Shopping at a the ‘Push of a Button’ May Be Taking the Place of E-Commerce
By now, we’re all familiar with Staple’s iconic Easy Button. It’s pretty hard to miss in an office space – it’s big, red and jovially proclaims, “That was easy!” when pressed. Well, the Canadian office supply chain is now hoping to expand the button’s capabilities to do more than just happily reassure users of a job well done. Developers are now working to connect the Easy Button to technology that will allow customers to place orders by voice, get order information and communicate with customer service reps.
As Ryan Bartley, director of mobile for Staples explains, the move is part of a push to use machine learning technology to automate ordering and customer service. “The new easy system we are testing has AI [artificial intelligence] at its core,” Bartley says. “In the last year we’ve been testing using the button to let customers connect with customer service reps at Staples. And now we are we are testing a mixture of both bot and real person. We think using natural language to make requests and get what you want will soon be mainstream.”
Alas, Staples is another in a growing list of major brands and retailers hoping to use various technologies to create a unified shopping experience. Pinterest recently released their intuitive visual search tool, while both Amazon and Facebook Messenger now have virtual assistants. Companies are seemingly racing to see who can offer their customers the best service at the fastest pace possible as browsing through in-store racks and scrolling endlessly online starts to make way to shopping at the (literal) press of a button. After all, the Easy Button wouldn’t be the first of it’s kind – Amazon customers can buy Dash Buttons, which are Wi-Fi connected devices that allows them to instantly reorder their favorite products straight from home without the use of a computer or mobile.
So what are the implications for craft businesses? At this point, it’s not just a matter of if these sorts of advanced technologies will affect small businesses but when. Sure, major retailers are making a ton of headway but things like artificial technology, augmented reality and virtual reality aren’t completely inaccessible to others. As per Sean Owen, Director of Data Science at Cloudera, “The same types of technology available to the Facebooks and Googles of the world are now generally available as open source software.” Truthfully, these technologies will only open more doors for all brands and retailers (both big and small) looking to grow with constantly-shifting consumer expectations. One thing to keep in mind, especially in the dawn of this new, admittedly futuristic era of retail, is that regardless of what technology you choose to use to better your business, the goal should be just that – ameliorating – not replacing entire systems or staff.
We’re excited to see how this plays out both for retailers and customers. The retail landscape is changing at lightening speed – what will you do to keep up?
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