Retailers: Your Essential Algorithmic Journey

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The Retail Technology Show Asia is just around the corner. As this event brings together senior Asian retailers who will share innovative ideas, retail strategies, and best practices, we thought we’d share with you a recent article entitled “Retailers: Your Essential Algorithmic Journey” written by Etienne Bureau Strategy and Innovation Director at Viseo.

“Hello, I’m your virtual guide. Please grab a card on display right next to me”. This is how Nao robots now welcome clients at the front door of Paris-based Sephora new concept store (cosmetics). Obviously, the main purpose of this initiative is fame-related but one must see here an unambiguous materialization of the role taken by algorithms in the retail arena.

As most retail players are showing a true willingness to get serious about algorithms in 2016, it might be time for you, retailers, to evaluate your algorithmic maturity.

If you are a retailer, here are four key steps of the Algorithmic Journey you should follow

Step 1: Observe and push
Of course, you’ve been doing it for a long time. It is even probably the historical foundation of your marketing strategy.

We are talking about this observation territory of a small number of clients (panel) at key and discontinuous moments of their journey (in and out of the point of sale, counter ticket analysis) in order to define standard segments.

Statistics reign supreme and promotional campaigns based on predefined rules (scenario) are the main levers of action.

Step 2: Listen to adapt
So, your digital strategy brought you to this point. But not only, had scales changed, with the ability to work on individuals, but digital traces rose as a key focus point. Navigation paths are now as reliant as crossing points, if not more. It is the kingdom of Big Data, scoring algorithms and dynamic adaptation engines. Amazon, the first retailer on the planet, is an algorithmic superpower (its strategy here and here).

If the web and digital were used as experimentation lands, the physical world is the new territory to experiment this hunger to understand and analyze context: location, sounds, images, movements.

Step 3: Naturally preserve to simplify
Listening is good but being able to interact is even better. And why not do so through the most natural way possible, the voice, to unlock potentials of use and adoption by suppressing all frictions related to classic interfaces.

Understand, interpret and act become the core values of hyper-individualized retail, by bringing closer and closer your customers’ moments of need to their moments of transaction. It’s in fact where Internet giants now fight with their Cortana (Microsoft), Now (Google), Alexa (Amazon), Siri (Apple) or Wit (Facebook).

Whether they come in physical shape like social robots (Nao, Jibo), or specialized robots (OSHbot) or remain virtual (FBlynk’s Fashion adviser de Blynk,Facebook’s SDK Messenger), these algorithms will play a growing part in interaction with clients, brands and networks.

Hopefully, for you retailers, nothing is inevitable. Technological accelerators that develop equivalent cognitive and conversational services become more and more available. Specialization is about to become key and it’s pleasing from a customer point of view to see traditional actors like Carrefour get in the race with initiatives like Pikit.

Step 4: Train to optimize
There will be one step left: rebalance, and even reverse relationships between clients and algorithms, within conversations usually initiated proactively by the service. One won’t add “pasta” on the grocery list anymore but will discuss with a visual expert on the realization of a dietary preparedness plan ahead of a coming marathon.

Human challenges for this evolution are high and our capacity to accept advice and delegate actions won’t happen overnight. But we actually do it already when it comes to follow an itinerary in a car for example. We will soon get there, on more personal territories. For all retail players, the main challenge will be to merge algorithms and expertise to lower the number and complexity of clients’ decision-making and also to allow a business to move to scale on advising and on long-term accompaniment.

This is a guest post written by Etienne Bureau, Strategy and Innovation Director at VISEO

To find out how Viseo can improve efficiency level of your business, visit them at Booth Q13 at Retail Technology Asia 2016, this April 20-21, at the Suntec Convention Centre, Singapore.

Download the event brochure or visit the event website for more details.

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