Online E-commerce to transform into brick-and-mortar outlets

e-commerce transforming to brick-and-mortar

Gone are the days when the retail outlets got overcrowded before the Diwali season or the Black Friday sale. People are now more adept to online purchasing. The total internet economy is constantly on the rise. It’s estimated that it will reach around $215-265 billion (7.5% of GDP) by 2020 from the current figure of $100-130 billion (around 5% of GDP). This means that by 2020, there share of the pie in online purchasing will increase as well. Read more here

Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart is making its plans to increase it’s share in this increasing market. And what better way than to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence to achieve its goals.

E-commerce industry has had its own challenges while competing with the brick and mortar stores. With the brick and mortar store everything is so real! You go to the store, examine the various products stacked up on the shelf (maybe try out a few in case of apparels), go to a different outlet in case you want more options and finally make a buying decision. This kind of buying has its own charm with the sales person inside giving you the information and trying to help you out as soon as you step into the store.

With e-commerce and the catalogue of information available online, customers have to do the research on the products themselves. They go through the review of the product by other customers, check the rating and maybe perform some more research on other 3rd party sites. However, there is an absence of dialogue between the seller and buyer.

Imagine a scenario when you log into your favourite e-commerce website and you are welcomed by a voice which represents the e-commerce site.

Sales Bot: Good Afternoon Arindam. How can I help you today?

Site Visitor: Well, I am looking to buy a smart phone.

Sales Bot: Do you have any specific brand or choice in mind?

Site Visitor: I don’t have any preference for brand, but it should have a good camera and processing speed. I play a lot of games on my mobile phone.

Sales Bot: Certainly Arindam. So based on your choices we have 40 smart phones. Do you have any particular budget constraint?

Site Visitor: I’m looking for something in the price range of Rs. 10000.00 to 12000.00

Sales Bot: Well, based on your budget and earlier selection I have narrowed down to 15 smart phones. Based on user rating and reviews, I have ranked the phones. You may check the list and let me know if you want a different ranking.

Site Visitor: I like XYZ smart phone. It’s having a good rating as well. Is there any negative feedback that users have given for this smart phone?

Sales Bot: 10 out of 100 users have given a 3/5 rating or lower. Three of them have mentioned that the phone has heating issue. One of them had a problem with the audio quality of calls. Let me also tell you that in case you find any problem with your purchased item, you can request for a return within 15 days of receiving your item.

How wonderful will it be to have such an experience when we log into the e-commerce site! Flipkart is in the process to employ intelligent chat bots which will fit into the shoes of the sales person helping you in making the right purchasing decision. As a matter of fact, Flipkart has already been working on this project (called as Project Mira) since February this year. Apart from chat bots, it plans to use Artificial Intelligence to predict item return, predicting returns from customers, understanding user ratings, fraud & duplicate detection, etc.

Flipkart is already in motion to increase their market share of the increasing online economy. Competitors like Amazon will definitely not want their Indian rivals to get past them by a huge margin and will definitely like to replicate some of the smarter shopping experiences it has implemented in other markets to India. Whatever the case is, the online shopping experiences of the buyers is definitely going to change in the years to come!


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