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Posts Tagged ‘e-commerce

Artificial intelligence gives us more and more opportunities every day. Chatbots and their developing for client-communication are the hottest topics today. Many experts say that chatbots are the future. Let’s get a short review.
 
Who are they?

Chatbots are essentially programs pretending to be people that you can interact with through text or even voice. They are closely connected with a wide messenger’s distribution and I believe everyone has been already acquainted with them. It’s obvious that chat- bots’ popularity is starting to take off.
 
How can they enhance e-commerce?

1. First of all chat bot doesn’t get tired, being late or absent – it assists your clients 24/7 365 days per year and get significant workload on its shoulders. That is why they seem to be the best answer for e-commerce business owners to manage thousands of one-to-one conversations with customers.

2. The second point is that chat bots can understand natural language and communicate with people in the same manner making conversations realistic and trustworthy. So chat bots give online shop owners an opportunity to provide pleasant shopping experience for customers.

3. Chatbots are proactive. They can understand what the particular customer wants not only through a simple conversation, but also through analysis and collecting of personal and profile page data ( smartphone data, cookies and so on). All this information might help to improve the marketing strategy and provide customers with the best user experience.

4. Additionally, chatbots simply save customers’ time. You don’t need to waste time for searching the appropriate item, click on mass of characteristics, study a market and etc. You can simply say : Hey, I want to buy an efficient computer for my child. Bot does it for you with a great pleasure and at a quick pace.

5. Finally, all this points give more advantages for businesses: services become much more better and faster, the conversion becomes higher, sales increase, operational costs and salary charges reduce.

 

 
Fresh examples of using

The most outstanding example is already occurring in China, where consumers are using WeChat to fulfill their daily living and commerce needs. Soon, this system will gain prominence in the United States.

Further more brands like Walmart and Hyatt are testing customer service and shopping within apps on the new Facebook Messenger for Business App. A free messaging app, called Kik, has a bot shop for companies such as Sephora, Vine, and H&M. So it can be said that the part of the technology is already there.

Amazon’s voice bot messaging has brought the idea of personal assistant to the next level. Customers can talk to the bot and ask it to order items through Amazon Prime, get a pizza, purchase flowers and call for an Uber. Voice commands are making shopping easier than ever, but there are still many issues to work out.

 

 
What’s Coming in the Future?

Voice-based AI and mobile chatbots are the dominant trend right now, but it’s not crazy to think that this could evolve into something more personal and user-based. E-commerce data is there to help you segment and automate email messaging to certain customers, so it’s not silly to assume that this data will eventually merge with bots.

Imagine a personalized bot that talks to you, and only you, when you shop on the Target website. They’d know the last items you bought, deliver the most relevant products and even stock your shopping cart with suggestions. The days of taking hours to shop online will soon knock the pad. In the near future, all the work will be done for you.

Are you ready for this?
 

Kate Kviatkovskaya

Kate Kviatkovskaya

Business Development Manager

E-mail: Kate.Kviatkovskaya@altabel.com
Skype: kate.kviatkovskaya
LI Profile: Kate Kviatkovskaya

 
altabel

Altabel Group

Professional Software Development

E-mail: contact@altabel.com
www.altabel.com

Do you remember the first Pong arcades with unsophisticated graphics launched nearly 30 years ago? Since then video games have become an instant hit among youngsters. However the technology is improving at a rapid space and computer graphics are pushing the limits of photorealism. Today scientists and engineers are integrating the graphics from your television and computer screens into real-world environments. This advanced technology is called Augmented Reality or AR for short, which is about overlaying pieces of a virtual world over the real world (in contrast to Virtual Reality (VR) that is about replacing the real world with a virtual one). AR is a beautiful blend of digital and real images enhancing what we see, feel and smell or hear, e.g. you can point your camera at a movie poster and watch its trailer, or you look at the sky and ask for the weather and it gives you that information. So, basically AR comes down to the following three vital questions: where to display, what and how. Let’s find out.

Let me start with the last question: “How?” Below I’m going to itemize five of the numerous AR tools that exist at the moment and that can be used to develop apps for smart-phones, tablets or even smart-glasses.

