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Frictionless Commerce: Why You Need To Hide Your Wallet (From Yourself)

From AI to AR, the way we shop is changing

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BY Tricia V. Morente - 10 Jul 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In this era of the empowered consumer where the shopper is steering the direction in which the e-commerce industry is going, the race is on for brands to deliver the best customer experience.

Often, as the smartphone is now an extended appendage of the average Southeast Asian consumer, most of these transactions are happening on mobile. “The Southeast Asian consumer’s smartphone addiction is real,” states this Deloitte report, and it’s a pattern especially pronounced in Singapore where over 70% of respondents reported using their phones on public transport.

While the same report reveals payment- and money-related activities have yet to completely take off, there’s no doubting its market potential. In fact, a recent Nielsen survey forecasts the region’s middle-class population to more than double to 400 million by 2020, adding that “the emergence of a strong consumer appetite” provides a promising outlook for businesses of all sizes looking to get a piece of the e-commerce pie.

Buyer-Seller Relations: It’s not complicated

These days, there isn’t as much hesitation and reluctance among Southeast Asian shoppers to buy everything from footwear and clothing, to plane tickets and music albums, and even the occasional plant (for Plants Vs. Zombies), online.

One of the main drivers has been increasingly friction-free commerce, where interactions between platforms and consumers and merchants are done in such a way that removes barriers to purchase. Unsurprisingly, there has been a concurrent rise in start-ups offering platforms that make seamless shopping a reality.

One such company is Philippine-based KinvoMatic, the start-up co-founded by Paulo del Puerto which enables merchants to take orders through chat from hundreds of customers “simultaneously without lifting a finger and even while you sleep,” as its site cheekily suggests. “It’s an e-commerce infrastructure in your pocket,” explains del Puerto, adding that KinvoMatic solves such merchant pain points as setting up an online shop, a payment system, and delivery mechanism.

More importantly in a day where “there’s a bot for everything,” KinvoMatic also enables merchants to leverage chatbot technology. “Ours is a turnkey solution, which means merchants do not even need to create their own chatbot. We have an interface where they just register and upload their products, and that’s it—they have a chatbot that can sell their products for them,” he says, adding that the next step is to add artificial intelligence (AI), such that if a potential customer asks if Stock X is available, a bot is able to answer immediately.

The potential of chatbot technology to build bridges between customers and brands is largely felt in Indonesia, which represents approximately 40% of ASEAN’s economic output and where the language gap between Bahasa Indonesia and English speakers is quite wide. It’s precisely why chatbot provider Kata.ai, founded by former YesBoss CEO Irzan Raditya, focuses on natural language processing in messaging channels. “What makes us special is obviously our capability in handling Bahasa Indonesia because if you look at other bots out there—even Microsoft, Facebook, and Google—none of them are able to have the same grasp of Bahasa Indonesia as we do. We have the data of YesBoss (which Kata.ai pivoted from) with its millions of messages of how people text and chat, and we use those messages as a training base for our artificial intelligence,” shares Raditya in an interview with Inc. Southeast Asia earlier this year.

Furthering the cause of seamless shopping is HitPay, a mobile payments technology provider, whose keyboard toolkit makes payments as easy as keying in that facepalm emoji. The Singaporean start-up founded by Aditya Haripurkar “enables payments through any application that brings up a keyboard.” What this implies is not only are merchants able to collect payment from customers across popular messaging apps like Instagram, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc., it likewise affords payment providers presence in the popular applications.

And with Apple CEO Tim Cook recently introducing APIs around Augmented Reality (AR) with the launch of ARKit, as reported in this Inc. article, the way consumers shop is bound to evolve further. It’s a development Haripurkar welcomes and continues to look out for. “There’s a lot of potential around AR, especially with payments. Imagine if a brand like IKEA [integrates] AR into the whole retail experience, consumers would not even need to go to the physical store to see how a product would look in their living room. They can buy then and there, and make a payment and that’s it. So essentially you’re doing everything without leaving your home, including payments,” he says.

With all the nuisances of shopping online steadily being addressed one after the other, shopaholics better hold on to their wallets.