How the use of technology in retail stores are helping them withstand competition

A look at how the use of technology in retail stores are helping them outplay the e-Commerce giants

It’s no secret that retail businesses are going through a pivotal phase; an existential crisis triggered by skyrocketing rate of digital adoption and the burgeoning presence of biggies like Amazon and others. The pandemic with its perennial need to follow social distancing and stay-at-home mandates has strengthened the demand for eCommerce.

Just about one-third of U.S. consumers were willing to enter shopping malls again in April 2021 while 25-48% of European consumers from different countries were keen on avoiding brick and mortar stores even in the beginning of 20211

The decline in the demand and popularity of physical stores has had a crippling effect on several businesses. Some declared bankruptcy while others closed down a few units to shrink their business. The list of store closings is rather long – a record 12,200 stores2 to be precise in the U.S. alone in 2020.

At a time when profits are becoming elusive and footfall remains uncertain, the retail sector, especially boutiques and smaller businesses, are up for a major upheaval. The decline is evident but it’s definitely not the end for the traditional brick and mortar stores experience we’ve so thoroughly enjoyed all our life. As the legendary Mark Twain would have said, “the reports of the death of brick-and-mortar stores are greatly exaggerated.”

A lot can be done to shift the tide in their favor. The onus is on local and boutique retailers to ensure that the gratification continues albeit online for their customers. Luckily, it’s not so difficult if you identify the core areas that draw customers to the in-store experience and leverage the technology spectrum accordingly.  

Averting the retail apocalypse

A bit of a tweak in your approach and digital adoption can put you on the road to retail recovery. See how Nordstrom revamped their business model to serve its customers. Be it a quick fix for a leather jacket or getting pants hemmed in an hour, the sprawling flagship store offers everything from style tips to personal guidance for free to its customers. As Sonia Lapinsky, managing director at Alix Partners puts it, “Nordstrom is providing a reason for the customer to walk in the door.”

Relevance is the key here and all the resources, be it time, money, or efforts, should be used to elevate the customer experience. Ultimately, it’s all about the relationships you build with your customers especially when 56% of customers stay loyal to brands that ‘get them’.

Taking a cue from its biggest competitor Amazon for the digital maturity it has achieved in such a short time, Walmart too had transitioned to eCommerce in a big way. It has witnessed a 97 percent3 surge in eCommerce sales with total revenues increasing by 5.6 percent to $ 137.7 Billion. With the help of AI, Walmart is helping buyers make smarter substitutions for out-of-stock products by suggesting them the next available items. Their choices are analyzed and fed into learning algorithms to make more accurate recommendations in the future.

With artificial intelligence (AI) at the heart of all their initiatives, both brands are taking the eCommerce world by storm while underlining the potential of emerging technologies.

Retail with a digital edge

There are 7 areas of retail that are of paramount importance to ensure the most satisfactory shopping experience for buyers. These include:

  • Swift digital payments – As consumer faith in online transactions has grown, contactless, digital payments have become the norm.
  • Smooth navigation – With better search algorithms and smarter devices, the shopping experience is expected to be omnichannel.
  • Centralized inventory – Digital businesses enjoy greater economies of scale and improved turnover due to centralized inventory with smarter technologies and robotics at the helm.
  • Ease & convenience – The craving for something and the convenience to have it right away can translate into greater satisfaction.
  • Product experience – Through touch and feel, consumers want to physically experience the things they buy.
  • Immersive exploration – Consumers love to be involved in brand journeys and eagerly participate in activities that involve entertainment and engagement.
  • Personal advice – It is always heartening to know you are understood and expert advice is always welcome.

Leveraging new technologies to excel in these areas can help you regain strategic momentum and offer a uniquely differentiating customer experience.

Here’s how you can win the digital game.

Go BOPUS (BOPIS)

A lot of retailers are going the ‘buy online, pick up in store’ way to blend the speed and convenience of eCommerce with the in-store product experience. Nordstrom Local is leveraging it well to offer pickups and returns along with express alterations and a whole lot of services to walk that extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction.

Says eMarketer’s vice president of forecasting Martín Utreras, “BOPUS provides tangible benefits to both consumers and retailers. Consumers get convenience, instant gratification, and avoid shipping costs. Retailers reduce operational costs, and it gives them the opportunity to bring customers back to physical stores for additional purchase opportunities.”

Make sure that you offer speed and process efficiency like Amazon Go that bypasses the checkout altogether with a grab-and-go model or Target’s in-app shopping lists that offers aisle to aisle assistance to customers in the physical store.

Prioritize personalization

Thanks to AI, retailers now have the data and intelligence necessary to understand their customers’ shopping habits and choices. You can personalize marketing content, customize newsletters, and entice them with relevant ads on social media based on their social footprint, location, hobbies, and other factors. You can also make product recommendations via email marketing to generate leads and revenue.

The right product recommendations aligned with their tastes will not only enable the discovery of new products but also instill trust. Case in point – Hanes Australasia dramatically improved its revenue and grew across new and existing markets with AI-based personalized recommendations.

Provide 24/7 customer care with Conversational AI

Brands are increasingly leveraging chatbots to offer personalized assistance and customer service round the clock. Assistance can now be offered through speech and text in local languages with natural language interactions. The benefits of having chatbots are many – greater operational efficiency, minimized manual effort, increased customer satisfaction, and lower handling costs. Automated customer care does not take away the human connection but strengthens it by ensuring that customer concerns are heard and addressed on priority.

According to research4, 40% of shoppers don’t care whether they are assisted by a tool or human as long as they are attended to while 80% of consumers who have engaged with a chatbot claim to have had a positive experience.

Bolster the supply chain

Addressing supply chain challenges can be stressful for retailers and inefficiencies can result in loss of revenue and dissatisfied customers. Inventory optimization is crucial in this era of fast-changing demands. AI-powered inventory optimization helps businesses increase the accuracy and granularity of SKU and store-level stock planning, preparing them to handle sudden shifts in demand. Routing, end-to-end transaction visibility, and dashboards for inventory tracking are some of the many solutions you should consider to drive agility and maintain business continuity.

