At this year’s Shoptalk conference, 8 000 participants and I had gathered to listen to major retail companies, startups and disruptors, and were ready to be blown away with inspiration. I’m used to smaller events with only a few thousand participants, and so this conference felt quite huge for me.

The key buzzwords during the conference were augmented intelligence (especially voice commerce), consumer empowerment, and culture. Let me tell you why – in a time where technology develops faster than you can say “disruption”, it’s important to understand how it can affect your company.

Technology as a facilitator and to enhance experiences

Ebay was one of the businesses talking about the importance of artificial intelligence. How they use data, deep learning and machine learning to enhance consumer experiences. One example is how they help sellers on Ebay to choose boxes for their goods through augmented reality; another is helping consumers through visual search in their database with deep learning. Everything they do and invest in will of course reduce the friction of selling or shopping on Ebay, and to create a positive shopping experience.

using augmented reality headset for e-commerce and shoppingHouzz also works with augmented reality to enhance the experience, but is much more than that. It’s a platform to combine consumers with the right handyman and products, and they have become a close friend to the renovating consumer. For example, they allow their customers to access millions of 3D products in their homes. They also work with deep learning on their marketplace to categorize products.

Nike said that technology is right when it helps or serves customers. They combine the technology with communities (more about this in part 2 of this article in June), where they use artificial intelligence to match your running shoes with your running style (through Nike +, among others). Nike knows if you run a lot in the evening, are a skilled runner or run a lot on concrete roads and recommend shoes for that.

Deep dive voice commerce

Voice search will change how we consume in the future – there’s no doubt about it listening to both Google and Amazon, among others. During one of Google’s presentations, they pointed out three things that retailers need to think about today when it comes to voice.

The first thing was that voice search/recognition is ubiquitous. Whether it is on the mobile phone, the Google assistants, smart watches, etc., and whether you use it while driving, while running or when you cook dinner. The second is that it’s natural – it’s much easier to ask a question aloud rather than writing it. And it’s much faster as well.

The third thing is that it will of course be more than voice. Voice searches applies especially to items we may not always need to see, such as help in the kitchen, information about meetings, routes, shopping lists, etc., but it will not just be a voice. Visual search is also growing and is becoming simpler and more refined. Visual search enables shopping everywhere, and can be applied to products when we do not know what they are called or where they can be found. In other words, there will be a combination of voice and visual search in future e-commerce.

This is the first part in a two-part series about Shoptalk. Part two will be published 6 June.

Carin Blom, ecommerce expert and retail analyst at PostNord