A little less than a year ago, I led a webinar with Connor Mason about the future of mobile commerce. During that webinar, we discussed a ton of amazing concepts, like how companies can make use of mobile-only technology to enhance their online shopping tools and how to make mobile a driver of brand or product loyalty.
We also talked about how 2018 would be the year that machine learning would start to receive heavy investment from sellers. We weren’t wrong. At the start of the year, Amazon opened its first Amazon Go store in Seattle, which uses “computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning” to create a cashier-less shopping experience. For the first time ever, a shopper can enter a store with nothing more than a mobile application, pick up their groceries, and leave.
Like most major initiatives at Amazon, Amazon Go marks a huge departure from the standard way most brands conduct business in the physical retail space. Brands trying to keep up with the pace of change can feel overwhelmed with the sheer force of these innovations. Luckily, emerging technology is become easier to incorporate into your brand’s shopping experience. You might not be Amazon, but taking advantage of the opportunities listed below can make your brand feel just as valuable to your customers.
Payments are Everywhere
To pay for things at Amazon Go, customers must also have the Amazon Go app installed on their device. Amazon’s technology detects the customer, matches their basket to their account, and charges them for the products they take when they leave the store. This method of making a payment is truly invisible and marks the upper echelon of where the payments space has been heading. But, it’s not the only idea out there for brands looking to innovate in the payments space.
In reality, the bar for creating a delightful checkout experience is actually quite low. Today’s sellers don’t have to reach very far to significantly improve their mobile commerce customer experience. More than 80 percent of mobile shoppers abandon their shopping carts, according to research from Barilliance, yet the adoption of Apple Pay and other one-tap payment platforms on ecommerce websites has, to-date, been dismal. Adding a “Pay with Apple Pay” button to your mobile commerce website or app can significantly improve the checkout flow for your mobile-first customers (no more forms to fill out) while increasing checkout security. And, it’s easy to do.
Brands that are truly seeking to explore new opportunities to engage customers outside of the core shopping experience should consider extending their shopping interface into places their customers already interact on a daily basis. Mobile users can pay for goods or send digital gift cards over iMessage and other messaging platforms. They can buy things from retailers directly through social media. They can access their shopping cart via a lock screen widget. The majority of mobile shopping experiences are riddled with screens, forms, and logins that are guaranteed to increase cart abandonment and decrease revenue. One small step with technology can lead to a huge leap in ROI.
The majority of mobile shopping experiences are riddled with screens, forms, and logins that are guaranteed to increase cart abandonment and decrease revenue. One small step with technology can lead to a huge leap in ROI.
Shop While Chatting
Your most prolific online shoppers aren’t constrained to a screen, though. More and more, consumers are becoming comfortable interacting with brands through voice chat and in-app messaging. Whether it’s using Alexa to compile a shopping list and purchase groceries from Amazon Fresh or upgrading a smartphone through a telco’s in-app chat feature (like I’ve done several times), chat provides shoppers a digital-first analog to an in-store shopping experience.
In order to build a scalable and user-friendly chat experience, the best brands start by creating a conversation tree designed with their users’ intent in mind. From there, brands can collect rich data about the shopping decisions their customers are looking to make and grow the chat’s functionality and usability organically as they learn what works for customers and drives purchases.
The best part about investing in chat is that once you’ve made the decision to do something related to chat, the entire ecosystem of chat—natural language processing, text-based messaging, and cross-platform app integrations—normally comes with it. API.ai is a spectacular example of just how accessible chat-based development can be. In fact, API.ai offers a tool that’s specifically designed to show non-technical folks just how simple it is to create a basic chatbot that responds to a user’s intent (e.g., “Hey, what’s the weather supposed to be today?”), as opposed to a hyper specific question (e.g., “Tell me the weather at 4 p.m., April 1, in Chicago.”).
The best part about investing in chat is that once you’ve made the decision to do something related to chat, the entire ecosystem of chat—natural language processing, text-based messaging, and cross-platform app integrations—normally comes with it.
Brands that choose to invest in chat will ultimately open their doors to an overflow of new opportunities, including self-service customer support and entire customer-facing social platforms, that were never truly available to them before.
The best chat and voice experiences are powered by and contribute to growing a strong machine learning foundation. At its core, machine learning is all about using computers to make the repetitive things you do more efficient and create contextual, personalized experiences for each of your shoppers.
Each piece of data generated by a customer can be used to feed a machine learning model. In turn, this model can be used to surface unique deals or personalized user experiences that have the best chance of converting passive shoppers into active purchasers. Even more, brands can create models that use customer information to automatically create (from scratch) deals, incentives, and products to be highly relevant to shoppers in the moment.
Sellers have never had this level of predictive power before. And, it’s never been easier to tap into the technologies that make it possible. While cloud-based machine learning has been available for years, the past year has seen a huge uptick in the conversation around on-device machine learning with Google’s TensorFlow Lite and Apple’s Core ML. On-device machine learning means native smartphone applications, for example, can train and use sophisticated learning models instantaneously to deliver the best experience for customers without needing to connect to the internet.
For brands seeking to stand out in mobile commerce, this means your native shopping experience can always feel like your users’ constant companion, ready with the next, best recommendation.
brands can create models that use customer information to automatically create (from scratch) deals, incentives, and products to be highly relevant to shoppers in the moment.
B2B Mobile Commerce Requires a Different Toolkit
Mobile commerce is a mature platform, generating billions of dollars annually for brands who invest and supplying significantly more user-friendly shopping experiences directly to customers. In order to properly consider the future of B2B mobile commerce, it’s worth reminding ourselves of one essential truth—the same people responsible for making B2B purchase decisions are the same people using Amazon, Apple Pay, and the like to transact on mobile every day for consumer goods.
But, that doesn’t mean B2B mobile commerce should automatically behave like B2C mobile commerce. B2B buyers generally have an entirely different discovery-to-decision process when compared with your average Amazon user, however, mobile has become ingrained in buyers as one of the first locations to look for information about products within their consideration set. In 2018, it’s no longer enough to make your product discovery or configuration platform mobile responsive. Buyers need to feel confident that they can conduct most, if not all, of the purchasing process via mobile. If a buyer’s process requires paperwork or a more demanding process that necessitates a handoff to a desktop or tablet, buyers should have the confidence to know what a seller will save their progress and make the cross-platform experience seamless.
Every B2B decision-making process is different, and that means it’s more important than ever to understand the complex journey your customers take while moving through the buying process. If you’ve found yourself struggling to understand how your customers make purchasing decisions, I’d encourage you to reach out so that we can tell you more about how our research services can be deployed to answer your most nagging questions.
So, What Can You Do?
The future of mobile commerce is only as limited as the ideas you and your firm are willing to create. Mobile technology has made immersive and seamless digital commerce experiences both possible and expected. For brands, this means that the largest challenge you will face is not whether to pursue one opportunity over the other, but rather how you’ll incorporate the best of the best opportunities into a strategic mobile commerce approach that will differentiate your brand from the competition and, ultimately, drive new revenue for your business.