What’s more; it also helps analyze costs to create a pricing model that determines the right price for your products while staying on top of managing supplier costs. This kind of dynamic pricing is being used by Walmart and Amazon too due to the tons of data they have, with the latter reportedly changing its prices 2.5 million times a day.

Drive an omnichannel experience

To facilitate a seamless shopping experience both online and offline, it is important to ensure it’s omnichannel. Whether customers shop via mobile device, laptop, or a physical store, there has to be back-end integration of distribution, promotion, and communication channels for greater flexibility.

The same experience should be extended on social media too to enable a high level of customization. This also helps you provide targeted offers while creating more engaging ways to interact and connect with customers.

Starbucks struck a chord with patrons through its loyalty program that encouraged them to earn stars on their purchases. These stars could be redeemed for free products, top-ups, etc. through their app or website. The program not only served as a fine example of customer engagement but was responsible for 40% of its total sales.

Evaluate virtual fitting technology

The ‘try before you buy’ psyche is here to stay which explains why the global virtual fitting room (VFR) market is expected to touch $ 10 Billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 20.1%. Virtual try-on and fitting rooms enabled using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are catching on big time making both sellers and buyers very happy.

While apps like SneakerKit help you choose the right footwear, there are apps for virtually everything you wish to buy from hats and glasses to clothes and masks. Brands like Macy’s, Adidas, and many others allow users to upload a full-body photo and then try on clothes based on their body type. Getting a feel of what they are buying offers both comfort and confidence to buyers.

In closing

Business models need to be altered keeping the following objectives in mind:

  • Ensure convergence across channels and touchpoints as boundaries between the physical and digital worlds blur.
  • Customize the delivery format based on changing shopper behaviors through personalization
  • Collaborate instead of competing with other suppliers and retailers to enhance customer value
  • Improve the value proposition through interactions and communication in real-time.
  • Facilitate self-learning through AI-enabled data to enhance customer satisfaction.

Create a seamless customer experience with Trigent

As you gear up to deliver unique shopping journeys, we can help you with our broad range of offerings to build a technology stack that’s replete with features and functionality. With an array of pre-built as well as custom solutions for diverse retail use cases, we empower you to offer personalization and delightful digital experiences at scale.

We’d be happy to be your trusted technology partner on your digital transformation journey.

Call us today to book a business consultation.

References

1. https://www.statista.com/topics/6239/coronavirus-impact-on-the-retail-industry-worldwide/
2. https://fortune.com/2021/01/07/record-store-closings-bankruptcy-2020/
3. https://www.barrons.com/news/walmart-profits-jump-80-to-6-5-bn-on-strong-e-commerce-sales-01597749906
4. https://research.aimultiple.com/chatbot-stats/

How universities are using AI to power operational efficiency

The role of technology in the education industry has witnessed some monumental trendsetters, right from 2019, which saw the advent of Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT), and Machine Learning. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has also been a significant contributor, revolutionizing education. Keeping up with the changing times, universities have started embracing AI. A Market Search Engine report has predicted that AI will become the primary trend and grow more than 45% by 2024. The pandemic has also proven to be a catalyst for positive change, accelerating universities’ education technology needs.

Artificial intelligence has been in use for quite some time now. Several industries have already leveraged this new-age technology and seen substantial improvements in their processes. The education sector is the latest to join the AI bandwagon. Colleges and universities globally have introduced AI in their instructional and institutional operations. Managing the entire operations—right from student screening to placements—has been an arduous task, but not anymore.

Leveraging the power of AI

AI’s influence across universities

Recent advancements in AI have made the academic world more convenient and personalized. It has not just made education accessible to students but helped universities automate and speed up tedious administrative tasks.

  1. Admissions and student screening: Leveraging cognitive technologies in the admission process helps universities predict the applicants most likely to be accepted and enrolled, their states and countries, courses they choose, and if they’ll become engaged alumni. AI speeds up the admission and administrative processes, including admissions decisions, visa processing in case of an international student, student housing selection, and course registration.

    Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, deployed algorithms to maximize their student recruitment with a competitive skill set.

  2. Round-the-clock query resolution: Educational institutes use chatbots to perform multiple functions, including conversations with students, answering queries besides assessing and correcting assignments. Chatbots also store, process, and communicate data.

    Georgia State University installed ‘Pounce’ to address issues/obstacles faced by students, including enrollment, class registration, placement exams, and financial aid applications. Students connect to the bot through smart-text messaging and resolve their queries 24/7.

  3. Video-assisted remote learning: Overnight, distant learning has become the top trend due to the pandemic, giving rise to online education to help students effectively learn without disruptions. Though AI can never replace a human, video calls for better teacher-student engagement, irrespective of their location. By using AI-enabled Learning Management System (LMS), teachers can monitor student progress. Students are classified based on their learning ability and content designed to suit each learning style. Reading assignments and long lectures can be broken into smaller segments, helping students understand them better. Machine learning, along with text summarization, can transcribe complete lectures. Students can also connect with their peers, exchange notes, and clear doubts, real-time, while teachers can pay attention to students who require personalized coaching.

    Ivy Tech, a community college, having campuses across Indiana, leveraged AI to enable its student base to perform better. An algorithm was developed to monitor students’ online behavior patterns and identify students at risk of failing. Around 3,000 students were assisted, thereby improving their chances of getting better grades.

  4. Immersive content with AR/VR: Virtual experiential learning has pushed the boundaries of traditional education. Immersive technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) provide a digitally constructed environment to enhance the learning experience. Students can perform science experiments, surgeries, or even explore the universe, along with their peers.

    Arizona State University introduced virtual reality (VR) labs for its biology students. They draw blood, analyze samples, manipulate DNA, and perform experiments, all without leaving their study spaces.

  5. Monitoring students’ performance: Machine learning tracks students’ progress and needs individually and provides insights for enhanced outcomes. Teachers can use these insights to better cater to each student’s academic and personal growth.

    Kent State University in Ohio has integrated AI in its developmental math program. With ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces), students take online classes in a monitored classroom, often assisted by a graduate assistant, faculty member, or peer tutor. Based on the student’s understanding, the difficulty of math problems is adjusted.

  6. Placement assistance: AI-powered platforms and digital analytics can help universities to manage placement and alumni efficiently. Conversational AI, powered by human expertise, is integrated to plan on-campus push, campus recruitments, assist students in cracking placement exams, and monitoring their progress.