  1. DroidAR is a free and commercial framework that gives location-based AR functionality to Android apps. For instance, gesture detection or support for static and animated 3-D objects that the user can interact with like clicking on them. Another vivid appliance is marker detection. It’s a part of the functionality offered by DroidAR, however the documentation that exists for the project is under fulfilled. Nevertheless there is a section on the project README file on GitHub that gives an overview of a closed-source version of DroidAR, DroidAR 2. Compared to its open-source fetch it has impressive improvements.
  2. Vuforia is available for Android, iOS and Unity. It has become the industry leading AR platform – with 10s of thousands of apps, and 100s of millions of app installs. The main Vuforia SDK features are multi-target detection and tracking (e.g. images, English text, objects), virtual buttons. There is also a version of the SDK for smart glasses (namely Epson Moverio BT-200, Samsung GearVR, and ODG R-6 and R-7). That is currently open for early access applications from experienced developers.
  3. Wikitude AR SDK is available for Android, iOS, Smartphone, Tablet, Smart Glasses, Cordova, Titanium, Xamarin. Wikitude’s all-in-one AR solution includes image recognition and tracking, 3D model rendering, video overlay, location based AR and so much more.
  4. With the help of AR Browser SDK you can add and remove POIs without refreshing the view, interact with them by touching them or pointing the camera to them and perform activity on them, for instance send SMS or share on Facebook. AR browser SDK is available for Android as well as for iOS. The mail features include 2D POIs, custom callback on clicked POI or on centered POI, video support, great performance and memory management, customized elements: pop up label, radar and radar dots, very simple interface API for developers, start and stop functions to prevent memory or battery starvation and finally check sample code.
  5. Metaio SDK is a perfect tool for developing AR apps on Windows PC, Mac OS and in Unity. You can deploy apps for iOS and Android. Metaio’s functionalities are 2-D image, location tracking, 3-D object, barcode and QR code scanning, continuous visual online and offline search and gesture detection. Moreover, Metaio has also created its own AR. It allows software engineers to develop AR apps using typical web technologies (HTML5, XML, Javascript) and deploy them passim.

Hope I gave a full answer to the question “How?” and now let’s move to the questions “Where? and What?”. The yesteryear AR usage was limited mostly to military applications, which were designed to give helicopter pilots and ship captains more definite methods of acquiring targets and tracking enemy movement. Nowadays, tech companies have an entirely new vision for the opportunities that augmented reality provides, hoping that with advances in computing power and miniaturization, soon the number of people wearing an AR-capable device will compete the same stats we see with smartphone ownership in 2015.

According to the prognosis by 2017 more than 3.5 billion AR applications will be downloaded, 600 billion dollars will be spent in AR technology revenues by 2016 and Compound Annual Growth Rate of global AR market will make up 132%. But if you still can’t figure out where you will be able to use this bleeding-edge technology, I will point out some real ways where people all over the world from different spheres such as medicine, public service and finances will benefit from AR adoption.

