Automated shopping technology reduces or eliminates the need for the shopper to be consciously involved in purchase decisions.
Why is it important?
As the Internet changes from a text-based platform to a voice-activated platform, retail – that is the shopping experience – is destined to become even more entrenched in our daily lives. Shopping may become something that we don’t always do consciously ourselves, but rather have done for us through in-home smart AI technology. Retailers will increasingly find themselves selling to algorithms as well as humans.
The popularity of auto-renew subscription box services such as beauty start-up Ruby Box and organic produce company, Munching Mongoose , in South African and multi-million dollar enterprise, The Dollar Shave Club in the US, are early examples of the trend.
Now advances in predictive algorithms, blockchain smart-contract technology and secure payment systems are pushing the trend beyond opt-in subscription services and into fully automated commerce systems.
The key is to save shoppers time and make purchasing seamless and simple.
What’s the Butterfly effect?
Thanks to improved consumer behaviour data and delivery models, it could soon be more efficient for mega-online retailers like Amazon and Alibaba, to simply deliver a box of whatever goods their algorithms predict a particular consumer will want that month than it will be to market targeted offers for the same consumer to choose from.
In other words, retailers will become so good at anticipating consumer tastes, needs and wants, that the cost of processing returns of the few unwanted items the algorithms got wrong will be less than the cost of advertising and marketing.
This is not that far-fetched when you consider how much information Amazon already has and knows about an individual’s shopping habits, home dynamics and lifestyle, thanks to their daily interactions with virtual assistant Alexa.
Combine Alexa’s data harvesting capabilities with predictive, adaptive algorithms and it is easy to see how this could work.
The machines will know your own mind better than you know it yourself.
Visa’s tokenisation technology, is a software system and service that allows merchants and manufactures to programme automated purchases based on set parameters in a closed, secure loop. Your car, for example could be programmed to order more engine oil every 2,000kms, to be delivered to your door.
Amazon’s Dash button wands, which facilitate the one-touch purchase of a pre-programmed frequently-ordered Amazon product, are another variant of the trend.
Similarly, Absolute Vodka’s prototype smart bottles and bars can be programmed to re-order liquor when the liquid in the bottle drops to a certain level.
Anywhere with an Internet connection.
By Bronwyn Williams
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Image credit: The Dollar Shave Club