  7. Automating administrative processes: Administrative tasks, though time-consuming, are a necessary function. Administrators are often overwhelmed with repetitive work such as new student admissions, managing class schedules, student attendance, processing grades, and monitoring placements. Automation is a crucial way to reduce their burden substantially and keep the processes running smoothly. The staff can eliminate manual routines and instead focus on more creative and inventive roles.

    New York University has deployed BobCat, an AI program that maintains the institution’s library. It plays a librarian’s role, helping students and teachers search, scan, and get library resources such as books/ebooks, sound recordings, videos, e-journals, etc. It also keeps track of the repository, maintains check-out and records for all returns.

AI has enhanced the way teachers run their classrooms. It has also helped administrators expedite their tasks. It replaces the traditional pen-and-paper method with innovative teaching methods, collaborative task management, and seamless operations. Recognizing the potential AI brings to the table, universities, in collaboration with IT companies, are deploying intelligent algorithms. These timely interventions are helping universities address challenges and drive efficiency across functions.

Conclusion

Artificial intelligence is undeniably transforming the education sector worldwide, and the potential for progress is tremendous. With artificial intelligence surpassing human abilities and making a difference in the way universities function in more profound ways, it is the right time to jump on the bandwagon. And for that, you need an expert partner.

At Trigent, we provide AI solutions that are easy to use and intuitive, ensuring seamless adoption of this latest technology. With Trigent’s AI-powered tools, you can accelerate your digital transformation initiative in this new normal successfully.

Reach out to us for a business consultation. We’d be happy to partner with you on your AI adoption journey.

Power Immersive, Engaging, Impactful Learning Experiences with AR/VR

The education sector, like many others, has been hugely impacted owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not that it wasn’t familiar to disruption. Homeschooling, online degree programs, virtual classrooms have all been progressive steps in the direction of transformative technological innovation. But with Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) coming into the picture, things have changed radically for the education sector.

We are now talking about some really innovative stuff – the kind that makes learning engaging and interactive, that takes students beyond the realms of their classrooms to explore new dimensions in learning and comprehension.

We are treading into an era of experiential learning driven by AR/VR.

The research by MarketsandMarkets suggests that the global EdTech and smart classroom market is growing at a CAGR of 16.1% from USD 85,818 million in 2020 to USD 181,265 million by 2025. It’s not surprising then to find technology dominates every sphere of learning and education.

Propelling-immersive-learning-with-AR-VR

Morehouse College, the alma mater of Martin Luther King Jr., is now conducting three classes in VR powered by the Engage-based Victory XR platform. Having created more than 240 VR & AR experiences covering more than fifty different learning units for diverse subjects, the college has created a digitized campus where everyone can connect and collaborate.

Opines Dushunte Carmon, the project’s chief advocate within Morehouse College, “With the increasing amount of technology that is occurring in education, people have to learn and teach in a different way, they have to be innovative. The discovery of Victory XR was the dimension I had been looking to add to Morehouse College for the last two years. This is a game-changer not only for Morehouse College but for colleges and universities around the world.”

The New Normal has compelled colleges and universities to reach out to students albeit remotely. AR and VR have come to their rescue opening new avenues for a more engaging distance learning experience. In tandem with Artificial Intelligence (AI), they promise a hyper-immersive learning experience that puts experiential learning at the fore of things. Modern students are now relying on a digital ecosystem that will continue to thrive with time. As transformative teaching technologies continue to power learning experiences across the globe, here’s how the contemporary education landscape looks like.

Learning without borders

Following a partnership between Almo Professional A/V and ARHT Media Inc., a Toronto-based holographic solutions developer, we now have pioneering technology that enables high-quality, low-latency AV streaming with end-to-end encryption. Imagine what this could do in the field of education. Viewers can now attend lectures remotely without wearing 3D glasses to see lecturers right in front of them as live holograms.

Ideal for conference halls, corporate boardrooms, and large training centers, this plug-and-play cabinet on wheels dubbed as the HoloPod is helping universities transcend borders. So guest lecturers from anywhere in the world can now pop up right in front of you and deliver a truly interactive, engaging experience.

A lot more than a laptop

San Jose-based zSpace is breaking barriers between users and computers through their innovative laptops that offer a multidimensional AR/VR environment. With 3-D technology at its helm, it offers immersive experiences with 3D content popping out of the screen. It functions as an all-in-one PC and allows users to enjoy learning experiences from wherever they are with the help of head tracking and lightweight glasses.

Every time students tilt their heads to view something, the software is quick to take notes and tweak the perspective accordingly. What students get is real-time exposure to scenarios that they would have never had a chance to experience otherwise. For instance, those learning automotive technology gravitated to learning beyond regular lessons diving further into motors, transmissions, and other related stuff.

Closing the gap in distance learning

Students often lose their interest and focus during distance learning due to a lack of interaction. The beauty of VR is that it allows just about everybody to enjoy learning in simulated settings, no matter how complex their subject is. The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) enables its students to use VR to simulate real-life surgery while the students at Averett University in Danville, Virginia are ‘virtually’ exploring the inner workings of the human body going all the way to the cellular level. This kind of distance learning also eliminates errors allowing students to focus on the finer details of the human anatomy. AR, on the other hand, enhances every possible subject from STEM to humanities.

Colleges are now also offering campus tours virtually giving students the feel of physically being there without actually having to travel. Without the distance, students feel less inhibited and are enthusiastically taking up language and culture classes while eavesdropping on conversations in a foreign café emulating native speakers.

Improving learning outcomes with AI

As machine learning tools and techniques enter the scene, educational applications are gearing up for new breakthroughs. Researchers are now using advanced image recognition to detect aggressive forms of cancer while others are using AI teaching assistants and voice-enabled assistants like Alexa to help students with answers to frequently asked questions.

AI has also been helping organizations worldwide produce smart, personalized content. It has opened up new avenues to students with learning disabilities and special needs. By creating a more inclusive environment, AR, VR, and AI have changed the dynamics for learning and education.

Can we make AR/VR mainstream?

