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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Charles Ogilvie

2018 —The Coupon-bot bought It!

BY CHARLES OGILVIE

What will you see in 2018?
Laundry that gets done as you wear it or ordered as it wears out. Sneakers will address deterioration in performance, comfort and quality just as your refrigerator will sense low quantities in certain packaging. Additionally, filters for air conditioners will be optimised by Nest and others, just as your car monitors its own health and usage.

Whilst the tech industry has been centralised on the development of intelligent products for several years now, in 2018 you can expect these items to become the norm. Home automation systems are quickly becoming a reality with tech giants such as Google working to develop more mainstream technology. This year, you can expect to see less silo’d, smart products and more items that work together or in clusters to streamline process. Light fixtures will work in combination with thermostats to ensure an optimal ambiance for consumers as they arrive home.

Meanwhile, intelligent appliances, such as refrigerators, will opt for smart sensors which work in combination with shopping bots to purchase and restock typical items. Packaging will begin to change to complete this ecosystem. It is likely that this same approach will be taken as more and more household products come equipped with connectivity and artificial intelligence. An electric home is nowadays the norm (ie. no more gas lights or kerosene heaters of the past); an AI-driven, connected home will easily become the norm is the coming years.

The Future of the Bot:
A shopping bot creates a world where laundry detergent arrives at a consumer's doorstep before the last load is used by the washing machine or dishwasher. Filters arrive before they get noticed they need to be changed. Dinner is ordered without a thought before the consumer even begins to ponder what to serve. Bots seek to help eliminate or reduce many mundane and dreaded tasks associated with shopping for necessary items or services. As with any innovative technology platform, there is still much to achieve when it comes to shopping bots but the concept is poised to truly take off in 2018.

Fortunately, as the use of shopping bots becomes more common in households around the globe, accuracy and speed will improve as will tolerance of consumer scenarios. The same was true with the cellular / wireless industry as it grew from dropped calls and misconnects being a tolerated consumer scenario a decade ago to now dealing with data throughput consistency issues. With bots, there will be methods in place for returning items and bots will eventually be able to perform the vast majority of typical shopping for consumers. The upfront tolerance during the growing pains phase is normal and common across all innovation, as the ecosystem itself will learn, adapt and deliver month after month and year after year more efficiently and effectively for consumers.

It doesn’t get much better than AI delivering personalised recommendations that you like and at a discount as well! Harnessing the technological powers of innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics, the retail shopping experience is undergoing an incredible metamorphosis.

FINTECH and personalised retail takes an unusual turn as we approach 2018: consumers are embracing autonomous consumption (well, at least autonomous buying).

Like stock control and inventory replenishment in the B2B world, consumers at home are now becoming familiar with new tech-savvy purchasing concepts.

In the past, FINTECH Innovations were stock holds, or simple layaway plans, credit at purchase and upsells at checkout when the web became a true shopping platform.

Now, they are elegant plays on discounts received or accrued for a purchase stream in the future. To a financial wizard, this is inventory factoring in retrograde or, simply put, a great way to engage with a consumer to consummate more purchases.

How does it work?
Like a personal shopper, AI implementations are cropping up to expand beyond mere recommendation engines. Personalised items and need triggers have long been adopted in certain repeat consumption retail industries, such as pharmacy and laundry. This also extends to demand and usage based consumption models such as airline loyalty profiling, credit card financing offers and most recently, models such as Uber, Lyft and Postmates.

By utilising cutting-edge tactics, bots are able to recognise products or services that consumers want or need before they even make the decision to shop for them on their own. This allows the bot to make a purchase and have the item or service delivered without the consumer giving it a second thought. Utilising a shopping bot provides all of the convenience of a personal shopper without the high cost of paying for one or the chore of creating a list of items.

So did you buy it or did the bot?
In an ideal world, blame the bot. But getting stuck with something you opted-in ordering and now you have to handle the return, at least for the time being, still lies with the consumer. Bot ordering is staggeringly powerful, trending towards being more receptive with some, and merchant return risk mitigation and purchase analytics are incredible to support continuous learning.

Fortunately, these bots have insight which allows them to avoid purchasing items that are likely to be returned. Despite this, these occasions may still arise for one reason or another. Fortunately, many online retailers have seamless return processes but you are more likely to be delighted with a purchase made by a bot than you are to be disappointed.

What next?
The role bots will eventually play in the retail industry is staggering and their power and functionality has just begun to scratch the surface. It behooves retailers, brands, innovators, agencies and consumers to understand the power of what is to come. Like any discipline with a set of rules and base of best practices, bots aim to help everybody. Look at the robot vacuum space! Thoughtful automation is essential to our lives and move many things forward. Who knows: someday the exact new car you want might just show up at your doorstep automatically!

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Charles Ogilvie

Charles Ogilvie

As Head of Innovation at JWT Atlanta, Charles Ogilvie brings more than 20 years of global experience in innovation, spanning from retail and hospitality technology, mobile, satellite and terrestrial communications, aviation, FinTech and interactive platform architecture, content & analytics to traditional entertainment. In addition to client-side agency management, Charles has also developed, negotiated and executed interactive content deals with major brands such as Google, Land Rover, Virgin Atlantic and others.

Previously, he has served multi-million dollar startup and corporate efforts, including leading the design and execution of the award winning guest-engagement system, Red, as the Founding Director of Inflight Entertainment & Partnerships at Virgin America. He brought Seatback Food and Drink Ordering, payment processing and settlement and a cashless cabin to the skies, made seat upgrades, lounge access upgrades, and seat changes and other reservation system functionality easier on Virgin’s hospitality kiosks and on other platforms, made WiFi an expectation as well as a tool for crew optimization, and helped rethink legacy B2C and B2B models.

He has held numerous executive roles including VP Asia Pacific at Zodiac Aerospace Inflight Innovations, Executive Director of Business Development in Silicon Valley and Executive Director of China at Panasonic Avionics. At Panasonic, he was responsible for running Panasonic Avionics’ China Region and developing and managing its’ strategy for China and was posted in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

A graduate of the University of Southern California (USC)’s Marshall School with both an IBEAR MBA and a BS in Business Administration. Charles has been through Jack Welch’s Leadership program at the Jack Welch School of Management and has had the pleasure of learning from Warren Bennis at USC.

Charles speaks Mandarin Chinese and has both a strong domestic and international focus. 

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