  • Digital Marketing. AR use in digital marketing is notably appealing. It’s recognized as an enhanced marketing application, as not only can additional content be put within 2D advertisement, but also can result as interactive, awesome and high viral potential eye-catching tool. Key digital aspects: advergaming, Augmented packaging, interactive consumer products, street marketing and geolocalized apps. As a rule consumers react very positively to amusing and ingenious marketing. Thus the brands become memorable.
  • Customer service. Nobody likes to call to a customer support and listen to the endless scripts recited by a rep. However in the future if you have any problems with setting up TV or the cables cut off, the customer support can come to you. Imagine having a service technician come to your house to fix your washing machine. He’ll point his head-up display at the washer. A camera will capture the model number and then upload it to the corporate cloud. That will prompt a download of schematics and instructions, along with an overlaid virtual-reality view of the machine’s components on his display. So instead of hearing generic instructions, like “Press the red button” and “recheck the port,” someone could walk you through the process and see the things you’re seeing, enabling the customer service rep to point things out in more detailed, visual way and helping problems get solved in a more efficient way.
  • E-commerce and M-commerce. AR can offer a virtual fitting room where clothes can be tried on live. It gives you a chance to browse a virtual catalog of clothes, shop directly within your favorite magazine, or go to a virtual store and avoid the queues. Rosenthal of Goldrun, the creator of an AR pop-up shop for Airwalk in a New York City park says:” Augmented reality is going to radically change the shape of commerce.”  AR can turn such public places as parks and airports into shopping centers. It’s a perfect way to kill time and a clever way for business owners to economize money on commercial real estate.) However even real shops could benefit from integrating AR into their design. They could display their items that will be on shelves soon, or items that aren’t sold at that location – and soon you’ll even be able to feel these items with the help of your phone. It’s obvious for everyone that augmented reality could juice up window displays and cut costs.
  • Urban Exploration. Are you in a new neighborhood or in an unknown city? You can throw away your guidebook and turn on AR-application with real time display of enhanced maps. Acting as a GPS, Augmented Reality provides classified and suggestive information that you are looking for whether it’s a restaurant, bar, grocery store or museum and library, etc. And another awesome way to explore your city – or any city -is to overlay 3D maps that show what the city looked like at any point in history. If you’re walking down Broadway, you would be able to “see” horse-drawn carriages parked on the street in front of old parlors. It’d be as if you were walking in a history book.
  • Educational resources. Seeing the potential for AG in educational sphere isn’t hard. Education will be emphasized by Augmented Reality systems and can be used to re-create historical events, activate regular books into 3D images, or even present structures of the galaxy; all superimposed in real-time. So when viewed through the lens of smartphones one can see the picture of an engine animated in an engineering textbook or a working 3D model of a beating heart that you can walk around of rotate by hand.
  • Rescue and Safety operations. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid emergencies in our life. Rescuers, firefighters and policemen very often find themselves in a chaotic situation where they need to make sense of the environment and navigate a place they’ve never been. Wouldn’t it be great if they could see a virtual map of the site or have “X-ray vision” to see sewage or power lines?

While some years ago there was a vast debate about its foreseen impact on society, today AR applications are becoming mainstream. There are apps that allow a museum exhibit to tell its own story, that help you decide which furniture looks better in your bedroom, that bring a tiger you just drew on a piece of paper into life, or that warn you about all the signs you ignored while you were driving. These are examples of already available apps that provide some sort of AR functionality. The one thing is for sure is that smartphone population is rising, thus the level of processing power as well. As long as the resulting augmented content remains engaging and innovative, consumers will certainly adopt augmented reality as a new and fun twist to conventional marketing and services.

Besides I would like to notice that the new era of true digital immersion is waiting just over the next horizon and now is a perfect time to implement AR technologies into your business. It is now up to you – developers, designers, entrepreneurs, scientists, educators, investors, artists, marketers, hackers, journalists, and more – to bring the augmented reality experience to consumers in a fun, productive – and lucrative way. If you have already tried it, you are welcome to share your experience in comments. If not, it will be interesting to know what predictions you have re AR. What is your opinion? Please, feel free to share your thought below.

Thank you for your attention 🙂

P.S. By the way, did u know that in 1901 author L.Frank Baum first mentioned electronic display spectacles overlaying data onto real life, in 1975 television weather reports were the 1st application of AR on TV, in 1989 the term “virtual reality” was coined by Jaron Laanier, today AR is already used by Boeing, BMW and Volkswagen on assembly lines and in the nearest future AR contact lenses will be implemented to the United States Military.

 

Anastasiya Zakharchuk

Anastasiya Zakharchuk

Business Development Manager

E-mail: anastasiya.presnetsova@altabel.com
Skype: azakharchuk1
LI Profile: Anastasiya Zakharchuk

 

altabel

Altabel Group

Professional Software Development

E-mail: contact@altabel.com
www.altabel.com

The digital age has changed customer behavior forever. They have no patience with 9 to 5 and they’re shredding the concept of after-hours and weekends. They have a voice, and that voice demands to be heard whenever, wherever.

Working hours, what’s that?

Banks—previously such strict observers of “working hours” all over the globe—have risen to the challenge by embracing technology. Net banking and ATMs have virtually done away with the need to visit those hallowed brick-and-mortar portals. Mobile payments are being made directly from person to person, minimizing the need for even small amounts of cash. While this is great news for all of us as individuals, the risk for the bank is that it becomes a marginal player in the life of the valued customer.