AR/VR undoubtedly has a lot to offer to the field of education. It is however important to have the right infrastructure. Adequate wireless network capacity, computers with the necessary computing power, and devices that enable immersive technologies are some of the prerequisites to getting started on an AR and VR-enabled learning journey. Hi-quality sensors, cameras, smartphones, headsets, glasses, etc. are needed to experience and enjoy learning in the true sense.

Clearly, there are several challenges on the road to AR/VR-driven learning. Educational technologies come with a price and at times it can be a bit overwhelming to get the best in EdTech. Late adopters may have to grapple with fundraising and may have to look for investors. There has to be enough quality content too that can be rolled out through the right distribution channels. Also, it will take a while for educators, administrators, and students to get used to diverse formats and platforms.

Institutions are contemplating crowdsourcing VR experiments and experiences in a bid to increase adoption and allow access through libraries, technology hubs, etc. No doubt, transformative technologies like AR/VR are going to be a tad expensive, to begin with, but the benefits are far too many to ignore and universities across the world will adopt them sooner than later.

Teach with Trigent

AR/VR can resolve the challenges in learning born in the wake of the New Normal. At Trigent, we help educational institutes and decision-makers tide over challenges in adopting transformative teaching technologies with the right tools, solutions, and data-driven processes. We can help you improve efficiencies to build the perfect ecosystem to make learning collaborative, impactful, and seamless across geographies.

Call us today to know more. We are eager to partner with you on this incredible journey.

Tech Trends Driving Higher Education in 2021 and Beyond

The campuses that were bustling with life a year ago now have a deserted look. The dormitories, classrooms, and practical rooms all wait for normalcy to return. The pandemic has impacted all walks of life, and the universities are no different. As per the latest New York Times survey comprising 1,900 American colleges and universities, there have been 397000 cases and about 90 deaths due to the coronavirus.

The explosion of the virus and the regulations to curb the spread have expedited the adoption of technology. Universities that were warming up to technology before the pandemic are now swiftly embracing technology to overcome the pandemic’s challenges and chart out their future course of action.

Here are the top trending technologies that have got the education industry’s attention and are sure to have a long-standing impact on the education industry and system.

AI drives operational and administrative efficiency

AI’s impact on the education sector or specifically in higher learning institutes can be manifold. Many universities or institutions are already leveraging AI to deliver time-sensitive academic and admin tasks, increase enrollment, improve IT processes and amplify the learning experience. A Wall Street Journal article noted that the Georgia Institute of Technology addressed 40% of student’s queries using an AI-powered chatbot assistant freeing up humans to tackle complex questions. AI could also spell good news for students with hearing and visual impairments by refining language translations and providing improved access.

While AI’s potential has been a topic of discussion at institutions, its adoption in the education industry is still lagging. A 2019 survey revealed that implementation was the most significant challenge institutions faced in adopting AI. Only 41% of universities have chalked out a strategy on utilizing AI. Another major deterrent is the cost involved, with 57% of institutions having a separate budget for AI projects.

Hybrid learning delivers continuity, convenience, and safety

With the contagious virus on the prowl student, health and safety have become priorities for institutions. The learning environment is poised for a significant overhaul. Hybrid learning or blended learning is the best option available to institutions. The students’ young age on campus is another reason hybrid learning is a perfect fit for the current day and age. Statistics from Bill and Melinda Foundation reveal the 55% of today’s college and university students are Gen Zers. The new generation of students is well averse to using technology. Pew Research highlighted that 95% of Gen Zers have access to smartphones while close to 97% use one of the major learning platforms.

A recently concluded survey by the Institute of International Education has revealed that 9 out of 10 universities in the US plan to implement the hybrid learning model across their campuses. 92% of institutions participating in the survey suggested looking at a wholly revamped instructional plan starting fall 2020.

Immersive, engaging, and impactful learning experiences using AR/VR

Not long ago, the thought of remote learning, especially for higher education, was a distant dream. The biggest challenge to any such suggestion was the impact of in-person classes conducted by the professor in charge, the face-to-face interactions, live demonstrations, and the practical sessions. The emergence of the coronavirus and the social distancing regulation compelled colleges to go digital. Every need has a solution. In this case, the need for real conversations, universities turned to AR/VR that had already made inroads into the classroom. As per Burroughs, 2018 and Internet2, 2019, as of 2018, 18% of universities and colleges had fully deployed VR, 28% had used it to some extent, and 32% were testing the technology. Gartner predicts that by 2021, 60 higher education institutions in the United States will focus on using VR to create simulations and put students into immersive environments.

Through its Virtual Immersive Teaching and Learning (VITaL), San Diego State University’s Instructional Technology Services is using VR capabilities to teach students astronomy. Students in Western Carolina University’s (NC) School of Nursing are using VR to virtually attend to rare emergencies and understand how to attend to such instances. In another compelling use case, Fordham University’s (NY) Gabelli School of Business teaches its students lessons in leadership and teamwork using VR. Students in this particular exercise walk on a 1400 foot skyscraper urged by team members or guided by fellow students to diffuse bombs.

Robust ‘anywhere’ learning systems with cloud technologies

Campuses are sophisticated systems similar to bustling cities. Apart from learning systems, they provide transportation, campus safety, accounting, administration, and everything else required to run a well-oiled system for the residents, in this case, the students. All these facilities provided by the institutions need to run cohesively. Embracing the cloud enables institutions to create a data-centric mindset and rely more on quantifiable data measurement to drive and assess enrollment functions. Institutions are adopting cloud products to leap towards process re-engineering to aim for system-wide digital transformation. The approach will reduce information silos and enable standardization of data driving information sharing, boosting efficiency and sustainable growth.

The pandemic has put an enormous financial burden on institutions. Budget cuts for public institutions and diminishing private funds and endowments have further crippled institutions’ financial capability to harness cloud capabilities helping colleges and universities balance their expenses while benefiting from the high-standard IT services.

The Julliard School for performing arts having its physical presence in New York, will be training 800 students from 42 different countries. The faculty will be training all these students from its campus in Manhattan. The cloud powers Julliard’s digital foray.

Conclusion

Like every other industry, the higher education domain needs a revamp. Campuses across the United States are increasing digital transformation speed to face any unforeseen eventuality. Trigent is at the forefront of enabling institutions and universities to quickly and efficiently utilize technology advances. Our domain expertise empowers institutions to promptly ramp-up capabilities backed by our technology experts.

