In the age of globalization, innovation happens throughout the world. While the U.S. continues to be the leader in general technological innovation, innovative ideas are still being introduced elsewhere. In many cases, these ideas are focused on the local market’s consumer behavior and can’t be easily adopted elsewhere. However, a few of them can easily be incorporated in the U.S. and are worth taking a look at.
Artificial intelligence technology
Artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining more acceptance in mainstream commerce, allowing retailers to find efficiencies in supply-chain management, providing personalization services to customers, and improving marketing ROI.
One area in retail that has not seen much improvement since the introduction of interactive voice response (IVR)—a form of AI—is customer service. A recent study indicated that almost half of customers will not return to a business if their customer experience was not positive.
In a novel approach, Zhongke Hulian, a Beijing startup, has developed an Intelligent Quality Inspection System that can evaluate conversations between shoppers and customer service agents to identify behavioral patterns or alert of an escalation potential. This kind of technology can help retailers improve customer experience while also finding opportunities for increased sales through a better understanding of customers’ behavior patterns.
Native commerce in WeChat
WeChat continues to be not just the most popular social and communications platform, but also the most popular shopping platform on the Asian continent. The mini-app concept allows WeChat to function as a marketplace where retailers can launch their individual mini “stores,” providing an additional sales channel with unique user experiences. And it’s all within the WeChat app.
Being fully commerce capable, consumers use WeChat Pay for a complete and simple user-friendly experience. Many global retailers have already established their presence, and it shouldn’t be long before many other mid-size, U.S.-based retailers start to catch up.
Customer-driven payment technology
Another interesting trend we see in Asia is the ubiquity of payment systems. While most Americans are familiar with the traditional credit card payment process and a relatively recent surge in Apple Pay, things are a bit more complicated overseas. There are at least three major competing personal payment platforms like AliPay, WeChat Pay, and QQ.
Customer transactions can be made through either a traditional pull process or a more novel push approach. In a pull transaction, a retailer scans a barcode on a smartphone to charge the customer’s account, which is very similar in experience to typical credit card usage.
The push approach is a bit different and is more customer-driven, also allowing for immediate and exclusive personalization. Here, the payment can either be made through a PayPal/Venmo-like model where the customer selects a vendor and pays an agreed amount or through a more convenient process where an item’s tag or service receipt is scanned with the payment app to collect the payment.
In conclusion, I would like to share another idea as food for thought. In a typical business strategy, we often look at various goals and how they can fulfill the organizational vision. Many of these can be thought of as timely decisions, meaning that they have a certain deadline or expected timeline.
In contrast to that, some strategies can be thought of as timeless, which are part of a long-term vision. When deciding on which strategy to invest in, ask yourself would it make sense to invest in something that will provide an ROI in six to 12 months (like a new digital presence) or in something that will last many years (like a cognitive solution that will be able to dynamically create customer journeys)?