Let’s take a look at E-commerce. This is the case with several consumer-facing industries, such as cloth, books, groceries, appliances, furniture and such—all of which can be ordered online and delivered while you are away at work. No interface or face-to-face conversation with the company required.  Especially when you’re working from home, you meet the shipping company rep rather than someone from the company you ordered the goods from.  This is perfectly okay for the average buyer, except when something goes wrong!

Say you ordered blue curtains, but what you saw is not what you got. Colors on the digital screen often look different than when seen off-screen. Simply returning what’s arrived is not the solution. Speaking to someone and explaining what you had in mind so you get the right product is. This means that online dealers need to have someone customers can have a live discussion with. Beyond a live agent, online dealers more than ever are finding customers who expect to engage in live conversations any time of the day. Research by Social Bakers, an agency that measures how well brands perform in terms of social customer care, found that the number of questions asked on brand pages on Facebook has increased by 85 percent over the last year, and that airlines had the best response rate of answering 79 percent of these promptly. “Working hours” is not a phrase that works anymore.

Engage, not enrage
Companies selling anything at all cannot afford to be out of touch with their customers. So while digitization may keep the consumer from physically visiting you, it has also forged a path for newer ways in which to meet up through social media. Businesses are following their clients where they go, meeting them where they hang out, not in their offices but online.

Have you noticed that the online store you bought something from recently keeps popping up not only when you google something but also on all kinds of websites that you visit? That’s because The Web knows and tracks your online preferences. Personally, I find pop-ups asking to indulge in a live chat very intrusive—it’s like a store attendant following you everywhere and asking, “Can I help you?”  While it’s good to know there’s someone who can answer your queries, nobody likes to be stalked.

Smart businesses know how to keep track of the customer without being obviously there.

Keeping them engaged is in fact a bigger challenge than ever before since your customer can close that communication window with just a click.

Fly with the experts

Let us take an example of an airline that’s effectively engaging with customers. Lufthansa has its fingers on the pulse of the customer, and potential ones, through an enviable Facebook presence. Contests, events, quizzes all have earned the airline something every self-respecting Facebooker looks for—likes! Over 300,000 likes (on the India page alone), and if even a small percentage decides to fly with it because of the online excitement generated, that’s a big win.

Understandably, retailers and consumer-facing companies have a big Facebook presence. Coca-cola, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Walmart, Levi’s, Target, Nike, Kohl’s are among those that have the highest number of likes. Twitter accounts of many of these companies also have a very, very large number of followers. Clearly, they have managed to reach out effectively to their potential customers using social media.

What to outsource!?

These are still early days for outsourcing social media marketing and engagement, but it makes sense to outsource at least some of your efforts to begin with. Look holistically at your social media marketing plans and start by assessing what skills you have in-house and skills you are lacking. You may decide to start with getting the design and development built by an outsourcer to get your framework up front.

Other areas to consider include:

Savvy social media writers may be a skill your current writing team lacks, so content writing could be a place with clear payback. If you’re content doesn’t attract and maintain customers, you could be doing more harm than good to your brand.

Analytics can easily be done by a third-party and is probably the least vulnerable to subjectivity. That will save precious resources that you can deploy towards strategizing and hiring in-house of local experts to manage the customer community.

Customer experience management or customer care is another area to consider, especially if your customers are global and resident in different time zones. Be cautious to consider outsourcers who understand your business and your customer engagement model.  Since the outsourcer will be “you” during customer interactions, you need to feel confident they can successfully represent your brand.

Needless to say, do monitor what’s going on closely enough so you can step in when necessary. The important thing now is to be open for business all the time. Not just 24/7 but 24/7/365 and even up to 366 in a leap year!  Business process outsourcing companies are gearing up to meet the demand when it arises. That will finally help harried executives to get their well-earned weekend off to do their own personal networking, online or otherwise.

Testing could be outsourced. Minimizing risks and cost either manual testing or automotive one can easily be performed by third party.

