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EDITORIAL How technology is driving incremental gains for retailers and brands

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As consumers continue to cut back on their spending, retailers are being forced to look under every rock for ways to cut costs and increase sales. Leaving no stone unturned, increasing numbers are having to look at incremental savings and efficiencies that can be gained through using technology in new ways – and this is leading to something of a renaissance in the technology used in retail.

You can’t, for example, move around the web without coming across ChapGPT – I even toyed with getting it to write this editorial, but demurred. Already a number of tech companies have started to build it into various products, with aiBuddy launching a search service based around it a few weeks back. Now, digital marketing platform Uberall has also turned to the generative AI system to create a plug-in for its platform that allows retailers to deliver and manage the information, reviews and stock data that customer now demand.

The company believes that it can help retailers get the most out of this nascent technology, and fully expects it to not only manage information and reviews, but to also start to be useful for creating other ways to find efficiencies and save money. What these are is yet to be revealed, but having used ChatGPT in an experimental capacity for some months around various tasks, it is easy to see that, with the right inputs, it can spit out some interesting suggestions. It is very much like intelligent search. 

The process of payments is also an area where retailers can find efficiencies and encourage spending all in one go. There has been a proliferation of digital payment methods over the past few years – mobile payments, wallet payments, bank transfers and instant payments – all seeking to offer consumers easy ways to part with their hard earned. Each seeks to reduce friction when it comes to paying in-store and online and, as a result, encourages shoppers to spend. The more ‘invisible’ you can make the payment process the more likely people are to not see the pain in paying and will press that buy button.

Increasingly, though, retailers face a choice: offer the widest possible array of payment tools to encourage people to convert, but risk the process of managing all these channels – as well as the prospect of adding new ones – becoming technically quite complicated and costly.

As a result, a new breed of payment management platforms are springing up, which seek to bring together all of these payment types into one dashboard. Just one example is Mia FinTech’s payments hub, which went live this week, creating a B2B2C payment platform that allows retailers to integrate and handle different payment APIs in a single modular, ready-to-market solution and where they can also manage the entire digital payments lifecycle.

As a result, businesses will be able to offer their customers the opportunity to choose their preferred payment method at the checkout for a better user experience, while a back-office application will ensure that every single transaction is monitored in real time, says the company. It also complies with all security protocols in digital transactions, ensuring user privacy while maintaining a high level of governance.

The power behind these advances in payments lies in Open Banking, which allows non-financial institutions to start to offer banking and payment products. One company that has taken an less well-trodden path towards using this openness has been Cheddar, a discount platform. Rather than relying on users checking for discounts and then entering a code into any given brand or retailer website, Cheddar integrates itself into the customers banking and payments, so that when they come to check out, discounts can be automatically applied. A neat idea – and one which has captured the imagination of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, both of whom have signed up with the platform.

Ocado, meanwhile, has chosen to look at how to leverage the power of its data to help its third-party suppliers better reach consumers by opening its data to these companies. This allows each to better target their ads, with the upshot that they will then hopefully buy through Ocado and everyone’s a winner.

This makes it easier for brands to reach the right audience across the open internet and beyond, including fast growing channels such as connected TV and digital out-of-home. This marks a significant development in comparison to existing on-site solutions, where ad campaigns only run on retailer-owned inventory.

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