Rajiv Ranjan Rai

Rajiv Ranjan Rai
Head, Growth and Ecosystem
Infosys Equinox

Technological innovation is continually shortening the buyer’s journey. We’ve come a long way from catalogs and infomercials, where buying remote meant dialing a number, mailing a check and getting your parcels in 4-6 weeks. Today’s shoppers have access to the world’s selection of goods in their pocket, and can transact with a simple tap on a screen.

And yet, shopping’s evolution is far from complete. It’s moving towards its ultimate form: instant commerce.

The advancement of AI and data processing is rapidly reducing the time and effort it takes to discover products and make buying decisions. Web technologies are progressively removing the friction involved in transactions. And same-day delivery is moving toward same-hour delivery.

What can digital leaders do today to stay in step with this evolution?

The 4 drivers of Instant Commerce

Digital is becoming more human

Artificial intelligence is modeled off the human brain. It’s designed to simulate the way humans process and learn from the environment around them. Neural networks and deep learning are bringing man and machine closer. The goal is to harness the best of both entities – the qualitative intelligence of people with the quantitative power of computers.

Natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence give machines the ability to extract meaning from data to provide meaningful product and content recommendations throughout the buying journey. Image recognition enables shoppers to snap a photo to search, while speech-to-text and voice assistants let buyers dictate their requests.

The result is human-computer interaction is becoming more seamless and lifelike. With just a voice command or gesture (nod, blink, smile or tap), digital touchpoints are becoming better at understanding our intent to help us shop with less friction. This collapsing of the customer journey means the time between realized need and completed transaction is much faster than ever before, sparing hours and days of research and comparison shopping.

Humans are becoming more digital

In a 2016 interview, Elon Musk quipped “we're already cyborgs. Your phone and your computer are extensions of you.”

Now more than 6 years later, our devices have become even more deeply infused into our lives. Globally, people average 6.5 hours of screen time per day, and half of that time is spent staring at smartphones. 46% of Americans spend 5-6 hours on their phones, checking them up to 352 times per day, and 45% say their phones are their most valued possession.

But it’s not just smartphones that are keeping us tapping and swiping all day long. Voice assistant adoption is expected to reach 8.4 billion by 2024, and virtual reality headsets to reach 500 million by 2025. As constant connection accelerates and we spend more of our lives fully connected, an estimated 95% of purchases will happen digitally by 2040.

AI is becoming commoditized

While AI and machine learning’s technologic potential is yet to peak, its adoption has hit critical mass. What was once a differentiating feature and competitive advantage has now become mainstream. Thanks to the efficiencies of cloud computing, many AI-driven applications are available “as-a-service,” at reasonable cost.

Within a composable, headless commerce environment, AI is becoming even more accessible. Integrations are becoming faster and easier to maintain, enabling capabilities to be shared across experiences and user touchpoints. The same personalization features, pricing intelligence, inventory and logistics optimization and customer service enhancements can be served to customers in any channel, through any device, tailored to any context.

But AI is nothing on its own – it needs robust data behind it. Headless commerce makes it possible to connect enterprise and third party data with digital commerce services. For example, customer data platforms like Consumer Intelligence Cloud capture thousands of demographic and behavioral attributes from online and offline sources that enrich what is “known” about consumers to best target individual consumers, even from their first visit.

Delivery is becoming data-driven

Today’s consumers want their online orders delivered as fast as Uber Eats. Same day delivery is quickly becoming same hour delivery, with more and more merchants leveraging logistics optimization and partnering with local couriers and last-mile providers. But to support a super-fast last mile, inventory must be close enough to the consumer, and merchants need visibility into inventory across channels and warehouses.

Leading retailers are already using headless commerce to connect store and online inventory, order management, sales and carrier data to provide full cross-channel visibility. Some are using AI to build their own proprietary tools to streamline fulfillment, reduce split shipments and maximize customer satisfaction. For example, Levi’s BOOST engine (Business Optimization of Shipping and Transport) uses machine learning and AI to locate online and store inventory for any given customer’s purchase and calculate the optimal fulfillment source(s) based on proximity and cost.

Other retailers like Walmart and Amazon are exploring anticipatory shipping, using AI to predict when and where purchases will be made based on sales velocity and other trends, and proactively move inventory to these locations. As this technology continues to evolve and mature, we can expect it to become more accessible to merchants of all sizes.

How merchants can move towards Instant Commerce today

Digital sits at the core of all commerce, and spans all channels and touchpoints. Flexible, composable commerce technology enables you to extend your digital commerce capabilities and integrate with any source of data, screen, service or system.

Engage the hybrid consumer

From the fusion of humans and high tech comes the “hybrid consumer,” the buyer that uses both online and offline channels (often at the same time) to shop. The National Retail Federation reports one third of all US adults are hybrid shoppers (37% of Gen Z). These buyers seek “on demand” commerce from anywhere, and prefer brands and retailers that provide consistent experiences across touchpoints.

This means bringing more of the digital world into physical retail, and more of the physical world to digital. Brands and retailers are increasingly investing in AR/VR (augmented reality and virtual reality), voice search and conversational commerce.

To unify this “hyperchannel” experience, it’s critical to share the same product information and shopping features across all experience points. This requires an API-first approach. Headless, composable commerce services ensure the same data and business logic can extend to everything from mobile apps to in-store kiosks and even IoT devices.

Remove the friction from checkout

Stored payment information on a mobile device lets customers check out faster and more securely than entering credit card information into a checkout form. Globally, 44.5% of ecommerce transactions were paid by mobile wallet in 2020. Though the US trails China and India on mobile wallet adoption, 30% of online purchases tapped digital wallets in the same year, and it continues to grow. Consider adding ApplePay, GPay, Venmo, Zelle and Cash App to your payment options.

Conversational commerce is another way to reduce and eliminate checkout friction. Connecting your commerce features to smart speakers, chatbots and mobile apps gives shoppers the ability to place orders with just a voice command.

Physical retailers are increasingly supporting mobile self-checkout, enabling customers to scan barcodes or fill a smart bag that connects to their mobile cart, and takes mobile payment as a customer walks out the door. With HTML5 and progressive web applications, you can integrate this functionality right into your online store – no need for shoppers to download an app.

Accelerate the last mile

Breaking down channel inventory silos and enhancing visibility across systems is the first step to rapid fulfillment. Giving customers visibility into your “endless aisle” and local inventory, and offering flexible ways to shop (such as BOPIS or ‘buy online, pick up in store’) is no longer innovative, it’s table stakes. Giving operations visibility into stock availability, and providing the right tools to calculate the fastest fulfillment (at a profit) closes the loop.

While not every retailer can build their own fulfillment solution like Levi’s, integrating with a headless real-time transportation visibility platform like FarEye can help you add AI-driven capabilities to your customer experience and delivery operations. On the front end, you can offer more shipping options at checkout, tapping into the long-tail of carrier and last-mile courier options, and display the most accurate delivery estimates and attractive costs. On the back end, you can automate carrier selection to maximize speed and profit.

After the dispatch, you can provide end-users the mobile-first and self-serve capabilities they want, from real-time SMS notifications, delivery rescheduling and direct driver communication. Users can watch their drivers en-route, just like with an Uber hail. And reverse-logistics can be optimized with self-serve return management and pickup scheduling.

Want to learn more about how Instant Commerce can help deliver consistent omni-channel experiences?

Write to us at contactus@infosysequinox.com and we will get in touch with you.

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