Recently we could see the most prospective and fast growing social spheres that potentially need and could outsource a big part of them. There are:

–   Banking /finance

–   Mobile development sectorE-commerce

–   E-commerce

–   Medical/health care

–   Tourism

Has your organization outsourced marketing and customer engagement yet?

Polina Mikhan

Polina Mikhan
Polina.Mikhan@altabel.com 
Skype ID: poly1020
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Ecommerce is a term used to denote a type of business where purchasing , selling and exchanging goods and services is conducted over electronic systems such as Internet and other computer networks. Since 1991, the year when the Internet became open for commercial use, it has become possible for customers to electronically exchange goods and services with no barriers of time or distance and e-commerce has started to develop.

If you would like to implement an ecommerce website it can be useful to take a look at the following list of open source ecommerce CMS which can help you to select the appropriate ecommerce platform for your project/s.

In my article I’ve tried to perform some investigation and identify what are the advantages and disadvantages of these CMSs. So let’s have a closer look at the list J:

1) Magento takes the first place. The coding is based on the latest PHP 5 object oriented coding standards and Zend framework. Without doubt, the platform is a huge success thanks to its feature-rich administration panel, huge flexibility over the design, layout, control and feel and other qualities allow to handle large inventories, more complex functionality, big number of in-built features and themes and exceptional technical support. Also I`d like to draw your attention to the fact that Varian, the company that backs the cart is very active in updating the code and fixing bugs. All these factors make Magento a truly established leader in ecommerce software that powers some of the most innovative ecommerce stores online. But as you know , there is always a fly in the ointment and this CMS has a couple of disadvantages: it requires a good high end server; has heavily layered and overly complicated coding style; requires a lot of time to learn and do customizations; it`s fairly slow. However all these disadvantages do not prevent Magento of being on the first place in our list.

2) X-Cart. It is one of the most competitively priced and easy to modify e-commerce platforms. X-Cart is commercially supported and has very few bugs (I doubt if there are any indeed), it uses smarty templates system which many programmers like to work with for laying out the web site. Unfortunately the solution has licensing fees for system and some add-on modules and the price can be really high. However the core open source platform can be downloaded for free (either X-Cart Gold or X-Cart Pro).

3) Zen Cart – I may call – the art of e-commerce. Free, user-friendly e-commerce software. The ecommerce web site design program was created by a group of like-minded shop owners, who believed that the projects and design eCommerce-sites could and should be different. Zen Cart has a very nice wide array of features based on Oscommerce but has gone its own path. It has no licensing fees, it is stable, has many Oscommerce contributions already installed, and all these factors certainly please the audience. Still sometimes it`s not possible to use Oscommerce contributions, because they must be converted to Zen Cart, and the admin interface may seem a little messy in certain areas because of contributions installed.

4) OpenCart is an open source PHP-based online shopping cart system. The CMS offers an ‘out of the box’ solution with minimal manual intervention and configuration. OpenCart is an excellent choice for anyone looking to get started with selling online quickly and easily, with a wide array of extensions, both free and paid too, there is plenty of opportunity to customise your store cost effectively to suit your business needs. Their own website is clean, easy to navigate, clear and concise – plus easy to find support, tips or anything else you might be looking for. And as such, you can find similar practice deployed into their ecommerce software.

5) PrestaShop. It is the most reliable, flexible Open-source e-commerce software and one of the most favoured solutions for businesses when diving into the etail world. It’s highly recommended by the users. Using this CMS you can even manage and edit your products and images with the WYSIWYG editing tool and also customise your online store and send and receive payments to your PayPal or bank account. Still the core Prestashop lacks many of the basic fundamentals of ecommerce, it also provides the core install with a ridiculous amount of modules already plugged into the system (whether you want them or not), some of which have been half integrated into the core rather than relying of the 3rd party developers module CSS or JavaScript. There are also countless bugs and issues with the core.

6) osCommerce – a solution for creating an online store. It is free under the GNU General Public License . The product includes a lot of opportunities “in the box” (has the most available number of contributions and modifications, recent security update brings osCommerce up to date with MySQL 5 and PHP 5), allowing the owners of online stores to install, configure and maintain the service with a minimum of effort for free and without restrictions. Still it can take a lot of time and money to install all the contributions the customer wants (add-ons), and there is no graphic template system that means it is harder to modify the design.

