The New Rules of Retail for Rebuilding the Economy

While the pandemic continues, Mark Zuckerberg is expanding e-commerce with a new Facebook service – Shops. By setting up free storefronts, he welcomes small businesses with no previous web presence to get online for the first time. 

Fortune 5000 companies are experimenting with personal digital experiences, new data usage, unified inventory, and price optimization to create an entirely new retail experience.

Digitalization, driven by the pandemic, has transformed the retail world, making an easy and seamless e-commerce experience an absolute necessity for every retailer. How does one approach a new reality and go digital, picking the right horse among a multitude of technology trends?

Don’t expect a return to normal

Retailers should stop expecting business to return to ‘normal’. There’s no way back to how it was anytime soon. Even before the pandemic turndown, brick-and-mortar retailers were struggling against Amazon and similar e-commerce players, in vain. 

Most retailers with physical roots try to replicate their in-store experience online. Still, such efforts are empty as customers don’t expect a digital experience to be like a physical one — nor do they want it to be.

Facebook Shops not only allows companies to sell through social media, but also to become a new personalized shopping destination with peer support, reviews, multimedia, and gamification included. A retailer can use these new opportunities to create a fresh, immersive experience wherever customers are — that’s something no physical outlet can provide.

McKinsey’s latest insights (1) show that consumers are likely to keep habits such as more online shopping and fewer mall visits. It’s evident that the wait-and-see mode should turn into an authentic customer experience. The first step to be made is to reinvent the e-commerce experience — from browsing to researching, selecting, purchasing, and returning/exchanging.

Unless it’s Nike shoe drops or the latest Apple release, customers will no longer tolerate average digital shopping experiences. In most cases, foot traffic to physical stores has dropped. A robust online presence and a consistent digital experience could make all the difference between staying afloat or sinking.

Retail Capabilities Powered by Tech

Retailers have broadened their e-commerce capabilities through data-driven analytics, smart automation of business workflows, AI, and VR.

The first aspects of the retail industry to be transformed by these technologies will be the customer experience and store management. 

Sales, marketing, supply chains, and inventory management will follow next.

Ultra-Personalization

Based on buyer journeys, new technologies can segment customers so companies can satisfy their specific needs. Armed with data, retailers can make offers more intelligent and create more sales funnels. 

The final goal is to provide customers with everything they need at the right time, creating an exceptional customer experience and boosting business performance. According to Deloitte, the next phase in data aggregation and activation will reduce each segment to a single individual. 

Case

American fashion house Michael Kors recently released a series of live stream sessions, including a mobile lifestyle quiz that results in personalized handbag recommendations from the designer. That isn’t the techiest solution but can be useful while you’re attempting to fine-tune each customer profile.

AI 

The global market of AI in retail was worth $712 million in 2016, (according to Research & Markets), and is projected to reach $27 billion by 2025. 

By predicting when the next purchase will happen, AI creates both growth opportunities and a sustainable future for retailers. IBM predicts an increase in the AI adoption rate among retailers to more than 80% in 3 years. 

The areas of greatest opportunity are promotions, assortment, and replenishment. Retail companies will use AI to predict the most optimal distribution of resources, reduce lapses in sales, and maximize profits. Some even aim at the full anticipation of customers’ orders, shipping goods without a purchase confirmation. 

Case

US floorcare company Bissell has benefited from leveraging consumer insights to make actionable business decisions. When the company launched on the Chinese marketplace Tmall and sold out-of-stock, data helped the brand to retain sales. The product-recommendation algorithm targeted consumers according to search interests and shopping behaviors and recommended alternative products.

Chat Bots

There has been rapid adoption of messaging-based customer service bots across retail. Gartner states that 19% of businesses have already implemented a chatbot in 2020, while another 25% plan to deploy virtual assistants in the next year. 

The shift from voice-based customer service to digital is moving quicker than many may realize. The customers now select messaging as the preferred service channel, so the call amount has now dropped by nearly half. To lower cart abandonment and improve customer satisfaction, businesses can use embedded messaging tools, video, or voice-activated technologies.

Case

Footwear company Allbirds launched a feature that enabled Tmall shoppers to connect with store associates via video chat to ask questions and see product displays as if they were at a physical store. It met demand, and the brand is now exploring ways to preserve the feature even after Covid-19.

Predictive analytics

Customers are already being tracked in many different ways. Their personal information is collected at the point of sale, ‘cookies’ can track their movements online, and one click can push an endless line of ads. 

