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EDITORIAL Opening the Robo-shop to all ages

In the same week that the Apple App Store turned 10, Burberry announces that its most effective digital sales platform is mobile – no coincidence.

The App Store kicked started the consumers love affair with mobile. The iPhone had admittedly done the woo-ing, but apps suddenly made the whole thing come alive. And for retailers, it kick started m-commerce.

Now, a decade later – and with my kids not knowing a time before apps – even doyens of the fashion world such as Burberry are seeing mobile as their primary digital sales channel. This goes to prove that mobile has won the hearts and minds of consumers and is likely to be the platform of choice for shopping as the next app decade upfolds.

But where will that decade take us? Already this week, eBay has rolled out visual search on its app and site in the UK, showing that how people search for the things they want to buy is also changing, shifting towards using the camera rather than the browser.

This is a slowly-burning trend, but one that is going to change the way people shop for good. eBay’s roll-out marks a tide turning point, but it joins pilots by ASOS and the roll out of a visual search platform solution from Poq earlier this summer, each of which makes it increasingly likely that mainstream retailers will all start to offer visual search as a matter of routine rather than novelty.

Soon, then, young shoppers will be pointing their camera at what they like and, while they will no doubt still be posting the attendant results to Instagram or SnapChat, using that to find the things they want to buy.

This not only forms an interesting nexus between social media, mobile and retail, but it also throws up another interesting idea: catering for the wide variety of ages of shoppers.

As research from CenturyLink this week finds, both Baby Boomers and Gen Z want technology to aid their shopping processes, they just want different aspects of it deployed in different ways to different ends.

While CenturyLink didn’t ask specifically about visual search, the same will apply. Different groups – particularly age groups – will want to use it in different ways to achieve different things.

So how do retailers cope with this new and as yet un-flagged challenge? Robots. It seems that, done right, AI is increasingly being liked by everyone. According to Capgemini’s ’Digital Transformation Institute’ report, 55% of global consumers say that they prefer a combination of AI and human interaction in their shopping experience, although they want to be heard and not seen.

Separately, CenturyLink also finds that both young and old like automation – they just have to be persuaded to different degrees to use it. Once they have, they love it.

The problem now is getting retailers to throw caution to the wind and adopt it. With the majority of shoppers happy to accept ‘robo-shop’, only 10% of companies are willing to implement it, finds CapGemini.

Of course, to do so is expensive and, faced with all the other problems, it seems may be to be a bridge too far. But if you are already looking at investing in tech – especially AI driven tech – then it may be worth thinking at the same time about how you are going to deploy it for different user groups. Or perhaps get the AI to work out how to do that for you?

Image: Fotolia

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