Part 3 of a three-part series on the “Future of Ecommerce Search”
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Artificial intelligence. Chatbots. Voice search. Virtual reality. Self-driving cars. Technology in 2017 and beyond sure promises to be exciting for consumers. For tech-centric businesses, these trends can be game-changing for those who adapt and overwhelming for those who struggle to keep up. As with all tech waves, disruption will follow close at heel and winners and losers will be anointed when the dust settles.
In this three-part series, we take a look at one niche in particular that is poised for change — product search in Ecommerce. That is, the process by which consumers discover and purchase products online, and the digital interfaces that they use to express intent. In part 1, we look at how the Ecommerce search experience is likely to evolve for consumers in the coming years. In part 2, we look at the technology that will enable these changes. In part 3, the final installment, we take a look at how these changes will affect the ecosystem of Ecommerce businesses, especially online retailers and the companies that support them.
Star Trek is a beautiful show. Its vision of a possible style of future for mankind — one in which society is brought together by science and technology — also envisions a future where we explore new frontiers with the best in tech.
If you like Star Trek, you’re probably also a fan of the gadgets that appear on the show — voice interface devices, replicators, holodecks and tricorders.
Have you ever wondered about how these devices came to be? Or about who invented these gadgets? And which companies manufactured them? Were these people elevated in the hierarchy in recognition of their efforts? Did these companies mint a proverbial fortune? And what happened to those who were vested in older technology when newer gadgets were invented?
Now that a lot of this Trekkie technology is upon us (as discussed in part 1 and part 2), we’d like to explore these little asked questions, except in our present day context. What will happen to the innovators and companies of today? Who will these people be, and how is it going to affect the incumbents?
This article answers these questions, in the form of ten tech trends that are likely to play out in the coming years.
1. “What is your AI strategy?”
Get ready to hear this question in board rooms, meeting rooms and earnings calls at small and large businesses alike.
Just as mobile did in the ’00s and the Internet did in the ’90s, the AI wave will force everybody to react.
For retailers, the countdown on this has already started. Amazon has already taken massive strides forward, not least with the introduction of Amazon Echo and AWS-centric AI initiatives like Lex, Polly and Rekognition.
Those who start now will already find that they are playing catch up.
2. First-Mover Advantage
Companies that place big bets on the right technology trends will win, and win big. Here’s why.
First, early entrants will have the opportunity to control entire ecosystems, the way Amazon has with voice-controlled devices, and thereby become the gatekeepers who decide which companies are allowed to thrive in their playground.
Second, consumers will likely identify new technologies with the brands that bring them to market, allowing for the erection of barriers to entry centered on brand recognition.
Finally, the time period between the delivery of an a-ha experience, and competitors’ ability to react by providing an equivalent experience, can be sufficient to win over customers who were previously loyal to competitors.
3. The Hiring Scramble
Engineers and data-scientists will help bridge the gap between strategy and execution in technology, and thus be in high demand.
The company with the best talent pool will have a leg-up against its competitors when it comes to being able to realize its vision. This demand, coupled with a scarcity of top-quality talent, is likely to trigger a hiring war and send salaries spiking.
Add to the mix the fact that really top talent tends to flock together, and you will start seeing late entrants to these markets struggle or overpay to keep up.
4. Eggs, Baskets and Acquisitions
Expect to see a lot of strategic bets and M&A activity.
Larger companies will be able to concurrently place bets on multiple tech trends due to the depth of their resources. By spreading their eggs in many baskets, they will be able to, at the very least, stay in touch.
Smaller companies, on the other hand, will have two choices — either bet big on one technology and setup a high risk high reward scenario, or play it conservative and rely on a wave of third-party APIs and apps to carry them through.
As trends become clearer, larger companies will switch to acquisition-mode to either catch up or accelerate execution. As a result, we will start seeing a lot of old-school businesses setting up and doubling down on “tech labs”.
5. Data will be King, Once Again
As they start executing on their AI strategies, companies around the world will come to the realization that AI isn’t about intelligent algorithms alone.
It takes more than just engineers, data scientists and a cluster of GPUs to get good results. The secret ingredient is data, lots of it, of high quality and significant structure.
The importance of good data is oftentimes glossed over in favor of more glamorous aspects of model building.
This isn’t aided by the fact that the research domain is flush with high-quality off-the-shelf training datasets.
When it comes to product execution though, data matters as much as anything else.
6. New Ecosystem of Apps and APIs
An ecosystem of apps and APIs will emerge to cater to the standard problems that all companies will face, namely:
- The need to translate natural language into intent, and
- The need to make sense of unstructured or low-quality data.
Each cog in the ecosystem will provide momentum for the others to turn. For instance, companies that wish to build voice apps will run into the problem of making sense of language.
Once the language has been understood, the need to have better data to make sense of user requests will emerge, and so on.
Innovation at one layer will fuel innovation at the rest.
7. Data Capture
Many retailers will realize that they simply haven’t been capturing the sort of data that they should have been.
The need for this data will become more apparent, triggering another wave of investments into analytics companies.
8. Marketing Waves
Having invested in new technologies, retailers will actively market these new products to their existing customers.
Promotions and discounts for making purchases via these new platforms will become common, just as they were in the days when retailers actively sought increased adoption of their mobile apps.
And it’s already happening, with Amazon handing out discounts if you order using the Alexa shop-by-voice.
These marketing efforts will play a crucial role in carrying many of these new products beyond the early adopter curve.
9. Security and Privacy
Expect to read a lot about cyber attacks, privacy violations and data breaches in the coming years, for two reasons.
One, in an attempt to launch the latest greatest features at the earliest, some companies will make compromises on security. Doing their part in maintaining Murphy’s law, malicious players will step in to exploit these loopholes and harvest exposed personal and financial data.
Two, the line between helpful and creepy is very thin when it comes to personalized AI. As we go through the turbulent process of establishing new digital norms, several companies might find themselves on the wrong side of the divide.
10. Transformed Landscape
When the storm blows over, some will find that they were too slow to react and some will have stolen a march.
Very few will find themselves rooted to where they were before it all began. This will have a noticeable impact on market caps and will have minted fortunes for startups and venture capitalists.
As with all forecasts, luck, randomness and unknown factors are likely to play a significant role in determining whether the future plays out exactly as we see it.
What is a given, however, is that technology driven change is going to be a constant in the Ecommerce landscape for years to come.
As an active player in this market through our API and analytics offerings, we at Semantics3 are quite excited to see what lies in store in the coming years.
Like what you read? Before you go ..
Sign-up for a demo on our website: www.semantics3.comWe have several Ecommerce Knowledge, Data and AI APIs in private beta at the moment. If you want early access to what we have in store, schedule a call with us.
Semantics3 is hiring AI engineers in Bengaluru. If you’re interested, email us at email@example.com
If you have thoughts on these trends that you’d like to share, drop me a note.
Semantics3 operates the world’s largest Ecommerce product database. We’re a trusted and reliable provider of ready-to-use structured Ecommerce product pricing and metadata, with coverage on all of the top 800 internet retailers.
Written by Govind Chandrasekhar and the Semantics3 Team in Bengaluru, Singapore, and San Francisco