice Assistants can bring the human factor into the online shopping experience.

Voice search personalizes shopping experiences with the use of recommendations based on individual preferences. For example, if a customer uses AmazonFresh to buy their daily needs and is ordering them through Alexa, the voice assistant suggests items that match their diet, based on the preferences that have been communicated to the device. And if an order has to be repeated, voice search can make the task even easier for the user.

With Voice solutions, it is faster and easier to take reviews and feedback from the customers. Voice search is quick and effective when it comes to typing a query and it can also be combined with other activities like cooking, driving, exercising, etc. Recently, Domino’s pizza rolled out a voice assistant feature Dom for automating pizza orders over the phone to ensure that the process is convenient and quick for customers.  While the customer can place an order in a non-intrusive manner (can take as much time as they want, change orders multiple times without being embarrassed), it saves manpower, increases speed, reduces manual error, thereby injecting increased efficiency in the process.

According to an Adobe report, consumers typically use voice commerce for re-ordering common household goods such as toilet paper and laundry detergent. For visual or more complex purchases like apparel, flights, or concert tickets, people are focussing on providing a superior user experience to accompany Voice Commerce. At the same time, work is on to address privacy and security concerns related to Voice technologies.

Voice user interfaces are not meant to replace the graphical user interface.  Voice complements GUI and is expected to work in tandem. Some considerations to keep in mind while designing a Voice User experience (VUX).

Making purchasing easy on your wallet

E-commerce companies have partnered with Finance companies to offer easy payment options.  As a result, EMI purchase is becoming a norm.

Payments company Klarna partners with retailers all over the world to make it easy to pay. Shoppers can use the Klarna app and get flexible payment options anywhere online.

Targeted marketing for higher response and faster conversions

Direct response to simplify user journeys and avoiding huge advertisement costs

Direct response marketing is meant to evoke an on-the-spot response and encourage a prospective customer to take action by opting into the advertiser’s offer. Through direct response marketing is eCommerce brands can send customers targeted messages that drive specific actions—for example, buy a product, subscribe to a service, purchase a plan etc.

Some key elements of Direct response marketing are:

  • Customer Centricity – Addressing a customer problem upfront.
  • Personalization and targeting – direct response marketing works best when you have a specific buyer persona in mind
  • A clear CTA – Every direct response ad includes a clear call to action, compelling a visitor to do something specific.
  • Tracking and measuring – direct response helps to test the scale of consumer responses with a small campaign before launching a full-volume campaign.

Image source

Lookalike audience to expand and reach well-targeted customers.

Expanding the reach of digital marketing beyond the existing customer database with optimal costs and higher conversion is critical for eCommerce platforms to scale-up business. Lookalike audience modeling is a process that can enable that. It involves exposing a small seed audience, known as ‘reference sets’ to the larger universe of data on advertising platforms like Facebook, Google, Outbrain, etc. The attributes of the reference sets are analyzed by the Machine Learning algorithms of these platforms to create a larger dataset that is most relevant to the business.

Some efficient ways of choosing a seed audience for creating lookalike audiences for eCommerce can be based on:

  • Customer’s LTV – This tactic involves taking picking the dataset of existing customers with the highest lifetime value and use them as a lookalike audience seed. It will help in creating an audience that is likely to generate higher conversions.
  • Customers’ purchase behavior – creating separate seed audiences for different categories of purchase. For example, for a pharmacy store selling both OTC medicines and bodybuilding supplements, segmenting these product categories into separate lookalike audiences, might yield more results. It will help in presenting the shoppers with ads for products that present a natural continuation of the user journey basis their purchase intent.
  • Cart Value – creating a seed audience with customers having the highest cart value may mean expanding the dataset to shoppers who can make high-value purchases.
  • Website engagement metrics – website engagement metrics like time spent on site, scroll depth, etc. can be easily measured via Google Tag Manager, with Facebook also offers data about the top percentage of audiences that shared the highest time on the site within their ads platform. This kind of seed audience can help marketers reach out to audiences that are likely to engage with the platform and eventually make a purchase.

Lookalike audience modeling has become a critical tool for eCommerce marketers to scale-up their reach. A recent report by the IAB and Winterberry Group, suggests that marketers want to “prioritize ‘cross‐channel’ initiatives and maintain a focus on the harmonization of audience experiences across media. Lookalike audience modeling is a great way of doing that since it allows to use of data sets from various mediums to reach the most relevant audiences.