Let us together build a digitally strong foundation for an empowered future. Call us today.

6 Tech Trends that will reshape Media & Entertainment in 2021

Content streaming is at an all-time high amidst the lockdown. By 2024, Over-the-top (OTT) media revenue is predicted to touch $158.84B that’s more than double the $67.8B revenue that was generated in 2018. The number of OTT service users in the United States is expected to reach 198 million by 2021. Netflix, Google LLC, LINE Corporation, Facebook, Amazon Web Services, Apple Inc. Kakapo Corp, Hulu, LLC are among the top players.

Let’s take a look at the demand and supply impact given the evolving industry landscape. The demand side takes into account the behavioral patterns of the audience while the supply side adopts tech innovations to differentiate their service and content portfolio

Here’s our take on 6 technology trends that will influence the media and entertainment world this year.

  1. Ad-supported access to standard content portfolio

In a bid to keep subscription fees competitive, platforms and publishers will bring back ad-supported content. Ad-supported models will work well provided platforms collate sufficient data for targeted advertising. M&E companies are now putting in a lot of effort to sieve through every tiny bit of information to keep annoying ads at bay. Going forward, the focus will be more on making an interesting mix of videos, music, games, podcasts, etc. available through subscription and free ad-supported services.

Explains Nick Morley, EMEA Managing Director, IAS, “With major changes to consumer habits last year, viewer patterns have rapidly evolved. The UK Streaming Wars report shows that viewers are now increasingly open to ad-supported video options, so the onus is on the digital advertising industry to help marketers meet consumer needs with an enjoyable experience.” As per the UK Streaming Wars report, over 50% of consumers will watch relevant ads in full while one in five will even search once they see an ad.

  1. eSports broadcasting for interactive experiences

The global eSports market revenue is expected to touch $1.6B in 2023 with eSports being touted as the future of sports. Currently, Asia and North America are the largest eSports markets and with greater adoption of AR/VR, this segment too will see fresh developments. Legalized sports betting will also see a surge with 5G technology, and several sports stadiums and similar arenas in the U.S. already have 5G towers to facilitate legalized betting.

With broadcasters streaming feeds from strategically placed cameras at vantage points, viewers can pick the best views for a more engaging experience. Apart from the best viewing angles, eSports also offers them an opportunity to cheer and interact with their favorite sports persons in real-time, and a platform to discuss strategies and improve the learning curve.

Gaming companies are doing exceedingly well too and Activision Blizzard made a profit of $505M in the first quarter of 2020 with their games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft delivering better than expected results.

  1. Augmented and Virtual Reality will create new avenues

Augmented and Virtual Reality or AR/VR are unlocking new technology avenues for the media and entertainment world. Earlier, they were not leveraged to their full potential despite the hype. Adoption was less and the price of AR/VR devices was pretty high. But things are changing now with greater adoption, pocket-friendly devices, and AR content that’s supported by smartphones.

This presents an opportunity to the media industry that will also leverage it to deliver a quality experience to gamers, make way into cinemas and theaters with immersive content, and create wearables for visits to museums, art galleries, etc.

  1. Artificial Intelligence for enhanced customer engagement

Most viewers, including millennials and Gen-Z, are happy to pay for content that’s tailored to their tastes. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms go a long way in analyzing consumer behavior providing them with just what they want to see. Innovations like eye tracking, emotion detection and engagement analysers provide new sources of continuous feedback.

The power of AI is essential to absorb and process this data in no time to help platforms make highly personalized recommendations. The same principle works for music streaming apps too that know exactly which tracks to pitch so that they make it to your list of favorites. AI can be a boon in the pre and post-production processes too and the absence of human intervention ensures that the cost of content creation is greatly reduced.

  1. Blockchain to protect IP rights while leveraging viral distribution channels

Blockchain will disrupt the way content is created, aggregated, distributed, consumed, and protected. Blockchain-powered micropayments will facilitate pay-per-use consumption targeting consumers who are unwilling to pay for an entire subscription but will pay a smaller fee to binge-watch just a season of a particular show. It allows independent artists to directly distribute their work among consumers via social media channels bypassing middlemen and distribution modes.

Blockchain will ensure proper execution of copyright terms through accurate tracking of a song’s usage and facilitate quicker royalty payments and division of revenue among artists and stakeholders. It will control and monetize file sharing, as every time consumers purchase or subscribe to blockchain-hosted content, content owners will be able to track file sharing and charge a fee for that distribution.Italy’s copyright body SIAE has also developed a copyright management platform using blockchain to provide artists and musicians complete transparency about their works and keep track of the royalties they are entitled for.

  1. Print media will embrace a digital future

COVID is driving the publishing industry to adopt a digital-first or digital-only model. Magazine publishing has suffered and popular magazines such as the Cosmopolitan SA closed their chapters recently. The New Normal also urged others to take a fresh perspective on creativity. Vogue Italia for instance donned a plain white cover sans celebs and models for their April 2020 issue.

There will be a symbiotic integration between print and online with more emphasis on customized content. As Ryan T. Sauers, President, Sauers Consulting explains, “Customers will receive more relevant information, and companies won’t waste money trying to cast larger nets. The traditional, mainstream blast-out-a-million-copies of something—I see that just dying a slow death.”

As per PwC, eBooks will see a greater demand and grow at a CAGR of 11.7% while the physical book publisher’s industry will decline at a CAGR of -2.8%.

Summing up

The New Normal brings along both opportunities and challenges. Due care however must be taken to safeguard the privacy of customers at all times. With rising subscriptions, comes the responsibility of ensuring data privacy too. While 64% of consumers are willing to share personal information and 83% are somewhat comfortable with using or storing biometric data with apps and services, 79% are pretty concerned about their data privacy as per a survey by Entrust.

It is crucial that M&E companies protect their data with strong encryption, high-assurance, and cloud-based authentication while also ensuring that consumers are educated about best practices surrounding data security. Transparent data collection applications and initiatives such as a promise to forget the data once services or subscriptions are discontinued can go a long way in gaining consumer trust.

