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Democratization of Global Shopping via Intelligence Mobile Robot

IRCE (Internet Retail Conference and Exhibition) took place on June 3, 2015, in Chicago with close to 10,000 people in attendance to learn and share best practices in online retail. I found a wide range of ideas and best practices in the room and see how three big trends are being integrated by top brands into their e-commerce strategy.

The first and an obvious trend is that retailers around the globe are bracing for a borderless world. According to a Boston Consulting Group (BCG)’s research report, cross-border e-commerce accounts for 10 to 15 percent of total e-commerce volume, depending on region. This year, many Latin American retailers presented at IRCE and many keynotes and panels were devoted to the region, which indicated its importance. The rapid expansion of e-commerce becomes more apparent in Asia as well. Early this year, many U.S. venture capitalists invest heavily in ecommerce startups in India, which has proven to be a market of great potential and one that has witnessed exponential growth. China, at the same time, is leading the way, shedding its identity as solely a “world factory” and emerging as a burgeoning consumer market, “with an increasingly affluent and populous middle class eager to adopt the developed world’s consumption styles”, as BCG’s report puts it.

Although e-commerce is the fastest-growing retail channel, its growth is being constrained by barriers to cross-border transactions, which involves international logistics, cross-border payment system and regional pricing practice. Those barriers will eventually be dismantled, with online retailers, carriers, digital marketers and other service providers innovating at a faster pace to democratize the global ecommerce industry and taking action to compete in an effectively borderless world.

Secondly, not a new topic in the ecommerce world, mobile has grown into a user friendly and competitive shopping channel. According to Shopify data, last August represented the first time in history that more people used mobile devices to visit online stores than using computers. People are spending more on mobile as well. In countries like China, Japan and UK, the mobile transaction has surpassed 50% of online transaction.

Mobile e-commerce and mobile app related topics attracted most attendees at IRCE 2015. Marketers are trying to thread the needle on leveraging their mobile campaign efforts to achieve multiple purposes. The “2015 State of Marketing Report” released by Salesforce in May 2015 revealed that 60% of marketers consider mobile to be a “crucial enabler” of their sales. Mobile social media marketing are also becoming a major channel as the rise in mobile ecommerce traffic is partially being fueled by the overall trend of social-fuelled shopping experience.

Despite mobile marketing’s rapid adoption, I believe we’re still in its infancy. I visited a couple of global retargeting company booths at IRCE and could see clearly that some of service providers are not ready for the market. Some even don’t know what the ID for mobile web or mobile apps are, let alone implement a full-scale mobile retargeting strategy. This is a huge opportunity for big players and new-comers alike.

Thirdly, technology, especially artificial intelligence and personalization technology has a critical role to play in bringing e-commerce into a next level, not limited to the hardware robot like Kiva, which helps on logistics. At IRCE, people talk about Internet of Things, smart mobile app and personalized product recommendation.

Ecommerce players need simple and deliverable intelligence instead of complex multi-layer “black-box” intelligence with limited transparency, which tends to over-promise and under deliver. I believe in micro-intelligence software robot. It will permeate the Internet, performing crawling, price tracking, ordering, etc. As cross-border e-commerce evolves to this level, the software robot provides consumers and merchants with smart solutions, which involves automating routine jobs, and providing personalized recommendation reactively or proactively.

Through IRCE, I strengthened my belief that the democratization of global shopping via mobile and micro-intelligence robots is the trend of ecommerce. The retailers and service providers that stimulate this process will be rewarded with significant growth.

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