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E-tailers Turn to AI, Analytics, Video to Woo Customers


With the festive season around the corner, Indian e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart and a whole host of e-tailers are leaving no stones unturned to attract online shoppers to their marketplace. A report by RedSeer saw ecommerce achieving a record $3 billion of gross merchandise value during the September 29-October 4 sales and foresees a much greater traction in the coming weeks for the entire Diwali season.

What has boosted much confidence of these ecommerce companies and keeping them charged up in the festive season is their ongoing use of new technological solutions, in the form of advanced analytics, AI-ML, augmented reality and algorithms, among others, to understand the shoppers’ buying behavior better, and use this information to influence existing and new shoppers by predicting their preferences.

Thriving on technology

Flipkart said it is rolling out video streaming service and is making its platform available in vernacular languages as part of its efforts to woo the next 200 million internet users onto its platform. The video streaming service ‘Flipkart Videos’ will be ad-supported and available free for users on Flipkart’s app. The content available will be a mix of short films, full-length movies and episodic series, and the company is in discussions with content makers to expand the library.

Last year, Flipkart had acquired Liv.ai, an AI startup which has built a platform that converts speech to text in 10 Indian languages. Likewise, Amazon also started its Hindi offering last year that was aimed at bringing the next 100 million customers online.

Flipkart is also introducing ‘Flipkart Ideas’ (content feeds) that aims to aid consumers’ shopping journey. To start with, content from over 30 brands and 400 influencers will be showcased with associated products from Flipkart in all multimedia formats such as videos, GIFs, images, stories, quizzes and polls.

Its archrival Amazon has also heavily invested in the most advanced technologies in recent years and its AI and Robots in warehouses and delivery are no longer a secret now. The e-commerce giant launched robots in its warehouses 5 years back in 2014 that do most of the tasks, from sorting to picking and stacking. Some of its super specialty robots are developed by its robotics arm, Amazon Robotics, which was a result of acquiring the US startup Kiva Systems.

This festive season Amazon India head Amit Agarwal, said the company recorded the highest share of transacting customers and purchases across all marketplaces in India, by quoting data from a syndicated report by market research agency Nielsen. He mentioned, “Amazon used better campaign analytics for messages, online and offline channels, and phones for outreach marketing. The campaign analytics assisted with early warning signs and produced triggers for spotting exciting clusters of client behavior to simply click, convert as well as pay.”

An ET report further mentioned that Amazon at present is making more than 40% of its sales via recommendation engine. These are data filtering tools that make use of algorithms and data to recommend the most relevant items to a particular user. In the US, Amazon.com is embracing artificial intelligence to transport items more quickly, improve its voice-activated Alexa assistant and build new resources offered to others through its cloud computing division, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos stated in the report.

ShopClues, another popular online marketplace is also aggressively using AI and analytics to boost sales and streamline its daily operations, especially at the busy Diwali time. A source within the company mentioned how the e-tailer is relentlessly working in the areas of personalization in terms of size, color and feel of a product with the use of technology. These areas often remain blind spots for buyers when purchasing online. Based on information on the latest purchase, frequency and preference, its algorithm decodes what the shopper can buy next.

Customer experience to rule

Keeping pace with technological innovation, the sector is also witnessing a range of new jobs related to logistics, web and app design, customer experience, machine learning, big data and predictive analytics. And with this, new positions such as retail data analyst, digital marketing specialist, customer experience leader and digital imaging leader have been created across these companies.

India’s e-commerce today is heavily relying on technologies in every area, from customer segregation, sales, and delivery to after-sales, creating an exceptional consumer experience. The last one decade has been a clear testament to the fact that e-commerce as a sector has built its own identity by solving problems for the aspirational Indian consumer, including from tier II and tier III cities.

As per industry estimates, the Indian e-commerce market is expected to grow to $200 billion by 2026 from $38.5 billion in 2017. If we reel back and ponder, the growth of India’s ecommerce industry has been prompted by increasing internet and smartphone penetration. In that respect, technology has always played an important role in steering retailers to woo their online shoppers. But what has changed drastically in recent times is, as Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart mentioned in a recent article, “The next phase of our growth is rooted in loyalty, democratizing e-commerce and the country will continue to see more innovations that stem from our deep understanding of Indian consumers. The biggest catalyst to grow the market – to reach the next 200 million customers – is accessibility, affordability and value. We need to address all of it to make a billion dreams come true.”

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com