A healthy flow of that information is the lifeblood of customer loyalty programs, price optimization, targeting, and inventory management. Predictive analytics helps retailers be smarter, more efficient, and reduce costs.

Case

Retail intelligence company Upstream Commerce observed that automated predictive and dynamic pricing tools deliver an additional 20% net profit gain compared to partially managed catalogs.

Streaming

Broadcasting allows retailers to communicate with consumers in real-time. The ability to ask questions and receive answers gives the communication a more natural, authentic feel and amplifies the retailer-customer connection. Such authenticity holds great power. This is particularly important, considering that 86% of consumers rank authenticity as a significant factor when deciding which companies to support (Stackla, 2019).

In the coming months, retailers will experiment more with new modes of engagement, including in-store live streams where sales associates engage with shoppers and even fulfill customer orders.

Case

At the height of the coronavirus outbreak in China, wellness brand Viva Naturals launched marketing campaigns across the Alibaba platform. It included educational live streams on various health topics, from which the brand saw a quick surge in sales. Furthermore, that also helped to move Viva Naturals’ strategy forward. The brand is now promoting a new line of immunity-support supplements based on consumer demand.

Here is a short, yet detailed, YouTube conversation with the founder and CEO of TDA, Goran Deak. In this video, Deak discusses how COVID-19 has affected the retail industry; explaining how businesses are coping and, more specifically, how industry leaders can plan for the future of e-commerce in the era of Coronavirus.

Summary 

COVID-19 has broken customer shopping habits and historical trends. This isn’t the time for the retail industry to try to ride out the storm. With a more proactive, progressive approach to digital transformation and a new era of customer service, the future might look less blurred.
The pandemic is causing industry-wide disruption with long-term consequences yet to be fully understood. To survive in the new retail landscape, businesses should invest in unique digital capabilities – including real-time inventory management, predictive analytics, AI-powered search, and personalization. In the right hands, they can create wholly new and different shopping experiences. Erbis can let you become more tech-savvy and stay on top of retail trends.

Erbis Recognized by Clutch as Top Ukrainian Developer

Whether you’re an enterprise trying to modernize a legacy solution or a startup looking to deploy an MVP, outsourcing software development can lighten your administrative load. But choosing the right partner is easier said than done. Dozens of service providers offer big promises, and it’s difficult to know which is the right choice for your specific project.

That’s where customer reviews come in. Testimonials can back up the claims of service providers like ourselves, confirming that we’re a valuable partner prepared to tackle your next development project.

We’re honored every time we read a review from clients who attest to our development expertise. Many of our reviews can be found on Clutch, a B2B platform that helps businesses with their outsourcing by showcases detailed reviews left by real clients. 

Clutch recently awarded Erbis with the title of Top Developer in Ukraine, a recognition that comes from their analysis of hundreds of businesses in the region.  We know that this honor was made possible because of clients who trusted us to take their business to the next level.

One such client asked us to augment their onshore development team back in 2015. We delivered an innovative solution to provide the best supply chain data service platform.

Here’s what they had to say:

“One of the most impressive things I’ve observed was Erbis Cloud Services’ ability to grasp our technical requirements and understand our business quickly. Within 2 months, Erbis Cloud Services was up-to-speed on our core platform, coming to contribute to our maintenance work, before we came to rearchitect some of the parts of our platform. This is where Erbis Cloud Services started to shine, from a technical expertise perspective.”

This satisfied client is just one among the many others that we’ve helped with cloud databases, platform development, and design. We encourage you to head over to Clutch and read our other reviews to see if we’re the right partner for you.
We think you’ll like what you find.  If so, chat with us today.

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Challenges Facing the Telehealth Industry

Phones and laptops are now essential medical technology, as doctors’ visits have transitioned from medical offices to patients’ homes. What does it mean to IT?

Cloud communication provider Vonage marks that the former sleepy telehealth industry has jumped more than 2000% in the last month. Their customer, Doxy.me says that 139,000 new health care providers have joined their platform in just one week. They served 1,35 million patients in that week, averaging 170,000 calls each day. Another customer, Doctolib, is doing 100,000 video consultations every single day. Telehealth has suddenly evolved from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” for major health systems.

The reasons for this amazing spike are:

  • Ready-made solution 
  • Advance technologies ubiquity
  • Social distancing
  • Expanded Medicare coverage of telehealth services 
  • Relaxing of HIPAA guidelines 
  • Long term investment 

The meaning of telemedicine is broad. It’s anything from taking care of a patient’s needs through the telephone to actually having patient-doctor video interactions assisted with devices. Telehealth services can deal with a broad scope of problems, including skin concerns, minor infectious diseases, psychiatry, and minor orthopedic problems like sprains. So whether it’s loading information from your smartwatch, using blood pressure cuffs, or a remote stethoscope like Eko Health has built – telemedicine embraces it all.

