The Digital Retail Experience Is About to Be Redefined Again

first_img Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Global Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box. Register Now » Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. April 25, 2018 Convenience has always played a significant role in the shopping experience, from the early supermarkets to the first 7-Eleven locations (literally dubbed “convenience stores”) to shopping by phone.Related: What Shoppers Still Won’t Buy on Amazon (Infographic)Consumers marveled at being able to buy flowers, Veg-O-Matics and even cubic zirconium jewelry from the comfort of their homes thanks to infomercials and home shopping television networks. Although selections were limited and access to a deep variety of goods was constrained, these options were considered wildly convenient at the time.Enter Alexa. Enter Google Express. Enter Uber Eats.Now we can shop 24/7 right from our couch — for almost literally anything in the world — and even get our purchases delivered to our door in a matter of hours. It doesn’t even matter if it’s 1 a.m. on a Thursday morning. Out of cheese puffs? No, don’t get up. Just press a button and you’ll have them by 1:30 a.m.Now we can consume whenever we want to, and the digital age has made this possible. But how should retailers be thinking about the new level of convenience? Which ones will take the next step?A recent Kantar study ranked the most important factors when shopping, and no one with a smartphone-monitored pulse should be surprised that 59 percent of respondents named “stress-free shopping” among their most important, with 57 percent adding that online shopping is the best way to get there. The reasons are simple: Convenience (anytime, anywhere) and access (to anything) have been unlocked.Related: These 5 Retail Innovations Could Actually Make You Want to Shop in a Store AgainThere’s no going back now.When I was 5 years old, I remember waiting five weeks to get a copy of 40 Funky Hits on cassette after ordering it from a television ad. Now I can get it streamed to me in five seconds, thanks to Spotify. The same goes for candy, or movies, or vintage posters from the Pittsburgh monster truck jam.The impulse to buy things hasn’t changed, but expectations surrounding the actual act have. We’ve always wanted things now — but now we can actually get them.What’s coming nextThe rise of ecommerce and the development of advanced product-delivery logistics, combined with a constantly connected consumer, have gotten us where we are today. Delivery speeds are unprecedented, down from days or even weeks to barely 30 minutes in some cases, or instantly for digital products.While this is fascinating, what is more interesting is what happens next. What will retail be like once we enter an era where convenience is ubiquitous?The first area to watch is a continually improving shopping experience across all environments, physical and digital, seamlessly. Yes, the cliche of “omnichannel experiences” currently exists at the best retailers, but I prefer to think of a frictionless retail ecosystem as a step up from where we are now. You can see the green shoots here in the U.S. with Amazon and some of Walmart’s better efforts, and, of course, in China. And, yes, inherent to this are formerly digital-only players — like Warby Parker — becoming physical.Related: Birchbox Is Redefining the Future of Retail in More Ways Than OneThe second area to watch is a more profound one: data-driven services. This also receives a large degree of press, and examples abound, with the most obvious being online grocery and subscription services, which allow the automation of many regular purchases, be they annual birthday presents or weekly deliveries of various grocery items. Yes, they sell physical products, but they are really selling services — and they can iterate those services to you much faster than they can a physical product. This provides a different type of value to the shopper.Back to the futureMike the milkman and Sam the butcher are back, and are coming to your home in a new technological guise. Just like 80 years ago, you can today get farm-fresh milk delivered to your door, or even buy a one-cow burger that’s traceable down to the field where a free-range cow named, perhaps, “Lucky” grazed and awaited her fate.Because the future is folding back on the past, convenience and access are being redefined. Because data can and increasingly does underpin supply chains from farm-to-table (or sustainable sourcing or ethical practice-to-home), interesting opportunities are arising. Companies can now drive loyalty, and therefore higher lifetime retention and value, by leveraging convenience with even further granularity of access to products or information or both, giving specific customers specifically what they want every time, in a way that caters to their product preferences (and possibly their belief system).And, yes, it can scale.Related: Walmart Enters High-end Fashion Space With Lord & Taylor Online PartnershipThe evolution of convenienceFor companies old and new, this evolution from selling products to selling services — leveraging the proliferation of internal and external data across the value-chain, to redefine or create your brand, product or service and create unique relationships — is a powerful concept.And we’re already there. The individual components of getting this right exist already in parts and pieces across manufacturing and retail.But who will really bring it all together and redefine convenience and access? My guess is there will be many strange bedfellows with complementary strengths, potential acquisitions and unexpected mash-ups (think Google and Walmart) that will bring many variations of this to life over the course of the next 10 years. Those who do will win.”Lucky,” by the way? Delicious. 5 min readlast_img read more

