How Technology Impacts the Three Most Important Moments in Retail

In modern tech-influenced retail, there are only three moments that matter and all of them have been redefined by financial technology companies. While mobile has been steadily taking over the traditional retail business model, startups working with various aspects of online shopping have been shaping customer experience in search, choice and payments for products.

Those three elements of shopping experience are the ones that matter the most, and for each element, there are important developments that have enhanced the experience and facilitated growth of e-commerce. So, what are those retail moments that matter?

Image source: Think with Google

Explaining the way mobile has redefined the consumer decision journey for shoppers, Google has defined three retail moments that matter in the following way:

I-need-some-ideas moments happen when people have a general awareness of the product category they’re interested in, such as living room furniture, but they haven’t yet narrowed down their choices to an exact product.

Let’s start with the first one – the search, or the moment that starts the journey. E-commerce has long recognized the importance of sophisticated search engine for a superior experience. At the end, only the ability to organize the categorization and suggestions in a sophisticated way can ensure the ability to offer what customers are really looking for.

The technology that has been heavily involved in redefining this step is AI. Learning engines are able to offer customized experience and remember personal preferences of different users to surface relevant offers every time a user performs a search.

As Keenan Baldwin, Co-founder of SiteZeus, commented to Forbes, AI has had a great impact on the retail eCommerce customer experience. We’ve seen a large advancement in the past decade, but we’ve not even scratched the surface. Online retailers are scrambling to partner with or adopt new AI technologies to help facilitate customer interaction to try and match and even surpass the typical in-store experience.

One of the ways AI is believed to transform e-commerce is through NLP application. Professionals suggest that the key is to utilize the power of artificial intelligence combined with natural language processing capabilities (NLP), essentially putting the human element back into a digital experience. As the Information Age explains, by doing this, e-commerce platforms will be able to turn massive numbers of failed experiences into successful conversions. Natural language processing seeks to understand text as humans understand text. That means not merely computing words in a vacuum, but applying contextual understanding.

Chatbots are also a form of AI that can improve the quality of the search moment. Personal assistants embedded into websites can reduce the friction of looking for a perfect fit and cut the time from search to purchase by offering exactly what potential customers are looking for.

Which-one’s-best moments—a.k.a. consideration moments—happen when people turn to their phones in short bursts of activity to compare prices, brands and specs, and read product reviews from trusted sources.

The next retail moment that matters is the moment of choice. Product comparison websites, social media representation and peer reviews play a crucial role in the choice of the product. Reviews, in particular, have become an important element of websites and some of the most successful brands invest efforts in tracking and controlling the feedback, responding to the mood of target customers and reviews.

Just like with search, chatbots are well-positioned to take control at this stage by offering an opportunity to look through reviews in the same interface and fetching comparison data upon the request of a customer. In that case, brands have control over the whole process and can satisfy the needs of a customer without letting him/her out of the loop.

I-want-to-buy-it moments happen when the research is done and it’s decision time. People make a choice about which brand or retailer to buy from, and whether to buy online or in-store.

The last element is all about seamless payment experience. A variety of options is ensuring frictionless, secure and convenient shopping experience when shopping online across devices. PayPal, Apple Pay, Android Pay, gift cards, prepaid cards, Google Checkout and a variety of other options have led to the expansion of online purchases share in total sales volume and facilitated new players to enter the space as companies saw the increasing usage of different options.

As a result, user expectations now require retailers to offer a variety of checkout options to relieve users from the pain of filling out additional forms during checkout and provide an increased sense of security. In addition, the variety of payment options given to a customer can be one of the key factors of success in the online shopping industry nowadays.

The variety of options improves a customer’s shopping experience, leading to a lower rate of abandoned carts and higher sales of a higher volume. With APIs being open on the left and right and extremely easy implementation of checkout options, there is no reason not to smoothen the last step in the online shopping journey.