Intelligent personal assistants: an opportunity for retailers?

Alexa is arguably the tipping point for intelligent personal assistants; with Amazon’s open source approach to sharing its app (“skill”) development capabilities the sky’s the limit for this new, disruptive form of natural language driven customer experience. But what could retailers make of this opportunity? Here are some ideas…

It’s not the hardware but the cloud analytics that matters

Critical to any retailer using an intelligent personal assistant to innovate their brand is that these use cases should primarily focus on the business outcomes from using its cloud analytics capabilities, not the front-end device itself.

A retailer, for example, could use Alexa to provide instore guidance to shoppers to help them find items or make simple queries, physical customer browsing behaviour captured in the cloud that when combined with online experiences enables deeper, more contextual forms of personalisation across all this retailer’s channels.

An opportunity to simplify (and risk of complicating) customer journeys

A unique strength of an intelligent personal assistant is that it has the potential to smartly rationalise customer queries and transactions – an opportunity to turn chatbots into compelling conversational experiences a customer would have a preference for using over engaging a person or using a digital channel.

But there remains a significant user experience design challenge for its natural language driven interface – at what point does the buying journey become too complex for this channel and risks increasing friction for a customer? Any form of customer experience that requires a customer to look at detailed product information or make comparisons between products could be difficult and hard to follow through spoken voice generated content alone.

Alexa’s use of APIs could enable a retailer to combine this channel with its mobile e-commerce site (or in-store tablets) for example to create a seamless, holistic experience where complex information is shared visually driven by a customer’s voice commands and smartly informed by Alexa’s AI.

Bricks and mortar as a truly experiential destination

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Alexa (and intelligent personal assistants in general) is the potential for them to create unique, personalised experiences instore – a direct, deep relationship between a customer and a retailer’s brand. And because its cloud driven this enables interconnectivity (IoT) with other instore technologies such as targeted digital signage, interactive mirrors, social media engagement and mobile point of sale.

If you would like more information about how digital transformation can benefit your retail business, leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Reflections on London Technology Week 2016

 Last week our feet didn’t touch the ground. Throwing ourselves into the annual jamboree of London Technology Week, we were blown away by the vibrancy and energy of the experience. As a dynamic, innovation team, we’re always open to great insights from the cutting edge of tech. And yet, we made surprising discoveries, courtesy of the tech festival’s diverse contributors, on the four consecutive ‘Digital Breakfast Bites’ we hosted.

On Monday, for us it was all about the challenge of moving beyond the prototype. In a lively canter through Blockchain, we investigated the state of play for shared ledgers and how this seemingly unregulated and risky technology can not only work alongside a large enterprise, but be used to enhance their regulatory compliance and security.

On Tuesday, we learnt how great service design is shaping the banks of the future. Stepping out of the wilderness of fintech, we discussed how the foundations of great UX and customer centric design are shared across all industries, and how a fundamental grass-roots upheaval is required by the big players in the banking sector to keep up with innovative new challenger banks.

Wednesday saw us enter the store of the future, with a whistle-stop tour of the technologies and interfaces that are being used to engage with the customer. From virtual reality to motion sensing, we explored how all digital experiences are linked by the fundamental desire to gather and analyse data and to better understand our customers.

On Thursday we traversed the vast reaches of ‘Digital at Scale’, where large enterprises tackle the nexus of digital technology and legacy platforms. We saw how the two, apparently irreconcilable powers can have a symbiotic and not mutually exclusive relationship.

And that’s where we left it – with belief in the reconciliation of two opposable forces to achieve a transformational outcome. Quite apposite you’d think for a week marked by a referendum of tumultuous consequences. When the dust has settled we’ll still be reflecting on the great experiences we has as a London Technology Week host. Bring on 2017.

Did you participate in a London Technology Week 2016 event? Leave your comment below, or contact me by email.