The Ubiquitous Revolution — Bots & IoT in Retail

With the coming bot revolution the nature of retail, brands and apps will become more fluid. I believe, this is also what makes IoT activated in Retail to truly make retail stores and environments responsive to the presence of people to personalize the customer journey.

Witness the new buzzword I hear from IoT folk and technologists:

They will tell you about the importance of ubiquitous digital signage, but that’s visual noise. Ubiquitous messaging however is a context of engagement I can believe in. At least if IoT enables signage, give the consumer voice commands to interact with it and summon retail droids. That’s where the bot revolution comes in (we really won’t require human service).

Because with the advent of ubiquitous technology, the interface of brands and stores changes. The UX must redesigned for this emergence of more AI in context, combining the physical retail with digital signals in a more unified commerce sense that engages the customer experience in a way that is useful, has an emotional impact and not just feel like a gimmick that does not deliver ROI.

The Future of Customer Engagement

To engage with a customer a loyalty program with a loyalty card or an Email message, just won’t inspire most young consumers, who become the leading demographic of digital natives (Millennials) in the early 2020s. I’d like to hope that the speed at which Retail will be able to integrate technology in their marketing, in-store and customer engagement & retention will drastically improve.

One of the only ways I see this happening is if they try out IoT in a retail space that’s integrated into their existing cloud POS system. That is, for anyubiquitous revolution to take place in retail technology, they all have to be integrated seamlessly with the store’s existing infrastructure.

Cloud Point of Sale System + SMS bots, contextual communication, IoT, personalized loyalty offers and marketing automation with ML/NLP/AI, is the future of Retail.

It’s not unified commerce or ubiquitous if it’s not all packaged together as API integrations to a cloud POS system or preferably, as part of the POS system’s capacity to take retail technology to the next level. That’s what’s necessary, to have analytics and machine-learning that is dynamically learning about the customers, learning what kinds of loyalty-marketing works and how to engage different customer profile types. This will be all automated, and will require minimal human intervention.

The Ubiquitous Revolution

Chat bots will be highly interactive, and it won’t be via Email — it will be more direct. It could be through Facebook messenger or ideally native SMS texting, as apps will be streamed rather than fragmented in the design of the future. For IoT, digital signage and even VR/AR to truly be effective in a retail store setting, the key is how the contextual conversation experience (CCE) takes place. It does not matter how good your product is, how does it interact with the customer experience? Voice activated wearable glasses is the likely interface. Voice activation is immediate and wearables are the answer for the human interface in part.

In the UR (Ubiquitous revolution), simplicity of design, convenient interfaces, seamlessness of touch points, intuitiveness and engagement is everywhere.Feature rich point of sale systems are the future, like Revel systems. Point of sale systems that have a rich ecosystem of “API add-ons” that actively acquire and integrate better those upgrades, if you will.

Exponential change in Retail only takes place when AI-NLP-ML is integrated in the automation process. How to make marketing automation and loyalty-marketing that’s ubiquitous in a way that’s real-time, location based and personalized to the consumer. That is the key design challenge, Retailers have to have an open-mind. If cloud POS, Ecommerce, IoT, data augmented loyalty solutions are what will save and differentiate them, then they must make calculated investments in them. Realizing, what they will become.

The tremendous ROI in the ubiquitous revolution will disrupt Retail forever and make the store a unique experience for each consumer.

If the future of the app is about to be disrupted, Retail has to follow technology, or run the risk of being completely left behind. We’ve seen this with big box retail who didn’t do ecommerce well, they literally had to close stores and sometimes failed completely. Data augmented retail technologies (DART) will become the drivers of ROI in the retail of the information age. Cloud point of sale systems will get smarter. Analytics will be central to this and the customer experience will be transformed.

The UX of customer engagement in Retail technology in 2016 is outdated, brands aren’t even doing social media exceptionally well. The next generation’s smart Retail brands will put a lot of less agile, mobile and legacy retail brands out of business. The competition is picking up, 30% of stores will close in the next 15 years.

If a retail technology solution cannot anticipate the future in five, ten or fifteen years, it too will be disrupted and no longer relevant in a few years time. If bots implicated in SMS conversation are novel half way through 2016, they will be commonplace by 2020. I can imagine Retail slack bots and voice decides like Amazon Echo.

Internet of Experiences

Indeed IoT sensors play a huge role in the voice command responsive environments (VCRE) of the future. The responsive UX of the home, public places and the store is a huge Big Data optimization projection with analytics working with AI-ML in real-time plugged into millions of data points for each person. Remember, in the ubiquitous revolution, cities will become smart, real smart. Retail stores and physical retail will be some of the pioneering grounds of this technology.

In the ubiquitous contextual environment, digital, mobile, VR, cloud and physical are just layers of the same reality. Bots will operate and be able to follow us not just on one layer but through them all, with multiple interactions and a hybrid of the emphasis on the customer journey and experience. The world will become automated to us.

So next time you think hear the word “ubiquitious” remember that it was bots and AI that allowed this to come into being. If IoT is part of the architecture, the conversation is no longer just between human beings of through brands, but between us and artificially augmented environments that that come alive in response to our person.

Apr 9, 2016
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