Alibaba Cloud in Singapore General Manager Derek Wang on how to enjoy the festive season despite the crisis.
If there was one year that we would need some escapism and to bask in the magic of Christmas, it would be this year. After such a turbulent year, the much-loved festive season is the perfect opportunity to return to some simple pleasures, such as enjoying the festive season with family and friends and creating lifelong memories in this special time of year.
With consumer spending and shopping peaking during the festive season, it also represents an opportunity to reflect on the impact that COVID-19 and lockdowns globally have had on the retail sector and what bearing they have on how we shop this Christmas. If this were any other year, we would flock to the central shopping districts where traditional bricks and mortar stores lie and bask in the festive atmosphere of gifts, goods, lights and bright decoration displays in-stores. This year, however, with the usual crowd surrounding Christmas shopping markets and stores out of the picture, this brings us to the question on how we can carry that same festive spirit onto our digital channels and if online shopping can really convey the traditional magic of Christmas in quite the same way.
Well, the signs are extremely promising – not to mention exciting, thanks to an influx of technologies that are already available to online retailers, and which possess the ability to transform online shopping, whilst keeping everyone safe during Christmas.
Welcome to our store!
The first revolutionary technology customers shopping online will engage with, are virtual shop assistants. These have been developed to understand and interact with consumers and bring a human element to the online shopping experience. The virtual shop assistant is able to bring products to life, by explaining product details and responding to inquiries, as if shoppers were speaking with a real-life shopping assistant. Building on this further, livestreaming technologies are beginning to offer real-time translation service. The technology can support simultaneous livestreaming translation from Chinese to English, Russian, Spanish and French, making it easier to choose the product or gift that’s right for you or a loved one wherever you are in the world. Another technology - image search – further simplifies the process of finding products. Rather than having to type a vague description of an item into a search box, image search enables you to find an item that looks exactly like the image you have uploaded, which greatly speeds up the time it takes to find the right product. With these fantastic technologies, picking the perfect gift has never been easier!
Like it? Try it on!
Once you've chosen an item, what is more fun than trying it on? Well, with Augmented Reality, you can “try on” different clothes and different outfits. Once you’re “dressed”, these images can be easily shared with family and friends if you need a second opinion, which makes selecting clothes and accessories for Christmas – or any other events happening over the festive season – a shared activity. To help perfect your look, the technology also applies to beauty items, such as lipsticks, eyelashes, shoes, glasses, nail polish and hair dye, and can be used to create a highly realistic representation of how those accessories may suit the person trying them on.
An experience to be shared by all!
Meanwhile, one technology that's certainly set to bring the family together around a computer or other connected devices, is 3D virtual shopping. Advanced 3D modeling technology has enabled the creation of virtual 3D products, which adds a whole new dimension to viewing products online. It is a terrific opportunity for family and friends to gather together to look at the enticing products available from online resellers, chat about them and decide who wants what for Christmas, all aided and made more fun by the ability to view them in 3D.
Of course, Christmas is all about inclusivity, and that means that online Christmas shopping should be, too. Thanks to great advances in Object Character Recognition (OCR) technology and visual AI, visually impaired shoppers can navigate sites with ease, not just this Christmas, but all year round. OCR makes understanding images and videos easier, which means shopping is more accessible and enjoyable for blind and partially sighted customers.
The fun and stress-free way to shop
With online shopping, there is always anxiety, especially during peak order seasons like Christmas, that your gifts might not arrive on time. During this hyper busy period, distribution, delivery and courier companies are under immense pressure, and the volume of deliveries creates a logistical challenge for them. One of the most complex and expensive parts of deliveries for couriers, is managing the “last mile delivery” to your front door, or other drop off point. Now, thanks to technology, that concern can be addressed using highly advanced delivery robots. Powered by the latest AI and autonomous-driving capabilities, the robots can select the optimal delivery route and manoeuvre easily, even in complex road and traffic environments. Not only do their efficiency and reliability give online shoppers a peace of mind, but the way they assist delivery companies also helps to take some pressure off delivery personnel, so they too can spend more time with their families at Christmas.
There's no doubt that Christmas and Christmas shopping will be different this year, but there's no reason that online shopping will be any less magical than in previous years. Technology has become a wonderful tool to optimise the online shopping experience – making it an engaging, shared experience that brings family and friends together – just as Christmas should be celebrated!
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