7) Nopcommerce. Nopcommerce is a relatively new script online store and it is ASP.Net solution . I may tell you in confidence J that one of our recent projects was connected with this CMS: we`ve transferred the e-shop to Nopcommerce CMS with the possibility for synchronization of data from the web service (here you may find the description of the project). During the project implementation we noticed such advantages of the system as ease of deployment, integration of live chat, text messages on sales and contacts. Still a couple of little disadvantages were taken into consideration too: Microsoft licensing is required, the platform has some bugs needed to be fixed and support is rather weak.

Hope it will be of interest and helpful to you, in case your experience shows another picture and you have anything to add, I will be happy to read about your comments. 🙂

Elvira Golyak

Elvira Golyak
Elvira.Golyak@altabel.com
Skype ID: elviragolyak
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

It seems online marketplaces are cropping up everywhere. The most successful examples are of course Amazon’s Marketplace, eBay, Apple’s App Store, and Valve’s Steamworks. In 2011 E-commerce displayed resilient growth and is supposed to grow steadily in 2012
One of the leading technology-focused research and consulting firm, Forrester, recently provided a report on European e-commerce and its future development across 17 major European markets. Overall, online European retail sales are forecast to grow 12.2 percent annually, reaching a total value of 230.4 billion U.S. dollars by 2016.

While e-commerce is set to increase across all major European markets, the highest compound annual growth rates will be seen in countries like Spain and Italy where consumers so far have been more resilient to embrace online shopping.Although the U.K. and Germany will remain Europe’s two largest online economies through 2016, Sweden and the Netherlands come out on top as the countries with the highest percentage of online shoppers by 2016, with 86% and 85% Judging by the reports of the total online population making purchases through this channel, respectively.

So it turns out that e-commerce can be considered a quite perspective sector. So what trends will influence and fuel the e-commerce sphere in the next years

1) T-Commerce and M-Commerce (Touch and Mobile Commerce) – In 2011, web enabled mobile devices transformed E-commerce. They opened up a new 24/7 channel to the consumer. There appeared new innovative ways to attract customers, from QR codes to location based offers. T-commerce is the trend that will be particularly exciting in 2012. Gartner predicts that by 2013, smart mobile web devices will overtake the total number of PCs in use, exceeding 1.8 billion. With 1.8 billion consumers just a click away, this too big an opportunity for retailers to miss.

2) Shopping with your social network – Getting a second opinion before committing to a purchase is nothing new, but now instead of taking a friend shopping you can take your entire social network with you. Retailers are becoming increasingly aware of the power of “the fan” and social will form an integral part of the E-commerce evolution in the next few years.

3) Online shopping gets personal – Gone are the days, when retailers tracked consumer behavior based on loyalty points. Today’s online retailers can acquire huge volumes of data on both their potential and existing customers based on user browsing habits alone. In 2012 data exchange between retailers and social networks will begin to provide solid business models for social platforms and offer new insights into the psyche of the shopper. What matters most to retailers however is how their marketing teams translate this wealth of data into meaningful and timely communications with customers.

4) Borderless shopping communities – 2012 will see the rise of the local global e-marketplace. In 2012, international marketplace models will provide sellers of all sizes around the world with the opportunity to expand their operations internationally, without the cost intensive outlay traditionally associated with establishing local delivery models, storage facilities etc. Sellers will be able to dabble in international shopping communities and dedicate resources based on real-world demand.

5) Flexible, Local shipping models – According to a report by Forrester in January 2011, shipping issues were one of the most common reasons for cart abandonment in Europe. It’s true that the internet has created a global marketplace, but local market shopping preferences must be taken into account. In 2012, flexible shopping models will be vital for growth, as evidenced by the growing popularity of the click & collect phenomenon, which accounted for 10.4% of all E-commerce sales in the UK this Christmas according to the IMRG.

That were the trends that we consider will get more and more popularity in e-commerce. What other trends can you add to the list that you think will gain popularity in the next few years?

Kind Regards,
Anna Kozik
Altabel Group – professional software development


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