Summing it up

The next normal is still taking shape, and customer expectations will continue to shift in response. Customer expectations, maturity of newer elements of digital, appreciation of experiential commerce, all are coming together to shape the next normal in eCommerce.  While digitization is disrupting the retail industry it is the enabler that will help retailers to create digital experiences that buyers seek in an experience economy. Retailers that focus on customer experience, respond with agility and innovation, and create a multi-experience strategy to acquire, engage and retain customers will be able to position themselves as leaders in the evolving turf.

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Customer Experience Digital Transformation Media & Entertainment Retail

OTT Video in retail – the coming revolution

Covid-19 pandemic has caused rapid changes in consumer behavior across categories. Enterprises are striving to recognize this evolving consumer behavior and leverage digital to acquire, engage and retain customers.

In the last few months, US retail sales fell by 8.1% year-on-year – the worst decline since the financial crisis of 2009. In the UK, retail footfalls dipped by 32%, and India saw a 40% drop in consumer spending. Sectors that relied heavily on their physical presence – brick-and-mortar retail have been among the worst-hit sectors during this time.

On the positive side, online businesses have seen a surge in revenues. In the times ahead, the acceleration of e-commerce and the role of digital experiences through apps will be a defining factor in helping retailers connect with consumers to acquire a competitive edge. The outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of digitalization. A CNBC report mentions that 40% of consumers say they have increased or significantly increased their online purchasing.

A key component of the online purchasing has been the video platform.  Static images are giving way to streaming videos to better convey product and brand value.

Key benefits of video streaming for retail 

Out of sight, out of mind is more pertinent than ever before.  Hence it is essential for retailers to use innovative approaches to remain on consumers’ radar. Videos play a crucial role in this as it’s a more visually engaging medium. Let us look at some of the factors triggering the need for video streaming in retail:

Consumer demand drives the popularity of OTT

The lockdown of more than ¼ of the world’s population has propelled the usage of online streaming and entertainment services. In the US, OTT usage surged by 7.5% in April 2020 compared to the same month a year ago. And during the last year, the number of streaming services subscribers surpassed the number of cable subscribers and reached a number of 613 million. Disney+ has had a 75% rise in subscribers since early February. The Discovery+ app that Robosoft helped build has garnered close to 4.5 million installs. This rapid adoption unveils a need for a more human connect which a video meets better than static images or text.

Increasing penetration of smartphones, affordable high-speed data networks, demand for personalized experiences, rise in adoption of smart TVs, and devices such as Fire TV are some of the reasons behind the rise in demand for Video OTT services.

Relevance across categories and use cases

Video OTT is no longer a vertical medium confined to the media and entertainment domain. It is now a horizontal technology that can be integrated into various industries like – education, healthcare, and retail, amongst others. Fortune Business Insight cites Medical Aid and Educational platforms as significant contributors to growth in the streaming video market propelling it to USD 842.93 billion by 2027.

A new format of the familiar – TV home shopping re-invented

The TV channels, as we know it, had a slew of video channels showcasing products.  However, the call to action to close the purchase loop was left to consumers calling up a number as there was no easy way to complete the purchase on the TV channel. The OTT technology in retail enables the best of both the worlds: the engagement of TV and the interactivity to explore options, make desired selections at own convenience and importantly place order and make the payment. Recently, the world’s largest air conditioner maker, Gree, sold 44 million USD worth of merchandise on Kuaishou, China’s leading short-video and live-streaming social platform.

Bring alive both the product and in-store experience (Video OTT for Brand promotion and Advertisement)

We have all experienced the gorgeous presentations of products in categories such as food, consumer goods, luxury, etc on the TV channels, evoking an emotion – a desire. Such experience is partially carried forward on social media platforms such as Instagram. According to Forrester, Instagram ads have the highest engagement rate of all digital ad placements. Several categories where visual appeal (food, apparel, interior decor) matters have taken advantage of the format. Video OTT adds a dimension of interactiveness and convenience to this.

Combined with AR/VR, it gives organizations the tool to bring the in-store experience to the digital channel rather than being merely a catalog of static images. In India, jewelry brand Tanishq has clocked a sales of USD 10.3mn in two months during the recent lockdown period through video calls and Whatsapp chats. Now imagine the brands in the retail domain across categories generating similar uptick in revenue using the OTT channel.

Taking a cue from this trend, in July this year, Google launched Shoploop, a video shopping platform for discovering, evaluating, and buying products, all in one place. Similarly, there have been more online video-based shopping apps that have been launched recently – for e.g. YEAY is the first app where products are sold solely through video. Bulbul is another – online Video Shopping app that is from India.  Enhancing the online shopping experience further, Dutch Cheese Merchant Kaan lets online customers order artisanal cheese and interact with staff in real-time as if they were actually inside the shop. A setup like Kaan’s Stream Store could fill the missing human element into the often impersonal experience of shopping online.