Tune in with Trigent

The media and entertainment industry is in for some unprecedented changes. We can partner with you on this transformative journey thanks to our long and successful association with the world of M&E. Book a consultation and we will tell you how our technology solutions can serve as the perfect bedrock to help you thrive in 2021 and beyond. Call us today.

3 ways to beat the competition and stay ahead in the Media and Entertainment industry

The media and entertainment sector saw quite a few changes with respect to content development, aggregation, and delivery as major players in the business adopted new strategies and agile approaches to leverage the changing consumer demands. Everything evolved in the M&E industry; mainstream movies battled with the growing popularity of digital OTT content while music records and CDs were replaced by music streaming apps and Apple iTunes. Then there was the pandemic which despite posing several challenges also offered an impetus to the M&E industry.

As Deloitte’s global TMT industry leader Ariane Bucaille explains, “There have been five years of change in five months due to the pandemic. Covid-19 has been a catalyst – an unwelcome one, but still a catalyst – for needed changes across the TMT landscape.”

The fast-evolving OTT landscape

The global OTT market size that stood at $171B in 2020 is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 29.4% to touch $1,039B by 2027. Ad-supported VoD platforms are doing increasingly well amidst the pandemic with ad revenue of the five major ad-supported streaming platforms namely Hulu, Peacock, Roku, Pluto TV, and Tubi touching 31% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020.

47% of households have increased their use of content streaming services, 60% of respondents have signed up for free trials of subscription video on demand (SVOD) services due to the pandemic and a good 15% are ready to become paying members once the free trial concludes. From 35% in Q1 2019, the churn rate among OTT services in the United States has gone up to 41% in Q1 2020. The United States, which is also one of the largest OTT markets in the world, tops the national average at 8.55 hours of viewing time spent on OTT video content as compared to the global average of 6.8 hours per week.

As the market continues to see growth in the number of M&E studios and OTT service providers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to win this race. It is certainly challenging to create your own niche in this overly crowded market, though there’s a lot you can do to stay ahead and rise above the noise.

We believe M&E companies can get a competitive advantage if they meet the new demands of consumers by concentrating their efforts on 3 fronts – Experience, Technology, and Marketing.

Here are our top recommendations for you to consider to underpin the M&E domain like a pro:

  1. Tailor-made viewing experience to retain customers

Consumers are in demand as they continue to grab free trials, seek original content, and balance costs between paid, premium, and ad-supported services. They are quick to choose, sign up and cancel as well, as research indicates that 62% signed up to watch a particular show and cut the service once they were done while 43% canceled the same day once they realized they did not want it anymore.

This gives little or no time for providers to level up and respond. Besides, viewers are jumping from one platform to another as more immersive platforms see the light of the day. From live to connected TV, desktops to mobile, and new immersive platforms driven by Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) – the transition is for all to see. Advertising models are being revised too in order to factor in this paradigm shift making way for native, vertical, 360-degree, and programmatic ads. Ad-supported video streaming services (AVOD) are also being well-received.

M&E companies must study and monitor consumer behavior closely to understand whether certain behaviors are temporary or are pointing towards a permanent shift in preference. For instance, ‘watch party’ became quite a trend wherein groups of people watched movies and other video content together using popular social media platforms, but whether the trend will continue even after the pandemic is something that needs to be seen.

  1. Technologies to spur growth

The media and entertainment ecosystem can benefit a great deal if companies rest their strategies on technology foundations to navigate their infrastructures to next-generation architectures. The ones that play pivotal roles include:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – AI is the key to personalization as consumers continue to look for personalized content recommendations from service providers. Recommendations apply to both contents as well as ads that users may be inclined to watch. AI in tandem with machine learning will also offer insights into the payment preferences of consumers. In fact, 66% of respondents had in fact opined in favor of having an AI-powered digital assistant too.

Augmented /Virtual Reality (AR/VR) – We’re now seeing increasing adoption of digital technologies like AR/VR as the wave of innovation sweeps over M&E. With continuous advances in AR/VR, both will play an important role in offering rich, deeply engaging, multisensory experience. While cloud, edge computing, and 5G will move VR forward, AI technology will continue to push AR into the realm of mainstream. AR market value is predicted to go up to USD 200 billion by 2025 from just USD 5.9 billion in 2018.

Digital transformation – As technology continues to prove its worth, M&E companies are now making more investments in the development of intelligent enterprises. Higher efficiencies and lower operational costs while staying aligned to business objectives have become their forever goals. The focus is now on digital transformation. As Jennifer Cooper, Global Head of Media and Communications Industry Strategy & Solutions, Microsoft points out, “The disruption created by COVID-19 has agitated the industry into accelerating innovation and digital transformation in areas that were previously only in planning stages of cloud migration. The stage is set for an industry-wide metamorphosis.”

Stringent data privacy measures – As instances of a data breach and misuse of consumer data continue to plague the minds of viewers, M&E companies should invest in disruptive technologies such as AI and Blockchain to protect their identity and also detect and block deepfakes. When leveraged correctly, blockchain offers transparency, immutability, and decentralization to help distinguish between a real and a fake video and verify the legitimacy of content.

  1. Marketing mantras to strike a chord with customers

The way you promote your content can make a world of difference to your M&E business. Here’s what you can do:

Grab their attention – There’s a lot to see when it comes to digital content but consumers will almost always remember how they feel when they engage with the content. For instance, ‘live’ content never disappoints viewers because it gives them the feeling of witnessing everything first hand. Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries for instance asks viewers to share their opinions & findings on episodes aired making the whole experience more engaging and personal.

Go multi-platform – Often overlooked, yet very important for your entertainment app success is to ensure that you meet your customers on different platforms. For instance, non-subscribers will not have access to trailers of upcoming shows and seasons unless you promote them through targeted advertisements and postings on different social media platforms.

Advocate ethical practices – It is important that topical issues are handled with sensitivity. It is becoming increasingly common to participate in societal revolutions one believes in. Make sure that you have content fact-checking policies in place to ensure that you adhere to ethics and transparency and imbibe them well in your brand culture.
Leverage the power of personalization – You can maintain a good rapport with your followers by engaging with them through social media advertisements, push notification strategies, and emailers announcing a new season launch, etc. Without being intrusive, you can connect with them and stay on top of their mind through these simple but effective gestures.