According to Vidyo survey, healthcare providers identified telehealth as their top IT priority. Next comes the strengthening of data security and implementing EHRs and patient portals. Two-thirds of respondents said they expect their telehealth budget to grow over the next three years.

Notoriously resistant to reform healthcare system provokes a bunch of challenges which we split by reasons:

Legal:

  • Strong compliance. Meeting government standards for clinical data sharing is a tricky matter. Patients worry that their medical data may be hacked or sold. One mistake can lead a hospital, health system, or practice into non-compliance, which can include substantial fines.
  • Multi-state licensure. For all this progress, 21 states still do not allow to practice medicine across state borders presumingly for protecting their local licensees. Thus a provider who is licensed in California can’t provide services in Idaho. However, we can notice some legislative activity from time to time aimed to allow cross-state telehealth.
  • Parity payments. Parity within the telemedicine context means that if you’re seen via Zoom or in-clinic, insurance companies should pay roughly the same amount. Now many doctors ask the patient to come into the office because they won’t get paid otherwise. Though many providers are slowly adding selected telehealth services to their reimbursement rates, the industry reluctance prevents patients from this novel.
  • Slow adoption. In most countries, hospitals have been slow in adopting telemedicine technologies thanks to low IT budgets, legacy systems, and a lack of workforce. However, today’s telemedicine is increasingly run by startups – such as MDLIVE in the U.S., Babylon Health in the UK, and Doktor24 in Sweden – which have until now faced significant challenges in overcoming resistance from established healthcare systems.

IT:

  • Legacy systems. Legacy objections regarding security, interoperability, and infrastructure should and could be addressed with today’s technology. With moving to cloud-based environments, health systems can worry less about maintaining a secure, extensible infrastructure and instead focus more on improving both patient and financial outcomes. Larger health systems now aim to further strategic imperatives such as improving quality, reach, and patient outcomes while containing costs. Telehealth and remote patient monitoring solutions help enable these results.
  • The urgency of development. The virtual hospitals and self-diagnostic gadgets are part of a wider suite of innovations developed at breakneck speed during the pandemic response. Few aspects of the healthcare industry have left untouched in recent months as the COVID-19 pandemic seized the globe. We recommend that organizations look for an open architecture for flexibility and customization, existing integrations into EHR and clinical tools, and a platform with a vast ecosystem of third-party partners. Here you can learn more about Implementing an EHR System to Support Clinical Research that we’ve done for french Pharmaceutical Company.
  • HQ video solutions. Here are the main requirements for telemedicine video providers:
    • The solution must enable HIPAA compliance through 256-bit AES encryption for data in transit and at rest.
    • Seamless integration with EHR and EMR systems. This allows to launch a video visit directly from thу doctor’s workflow and update charts and records in real-time.
    • Ability to work in low-bandwidth environments to bring services to patients in rural.
  • Extra devices. A decade ago, fitness-trackers merely counted steps. Today they measure heart rates, and the latest Apple Watch can create an ECG similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram. Remote devices for telehealth see a surge in demand. On the horizon are devices and apps for home blood testing or biomarker signals capture later sent to physicians for evaluation.

Social:

  • Awareness and adoption – A year ago, patients would rather wait till the next day to see their primary care doctors; these days, they’d chat with a physician. This pandemic has really pushed a lot of us to try telemedicine for the first time. In their 2019 Telehealth Satisfaction Study, J.D. Power reports that customer satisfaction with telehealth services is high: 851 on a 1,000-point scale. 65% of consumers are more likely to use telehealth if the cost is less than a doctor’s office visit.
  • Low-income population. Broadband access, smartphones, and the digital kit that connects to them remain expensive, which means telemedicine may not be viable for the poor or less tech-sophisticated seniors, who need these sorts of novel healthcare solutions the most.
  • Lack of skills. Doctors and patients both need some education. The relevance of digital skills in the COVID-19 is necessary work that must be done.

Conclusion: Telehealth has helped expand access to care when the pandemic has severely restricted patients’ ability to see their doctors. It is not a solution to the current crisis, but it will be one of its lasting consequences. Today, actions taken by healthcare and IT leaders will determine if the full potential of telehealth is realized after the crisis has passed.