Is Google trying to ethicswash its decisions with its new Advanced Tech

first_imgGoogle yesterday announced a new external advisory board to help monitor the company’s use of artificial intelligence for ways in which it may violate ethical principles it laid out last summer. The group was announced by Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, and it includes experts on a wide-ranging series of subjects, including mathematics, computer science, philosophy, psychology, and even foreign policy. Following is the complete list of the advisory council appointed by Google: Alessandro Acquisti, a leading behavioral economist and privacy researcher. Bubacarr Bah, an expert in applied and computational mathematics De Kai, a leading researcher in natural language processing, music technology and machine learning Dyan Gibbens, an expert in industrial engineering and CEO of Trumbull Joanna Bryson, an expert in psychology and AI, and a longtime leader in AI ethics Kay Coles James, a public policy expert with extensive experience working at the local, state and federal levels of government Luciano Floridi, a leading philosopher and expert in digital ethics William Joseph Burns, a foreign policy expert and diplomat The group will be called the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council, and it appears Google wants it to be seen as an independent watchdog keeping an eye on how it deploys AI in the real world. It wants to focus on facial recognition technology and mitigation of built-in bias in machine learning training methods. “This group will consider some of Google’s most complex challenges that arise under our AI Principles … providing diverse perspectives to inform our work,” Walker writes. Behind the selection of the council As for the members, the names may not be easily recognizable to those outside academia. However, the credentials of the board appear to be of the highest caliber, with resumes that include multiple presidential administration positions and stations at top-notch universities spanning University of Oxford, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and UC Berkeley. Having said that, the selection of the Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James and CEO of Trumbull Dyan Gibbens received harsh criticism on Twitter. It has been noted that James, through her involvement with the conservative think tank, has espoused anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on her public Twitter profile: One of the members, Joanna Bryson also expressed astonishing comments on Twitter for being selected as a part of the council. Joanna states, she has no idea of what she is getting into but she will certainly do her best. Google’s history of controversies Last year, Google found itself embroiled in controversy over its participation in a US Department of Defense drone program called Project Maven. Following immense internal backlash and external criticism for putting employees to work on AI projects that may involve the taking of human life, Google decided to end its involvement in Maven following the expiration of its contract. It also put together a new set of guidelines, what CEO Sundar Pichai dubbed Google’s AI Principles, that would prohibit the company from working on any product or technology that might violate “internationally accepted norms” or “widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.” “We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use,” Pichai wrote at the time. “How AI is developed and used will have a significant impact on society for many years to come. As a leader in AI, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right.” Google effectively wants its AI research to be “socially beneficial,” and that often means not taking government contracts or working in territories or markets with notable human rights violations. Regardless, Google found itself in yet another similar controversy related to its plans to launch a search product in China, one that may involve deploying some form of artificial intelligence in a country currently trying to use that very same technology to surveil and track its citizens. Google’s pledge differs from the stances of Amazon and Microsoft, both of which have said they will continue to work the US government. Microsoft has secured a $480 million contract to provide HoloLens headsets to the Pentagon, while Amazon continues to sell its Rekognition facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies. Google also formed a “responsible innovation team” internally that Walker says has reviewed hundreds of different launches to-date, some of which have aligned with its principles while others haven’t. For example, that team helped Google make the decision not to sell facial recognition technology until there’s been more ethical and policy debate on the issue. Why critics are skeptical of this move? Rashida Richardson, director of policy research at AI Now Institute, expressed skepticism about the ambiguity of Google and other companies’ AI principles at the MIT Technology Review Conference held in San Francisco on Tuesday. For example, Google’s document leans heavily on the word “appropriate.” “Who is defining what appropriate means?” she asked. Walker said that Google’s new council is meant to foster more defined discussion. He added that the company had over 300 people looking at machine learning fairness issues. “We’re doing our best to put our money where our mouth is,” Kent said. Google has previously had embarrassing technology screw-ups driven by bias in its machine learning systems, like when its photos algorithm labeled black people as gorillas. It would not be wrong to say that today’s announcement — which perhaps not coincidentally comes a day after Amazon said it would earmark $10 million with the National Science Foundation for AI fairness research, and after Microsoft executive Harry Shum said the company would add an ethics review focusing on AI issues to its standard product audit checklist — appears to be an attempt by Google to fend off broader, continued criticism of private sector AI pursuits. Thoughtful decisions require careful and nuanced consideration of how the AI principles … should apply, how to make tradeoffs when principles come into conflict, and how to mitigate risks for a given circumstance,” says Walker in an earlier blog post. Read Next Google and Facebook working hard to clean image after the media backlash from the Christchurch terrorist attack Google announces Stadia, a cloud-based game streaming service, at GDC 2019 Google to be the founding member of CDF (Continuous Delivery Foundation)last_img read more