Sharpen your competitive edge with Trigent

It’s easy to reimagine your M&E business growth with a specialist by your side. We can help you chart your digital journey successfully with robust apps designed to succeed while delivering value and experience to consumers consistently. Together, we can study consumer behavior to come up with a more nuanced approach to empower you to lead in this overly crowded market. Our agile technologies at the helm of strategies are just what you need to stay ahead.

Book a consultation today. We’re just a click away.

Rich-Immersive Experiences Driven by AR/VR

2020 has taught us a lot, and among the lessons learned the biggest was the one on social cohesion. It taught us how important it was to restore the in-person sentiment albeit digitally to keep the customer experience delightfully engaging even in these trying times. Brands like Whole Foods for instance, recently went digital to empower customers with that familiar in-store feel. 

Retailers are now adopting advanced tools and technologies with AR/VR (augmented reality) and (virtual reality) at the helm to offer rich, immersive experiences to their customers.

The ground reality

There are countless examples of AR/VR changing customer experiences dramatically for the better. While AR digitally displays information to make sense of the real world, VR helps us understand and experience environments that could otherwise be costly or risky to experience physically. As per the ‘Seeing is believing’ report by PwC, virtual and augmented reality will reach $1.5 trillion and 23 million people globally by 2030 taking the number of people working with AR/VR support to 23.4 million.

AR and VR are adding immense value to the retail sector making way for more immersive storytelling. Jeremy Dalton Head of PwC’s AR/VR team in his book, Reality Check: How Immersive Technologies can Transform your Business says, “AR sacrifices full immersion for a direct connection to the physical world.” It can be helpful in revealing hidden information such as the components that go inside a product. “VR offers the best of all worlds: the ability to create a believable, engaging, and easily repeatable scenario but without the associated cost, disruption, or danger of the real thing,” he adds further.  

The product launch of OnePlus Nord in July 2020 was the first product launch in the world that used the power of AR, and the live cross-continent VR product launch of Jaguar’s all-electric I-PACE wowed one and all. Brands are now looking for more creative ways to integrate AR/VR into their marketing mix. Nike Japan too recently took the imagination of fans to the next level with Create with Air Max – an AR-powered coloring book that allows them to decorate black and white drawings of the shoes and watch their 3-D images float in real-time. 

The retail landscape

A rich, immersive shopping experience is now becoming a retail industry standard. Retailers can absolutely shake up customer experience through AR/VR by personalizing offers and empowering customers to visualize their favorite products in virtual settings. Says Sylvain Fabre, senior research director at Gartner, “Gartner expects that the implementation of 5G and AR/VR in stores will transform not only customer engagement but also the entire product management cycle of brands. 5G can optimize warehouse resources, enhance store traffic analytics and enable beacons that communicate with shoppers’ smartphones.” 

As per the global forecast to 2025 by ResearchAndMarkets.com, the VR market is predicted to grow from USD 6.1 billion in 2020 to USD 20.9 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 27.9% while the AR market is projected to grow from USD 15.3 billion in 2020 to USD 77.0 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 38.1% from 2020 to 2025. Research by Vibrant Media had revealed earlier that 67% of media buyers are keen on using AR/VR in their campaigns while GetApp indicated that 1 in 2 consumers in the UK are willing to use AR technology for shopping. With Apple rumored to be working on the next big thing – a VR headset and AR glasses – AR and VR clearly seem to be on everyone’s mind as they build digital transformation roadmaps. 

AR and VR together are contributing towards rich, immersive, unforgettable customer experiences. They empower retailers to offer:

Virtual try-ons – Prominent fashion labels Gucci and Hilfiger embedded AR into their apps to offer customers greater clarity while shopping by allowing them to digitally superimpose clothes and accessories onto themselves using their smartphone camera. The ability to scale products on their bodies or in their homes gives them better judgment and helps make informed buying decisions. IKEA Place app, for instance, allows customers to virtually place their true-to-scale 3D models in their space to give them the exact feeling of size, design, and functionality. In a crowded retail marketplace, this ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience could be the game-changer you may be looking for. 

In-store experience – It’s something customers are unable to enjoy in current times and a little attention can go a long way. It is the key to forging deeper connections. Retailers need to include AR/VR displays, kiosks, magic mirrors, smart carts, virtual store assistants, and digital fitting rooms depending on the products they sell to make the shopping experience efficient, enjoyable, but contactless. Remember how Levi’s came up with the co-watching video app allowing friends to share screen and shop together? This makes the whole experience not just engaging, but very emotional and intimate. 

Personalization – AR/VR allows unprecedented personalization. By employing marketing strategies that work well for mobile, desktop as well as web platforms, retailers can now offer 3D graphics-rich content for better customer engagement. Retailers can now offer more personalized products, and catalogs with detailed views keeping the individual preferences of customers in mind. Personalization also increases the likelihood of the customer returning to the same retailer for more and the possibility of product returns is also less.

Social media marketing – Social media filters are being used frequently now and Facebook investing heavily in AR/VR is proof that immersive experiences are now part of social media engagement. When used correctly on social media, AR/VR can help create new trends, increase impulse buys, and improve brand engagement. 

Customer engagement – VR has been helping brands offer simulated experiences to customers through different initiatives such as the one by Volvo where they offered a virtual test drive to customers. This initiative provides the brand a fresh engagement touchpoint to connect without having to wait for them to come down for a visit. This kind of positive engagement is just what is needed as we embrace the New Normal.

Productivity – A study published in The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology stated that warehouse pickers could complete orders 37% faster using an AR tool. DHL now has expanded its AR-based ‘vision picking’ program to its warehouses across the globe and those who are already part of the program are seeing 15% greater productivity. Time and cost savings in warehouse operations would mean faster fulfillment of orders, fewer complaints, and lower operational costs.

Create a magical customer experience with Trigent

AR and VR have demonstrated a clear return on investment while offering retailers the means and ways to connect and converse with their customers. At Trigent, we help you create immersive experiences that are intuitive and data-rich while putting your customer needs at the core of every initiative. It’s time you embraced the many possibilities AR and VR have to offer to unlock moments of delight for your customers. Allow us to help you push the standards a little higher.

Call us today for a consultation.

