The first interviewee in our ‘Amazing Insights’ series is Daryl D’Cruz. Daryl is the founder and director of data consultancy, Hexdon, and formerly worked as Head of Data Innovation at Samsung. In this 15-minute interview, he shares his thoughts on the eCommerce landscape, emerging trends, and how eCommerce companies can most effectively utilize AI.
It goes without saying that the retail industry has undergone a digital revolution in the past two decades, with online shopping almost entirely replacing the in-store experience. Daryl notes this in particular reference to the Great British high street, with huge fashion brands such as Topshop disappearing from the world-famous Oxford Street in London, while eCommerce brands such as Boohoo and ASOS are buying up traditional brick-and-mortar fashion retailers. Countries across the world are experiencing a similar boom in online shopping activity, further heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, which saw e-retail sales surpass $4.2 trillion (USD) worldwide. Essentially, it’s never been a better time to be an eCommerce business.
With the online market booming, companies will be looking to capitalize on this opportunity by growing and scaling as quickly as possible: enter, artificial intelligence. Daryl explains that he sees a two-pronged approach for companies looking to adopt AI into their strategy: a defensive and an offensive approach. On the defensive side, companies can use AI to reduce risk, protect margins, and ensure compliance and security, while an offensive approach works to grow sales and increase revenue. Daryl cautions that simply investing in cutting-edge AI technologies is not enough to see maximum returns; companies must make sure these systems are geared towards their desired business outcomes.
The focus for eCommerce companies has traditionally been on the product, and AI so far has typically been used for optimizing manufacture of products and the supply chain, with the goal to maximize the number of units sold and the speed of sale. However, we know that today’s consumers – particularly online consumers – are much more concerned with a brand’s values and story, as new research identified that 74% of customers consider the brand values of a business before purchasing from them. eCommerce companies should therefore work to incorporate AI into their branding and marketing efforts, creating personalized experiences that seamlessly lead customers to the point of purchase – not just once, but again and again.
To that end, Daryl notes that one of the rising trends in eCommerce is the use of augmented reality (AR). One of the advantages the in-store experience has over online shopping is the ability to see the product in real life: to view the item from on all angles, to get a feeling for the shape and texture, and – in the case of clothing – to physically try on the item(s) before buying. AR is working to digitize that experience and give customers more confidence in their online purchasing decisions, through applications that use the shopper’s phone camera to show what a homeware item would look like in a specific area of their home, or to show them how a particular piece of clothing would look on. Even retail companies with physical stores are getting in on the AR action by using it to bridge the gap while coronavirus restrictions remain in place. For example, the beauty and skincare giant, Sephora, have implemented virtual mirrors while shoppers are not allowed to try make-up samples in-store.
With the eCommerce industry currently thriving and sales set to exceed $1trillion for the first time in 2022, eCommerce companies will naturally be thinking about their growth strategy, asking if they should launch more products into an existing market, or if they should look at expanding into more markets. Daryl explains that both strategies are lucrative, but for either growth strategy to work companies must first understand the new market before they start selling. To get a thorough overview, companies should make use of technologies such as social listening tools, computer vision analytics, sentiment analysis tools, and software that can report on customer voice and behaviors. When it comes to new market entry, Daryl emphasis that speed to market is where AI can really come into play, as companies work to reach their new audiences as quickly as possible and to optimize their conversion rate. Daryl says AI can help companies sell “the right product, to the right person, at the right time, but also in the right context. And of course, that requires the content to be there, in the local language as well.”
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Watch the full interview here.
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