Do you ever get the feeling that your electronics are listening to you and relaying information to retailers? Countless times over the past year, I’ve noticed that advertisements for products I’ve mentioned in casual conversations with friends or family suddenly appear in my social media feeds or in targeted emails in my inbox. A few weeks ago, my husband told me that he noticed one of our dogs was having trouble jumping up on our bed. The next day, our Facebook feeds were flooded with “dog ramp” ads. Whether it’s exacerbated by the pandemic or just a natural evolution in digital e-commerce strategies, it’s clear that retailers are stepping up their game when it comes to reaching consumers.
My first indication that something was changing in the e-commerce space came about two years ago. My home printer had met its demise, and we purchased a laser printer via Amazon. Several months later, I logged into my email one morning and noticed a message addressed to me from my laser printer. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. The printer, unbeknownst to me, recognized it was low on ink and had informed Amazon the toner was low. Amazon, in turn, emailed me to tell me that my printer had placed an ink replacement order. No message appeared on the printer itself; no light indicated that the toner was low. Quite frankly, it didn’t need to inform me. Instead, it talked to the retailer.
Now, to be clear, Amazon did not process the order until I gave it permission, but the retailer had allowed a product to “shop” for the customer (me). Amazon found a creative way to anticipate my needs before I had any clue about what I needed. And it’s just gotten more sophisticated in the past few years.
Every time I pick up our magazine, I’m learning more about e-commerce and the latest trends. I’m sure we’ve all noticed over the past decade that if we shop online, for example, and fill our cart but forget to actually place an order, the retailer will contact us to “remind” us that items are still available for purchase. Now, retailers are moving beyond predictive analytics, capitalizing on technology to seek new direct-to-customer channels. Research analyst firm Gartner predicts that, “By 2022, organizations using multiple go-to-market approaches for digital commerce will outperform [their “non-digital” counterparts] by 30 percentage points in sales growth.”
The way in which retailers are utilizing digital commerce strategies is becoming more advanced, much like the logistics and supply chain technologies we see coming on the market today. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, and more are impacting our supply chains at a rapid pace. Trying to keep up with the changing landscape is both exhilarating and overwhelming.
One easy way to keep pace with all of these changes is to check out ProMatDX this month. Hosted by the industry organization MHI, ProMatDX—the DX stands for “digital experience”—is a virtual digital event to showcase the latest and greatest in manufacturing and supply chain innovations. During the weeklong show, which takes place from April 12–16, attendees can live-chat with solution providers, view product demos, and attend more than 100 virtual seminars on emerging technologies like the internet of things, AI, robotics, and automation. Preregistration is free at the show’s website.
As we look toward the future, emerging technologies will not only help companies deliver products and services more efficiently; they will also help create new and innovative ways for products to “find” customers, rather than the other way around.