Technology Trends That Will Reshape Retail in 2021

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2020 pivoted the world to everything digital. Everything-from-home became the new norm, and we reimagined new ways to function this year. It was no different for shopping – eCommerce came to everybody’s rescue. Although online shopping is not new, it took center stage. Consumer-facing technology saved the day, and digital payments, telehealth, cloud-native apps, etc., are now mainstream in the AI-driven world.

Adobe recently revealed comprehensive insights on consumer spending and eCommerce based on some of the top retailers’ eCommerce transactions in real-time. The Black Friday sales figures touched a whopping $9.0 billion, a record high indicating an increase of 21.6% compared to last year. Taylor Schreiner, Director of Adobe Digital Insights, stated, “We are seeing strong growth as consumers continue to move shopping from offline to online this year. New consoles, phones, smart devices, and TVs that are traditional Black Friday purchases are sharing online shopping cart space this year with unorthodox Black Friday purchases such as groceries, clothes, and alcohol, that are usually purchased in-store.”

Digital penetration is now irreversible and will continue to navigate retail trends through 2021 and beyond. Here’s a quick lowdown on technology trends that will reshape retail in 2021.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will ensure an immersive consumer experience

Retailers leverage augmented reality to shift the focus from features and benefits to an immersive retail experience enabling young and restless millennials to choose better. While apparel companies went all out with their AR fitting rooms to help choose according to body type, beauty technology leader Sephora came up with magic mirrors in stores and mobile apps to enable consumers to see how the myriad make-up treatments and colors looked on them.

On the other hand, IKEA allowed consumers to place catalog items at scale in their homes to make better buying decisions. In a technology-driven world, the augmented reality and virtual reality market are predicted to touch 16.1 billion by 2025 globally, underlining a 48.8% CAGR for the forecast period 2020-2025.

Having tasted a shift in consumer behaviors, One Aldwych Hotel in London, in collaboration with Dalmore Whisky, treated their consumers to a distillery experience with VR. They offered a VR whisky cocktail that allowed them to visit the distillery, albeit virtually to see the barrels and the water and the fields that went into its making. To ensure deeper engagement and take out the loneliness from virtual shopping, brands now allow you to co-shop with your friends by helping consumers share product views and experiences. Popular brand Lego has created digital shopping assistants to make the whole experience a lot more exciting. These assistants even make personalized gift recommendations to take the digital shopping experience a notch higher.

After launching its Shopify AR to help businesses curate more immersive shopping experiences, Shopify also confirmed that interactions with products having 3D/A.R. content have a 94% higher conversion rate compared to those without it.

Retailers are also becoming more experiential, indulging in what we call ‘retailtainment’ where experience becomes immersive and memorable. For instance, Marvel invited fans into their cinematic world through interactive displays and real-life movie props at their touring Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.

Virtual Assistants for 24×7 Customer Service

Retailers are leveraging chatbots and virtual assistants to interact with their consumers while robots lurk outside warehouses to manage inventory. AI-powered voice recognition technology is also playing a significant role in adding value to the whole shopping experience.

Retailers are also deploying mobile CRM to engage consumers with offers, discounts, reward points, loyalty programs, style alerts, etc. According to Forrester statistics, 50% of teams saw an increase in productivity after using mobile CRM. An IDC study predicts AI-powered CRM activities could increase global business revenues by $1.1 trillion by 2021, drawing attention to the extensive role AI plays in driving customer conversations and influencing customer behavior.

Hybrid Apps enable retailers to reach a wider audience, grow the market

As consumers continue to rely on smartphones for all their needs, hybrid apps play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between brands and consumers. They are pocket-friendly and work exceedingly well for small businesses too. Brands are now relying on messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to engage with customers.

Hybrid apps have caught the fancy of retailers because they are a multi-platform app development option, unlike native, that focus on a single platform. Hybrid apps have a single code that applies to both Android and iOS, saving developers valuable time. Besides, it is also advantageous as developers can maintain, update, and upgrade by making changes in just one set of code instead of multiple code sets, delivering an at par customer experience across platforms.

Social Commerce and influencer marketing will enhance reach and value

A recent survey revealed 41% of respondents admitted to shopping online for stuff they would normally buy in stores. The recent introduction of Facebook shops is a classic example of the growing popularity of social commerce in the personalized shopping arena in the digital world. Social commerce is now becoming an integral part of ecommerce and is clearly here to stay.

With social commerce on the rise, the influencer game is stronger than ever. It has now transitioned from selfies and clever photo edits to unique influencer video content that connects, educates, and entertains. IGTV, Instagram Reels, and Instagram Live are all playing a major role in helping brands build solid digital communities through shared interests. Fitness experts for instance conduct live workout sessions on Instagram Live and then publish the same on IGTV for those who couldn’t tune into livestream.

Contactless is the buzzword now

A safe, seamless, frictionless experience is what we need. Contactless payments, contactless delivery and pickup, seamless checkouts, 1:1 in-store appointments, contactless checkout and delivery, and click-and-collect services are all crucial steps in that direction. Also, the fear of contamination has encouraged retailers to deploy drone technology to ensure the fastest delivery. Retailers are working in tandem with fintech companies to build better transactional models for quick, contactless payments.

Contactless mobile payments are in high demand, especially in this period of crisis. Consumers carrying their cards tend to spend more than those with cash in their wallets that often limit their purchasing power. Contactless payments are not just a fad but have greater staying power for the sheer speed, security, and convenience they offer. Those who have failed to adopt them have lost business. As per the 2020 Holiday Spending Insights Report by NMI, 43% of consumers avoided retailers that did not offer contactless payments. Tap-to-pay cards are popular, so are mobile wallets such as Google Pay and Apple Pay.

Make your retail business future-ready with Trigent

The retail environment is changing at a rapid pace. Clearly, brands are going out of the way to redefine the possible and are winning the game in the midst of the pandemic. It is important to go omnichannel to provide best-in-class experiences to consumers across touchpoints because the online and offline worlds converge.

Serve your customers efficiently by accelerating the adoption of the latest developments in technology. Capitalize on Trigent’s market experience to incorporate the best practices and implement solutions right the first time. With its comprehensive suite of IT Services offerings, Trigent is your go-to partner for all your IT digital evolution requirements.

Contact our Solutions Specialists today. Request a demo now.