“Alexa / OK Google, buy me some AA batteries”
Home Voice Assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home are now able to order products at a moment’s notice through a simple voice command. This is just one part of the complete game-change we’re about to see in the world of retail.
Instant Drone Delivery
These orders will soon be taken to an unmanned Amazon warehouse, spread across the country, and loaded onto a drone to be delivered within hours, perhaps even minutes. No more waiting for days, no more waiting in for big orders. Schedule the delivery to suit your timescale, and possibly even find you if you’re not at home. J.K. Rowling predicted the future when she described delivery owls that can find you anywhere in the world.
Branding and Traditional Advertising
Speaking recently, Scott Galloway, author of ‘The Four: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Divided and Conquered the World’, pondered on this topic on a recent podcast claiming that “Branding and traditional advertising may become obsolete” as voice search trends show that orders tend to be made for “AA Batteries” rather than branded terms such as “Duracell AA Batteries”, for example.
‘Big data’ makes huge differences too, as artificial intelligence will be able to use our hugely expanding digital footprint to make predictions on the products that you wish to buy. Using the sheer scale of the data available to companies like Facebook, Amazon & Google, highly accurate guesses can be made on what you might like to purchase next.
As an example, Facebook is predicted to hit 2 billion users this year. And in the UK, 65% of people are on Facebook. When compared to traditional data collection methods, the sheer amount of information held by these big companies is immense.
What will this result in? Scott Galloway thinks “Amazon will start sending you two boxes a month, one full of products they think you want and another for you to send back the ones you don’t, which it’s artificial intelligence will learn more from”. It’s hard to think we’re so predictable, and yet when you start typing a search into Google, more often than not, it will finish the sentence correctly for you. This is the power of big data.
Beginning of the End
If you wondered what all the fuss was about when Amazon purchased the US grocery company “Whole Foods”, fit them into this picture and you can see why retailers of both foodstuffs and consumer goods are getting nervous. The process of “popping out to pick up some milk” may soon be long gone, if you can get a drone to drop some off for you instead. If Amazon can conquer one of it’s biggest problems, the cost of delivery fulfilment, this may soon be our reality.
The age of retail will be turned on its head. Physical stores will focus more on experience than convenience, the Apple Stores across the world being a prime example of a place people hang out and immerse themselves in products rather than simply to browse and purchase.
Could it be possible that we experience more stores like IKEA? Maze-like, experience-driven showrooms. I decided to go to a nearby IKEA store recently with my partner. We didn’t specifically need anything, however, we were excited to go and see what we could find. Did we buy stuff? Yes, we did. Will we go back? Almost definitely. The cycle continues. The experience is what made us go there in the first place, and as we were there we felt obliged and enticed to buy. We even made future plans to go back.
This may sound bleak and like an interpretation of George Orwell’s 1984. However, it’s just yet another pivot in the fast-changing world of marketing and retail. The businesses that thrive are the ones which can change and adapt, understanding their customer’s need before all else.
If you are a smaller retailer then it might be hard to provide the IKEA-like immersive retail experience. So what’s the solution?
#1 Be local. We’re seeing a massive rise in the concept of ‘local’ experience and ‘local’ business, and customers value help when finding the products they need. This is all part of a shopper’s experience, and as huge businesses use large-budget showrooms, you can use your knowledge and passion to connect in person.
#2 Be found. This local experience goes hand in hand with an online presence. The digital world has become such a fundamental part of real life that any business without a web presence is costing themselves customers.
#3 Be curious. Your customers are changing, constantly. You should always be trying to reach out and understand what they want from you, and how you can fulfil it. Don’t just ask for their ideas, think about the reason why they ask for what they do. When Henry Ford invented the car, he famously said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
New startups Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, Spotify and even Tinder are recent examples of game-changing innovation. They turned the traditional on its head to make something digitally convenient for their audience and users.
Is your business doing the same?