Where do you go when you want a replacement charger for your laptop? Or a phone case? Or a set of storage boxes?
Chances are that you, like me, won’t think twice before pulling up the Amazon app and browsing through your options before you click ‘Buy.’
It’s the age of the single-click purchase. Behemoths like Amazon and Ali Baba have made online shopping convenient, addictive, and so, so simple. And with free and easy returns, something of a no-brainer. Just click on that bright, inviting button! You can think about it later. If you wish.
The convenience is a clear draw: to compare prices, product specifications, place orders and avail free shipping and returns – all in your pyjamas on your favourite spot on your couch – is a temptation too great to ignore. And indeed, E-commerce is growing significantly:
But don’t discount your nearest retail outlet just yet. Even in this age of exploding digital commerce, retail outlets continue to hold their own. Being able to see and play around with a product to understand how it works and whether it fits in with what you’re looking for could make the difference between a purchase and shopping cart abandonment. Not to mention how much difference a good salesperson can make in helping out a customer who is confused about what to buy.
Retailers are beginning to recognize the benefits of omnichannel. They’re integrating social media, which can be invaluable in connecting to customers and creating visibility, into their operations. Many now offer their products online and in-store, affording customers the choice of how they want to shop.
So shoppers have access to all kinds of products across channels, the ability to compare prices, ensuring competitive pricing, and their choice of medium. Buyer’s remorse should be a relic of the past, right? So why the high shopping cart abandonment rates?
In his seminal book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, psychologist Barry Shwartz argued that the modern economy’s abundance of choice can be overwhelming rather than liberating. With several widely available alternatives for every product, it becomes much harder to make the best possible decision. Even though the customer is objectively better off, having purchased a product much better suited to his purposes than it would have been a decade ago, he is much less likely to be satisfied. Shwartz explains that even the smallest disappointment is magnified by the ‘imagined alternative.’ The opportunity cost of your decision – what you’re losing out from not choosing those other options – is greater now than when there were only two or three reliable brands in the market. The search for ‘the best’ can be time-consuming, frustrating, even stressful – if, with all the choice in the world, you still could not make the right decision, you have no one to blame but yourself.
If simpler purchases can confound, imagine the plight of the average customer when it comes to a more sophisticated purchase like a phone or a laptop. On an online retail platform, usually with access only to some high-quality pictures of the product and a list of technical specifications, a lay person’s lack of technical knowledge creates a disconnect from the product. It can be challenging to put in the time and research necessary to translate these specs and fit them into your lifestyle, budget, and work requirements. And even if you do put in the work, you can’t really get a ‘feel’ for the product. Although an online marketplace can flood you with choice, a retail shop has the luxury of experience.
What if you could have a trustworthy and knowledgeable guide to help you through the process? What if you didn’t have to choose between online and physical and could have the best of both? The access and convenience of browsing an online catalogue and the illuminating displays, inviting atmosphere, and expert salespeople of a retail outlet?
As part of their larger Retail Reimagined strategy, we partnered with Microsoft to deliver exactly such an experience in Harvey Norman, Singapore in November 2019. Microsoft Synchronized Shopping is an intelligent edge solution that goes beyond ‘omnichannel’ to bridge the gap between online and in-store: completing the path to purchase for customers. From the moment customers begin to browse products online to when they step into a retail outlet and buy a product that satisfies their requirements – our tech is with them every step of the way. Using a Conversational AI driven product advisor, Azure cloud services, Progressive web-apps, and geo-location based services, Synchronized Shopping equips customers to make the right choice for themselves.
No more choice paralysis, no more buyer’s remorse!
Here’s how it works. First, the product advisor on the retailer’s website determines your preferences through a series of easy questions about your requirements, lifestyle, budget, and so on. Then it creates a shortlist of devices tailored to suit your requirements. Once you click on the “shopper pass” button, you’ll see where these devices are available and on display. Now, all you have to do is scan the QR code that appears to save all this information in your mobile wallet. Whenever you’re near a retail outlet that has your device on display, your phone will send you a reminder. If you decide to enter the store, a symbol will appear on your phone screen – the same symbol appearing on the relevant device (picked out earlier with the help of the product advisor), making it easy to locate. Now you can test it, figure out if it’s what you wanted and explore other options as you like (your phone will show you alternatives as well).
All this with no downloads and no user footprint on any device!
This tech opens up exciting possibilities for the world of retail. Choice paralysis is not limited to electronic retail, so why should a connected customer experience be?
It’s no longer about having online retail mimic a physical store experience or about making physical retail as convenient and accessible as online. It’s about providing a customer experience that encompasses the best of both worlds. An experience that equips customers to complete the path to purchase in a way that allows them complete satisfaction. From big ticket items like automobiles to household goods like washing machines and refrigerators to music and sports equipment – our solution can provide the missing link, guiding customers in arenas where they feel they lack specialized knowledge, or the time required to acquire the information they need to make an important purchase.
Modern industry has created what should be a capitalist paradise for the average customer, but the demands of modern life and increasingly sophisticated technology have created barriers to access. With modern tech, we can dissolve these barriers, elevating the shopping experience to the delight it should be for everyone.
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