Foster customers relationships and build loyalty

This is also the time for brands to build a stronger connection with their consumers by personalizing and humanizing their experiences. Videos can help bring the human-connect in the consumer’s shopping experience that is beyond ‘click and buy’.

According to a recent report from Mckinsey, the specialty-apparel and department-store retail channels have already reached peak promotional frequency online, so it will be difficult for brands to break through with clear, differentiated offers that stand out from competition. As the holiday season nears, shoppers will be bombarded with messages about flash sales, BOGO deals and so on which will be lost among a sea of similar emails and digital ads. Retailers will have to re-evaluate their strategies to stand out and Video streaming used effectively can help do that.

Don’t just communicate – engage and entertain – ‘Shoppertainment’

A PWC report suggests that consumers are 50 percent more willing to try new brands at this time. And consumers are spending more time on social media and online streaming platforms. This is a great opportunity for brands to recognize this changing consumer behavior to further their leadership position using Video OTT. Strategies include connect with consumers with effective storytelling strategies using live streaming, influencer marketing, AR/VR, 3600 videos, and more.

Videos and live streaming will prove to be an effective tool to leverage the power of social media and get more buyers, for instance, Be.Live the video streaming format has seen a 70x increase in the number of customers using its live shopping feature. Similarly, Alibaba’s Taobao Live live streaming platform has surged.

The younger generation expects more engaging shopping experiences. Leveraging this trend large retailers are already leading the charge with interactive video. For example, Fandango’s streaming service Vudu has been investing in shoppable ads to uplevel their platform’s e-commerce capabilities. Alibaba has tapped into streaming platform Bilibili to leverage anime video content and get in front of new audience segments.

Further, according to Taobao (Alibaba), there were 400 million users watching its 60,000-plus Livestream shopping shows in 2019. The Livestream channels, hosted by brand stores or influencers, generated 200 billion yuan ($28 billion) last year. Shanghai Fashion Week in late March was fully live-streamed on it: viewers could pre-order the clothes the models were wearing on the catwalk, as well as buy pieces from the designers’ existing collections.

Shorten the buying cycle, optimize costs and expand revenue streams

Video medium could help in shortening the buying cycles by making pertinent features of the product more evident and reduce the number of returns resulting from mistaken selection. Video OTT can also greatly facilitate product exchanges by providing a near live in-store experience. Recently, Galeries Lafayette in France used live video to help launch an exclusive Live Shopping service, where interaction with the store’s personal shoppers are made possible via video. Products can be chosen and confirmed by email with online payment, ready for either home delivery or Click & Collect.

Smaller retailers are also jumping the bandwagon using video platforms to reconnect with their customers. The number of merchants using it for the first time grew by 719% from January to February. Sarah Akram a master aesthetician and founder of Sarah Akram Skincare, which caters to celebrities like Billy Porter and Zooey Deschanel moved to video format to offer virtual consultations and live skincare assessment through Instagram’s live feature.

The video medium has also opened several opportunities for B2C services as well. Shapermint a direct-to-consumer shapewear company recently began streaming live yoga practices, meditations, and home exercises as well as sessions on how to care for children while working from home.

Better analytics for delivering personalized experiences

Video-streaming platforms coupled with a digital backbone can remember customer interaction history and personalize their subsequent experiences. can offer detailed data reviews and analysis are available for a better brand and product sentiment and roadmap. Further, the data from these platforms can help in collecting qualified high purchase intention leads, allowing precise retargeting and remarketing. Roku launched a new shopper data program that is designed to improve targeting and measurement of TV advertising for CPG marketers, with Kroger Precision Marketing (KPM) joining as a launch partner. The information will help CPG marketers better target ads that run on Roku’s platform and tie ad exposure to online and in-store sales.

In conclusion:

While going back to normal may happen eventually, some shifts in consumer buying behavior may be permanent. Retailers are already shifting strategies and adapting to today’s current landscape. The pandemic turned more consumers into online shoppers across all categories. Retailers already believe that this could be the new normal. Given that, the audio-visual nature of streaming services will have a powerful impact on consumers as videos are the most engaging of visual media. Videos when done well and in a non-intrusive way can influence shoppers in their buying journey and help accelerate the purchase decision favorably.

Video platforms and live streaming will have a crucial role to play in the future because they offer a sense of community as well as entertainment — two things consumers are yearning for and two critical aspects of shopping. People buy things not just because they need them, but also because of the experience. Videos and live streaming have the potential to simulate a real-life experience, leading to a stronger brand association and hopefully a long-term relationship with consumers.

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