Staples becomes the latest brand to join the chatbot craze as the company’s Executive Vice President of Global eCommerce Faisal Masud reveals that the office supply retailer is working on a chatbot for Facebook Messenger as well as developing chat tools for its existing digital and social properties. According to Masud, the new messaging tools are built for better customer service and facilitating communication while the Messenger chatbot will focus on providing automated customer service.
What Brands Need To Do
Messaging apps are quickly overtaking phone calls as the primary means of modern communication for a growing population segment. In fact, Facebook reported that Messenger and WhatsApp now process 60 billion messages per day. Therefore, in order to reach consumers where they already are, brands should adapt to changing consumer behavior and get on messaging platforms.
For more information on how brands can effectively reach consumers on messaging apps and other conversational platforms, check out the Conversational Interfaces section in our Outlook 2016 and our latest Fast Forward analysis on chatbots.
With the advance in connected devices and local delivery economy, more and more brands are trying out new ways to help customers order and reorder without stepping into stores. This week alone, three major brands have come out with on-demand fulfillment services to better serve their customers:
• Stationery and office supply retailer Staples is tinkering with its iconic Easy Button to make it a connected device that can take orders via speech commands. Sources says the feature will focus on reordering, tapping into purchase data to discern the product preferences of each customer.
• Upscale grocery retailer Whole Foods has invested in delivery service Instacart and made Instacart the exclusive delivery partner for Whole Foods’ perishables with a five-year delivery partnership.
• New Samsung printers are hooked up with Amazon’s Dash Replenishment service so they can automatically reorder ink refills when the supply is running low.
What Brands Need To Do
On-demand fulfillment allows retail stores to double as digital distribution centers, lowering the barrier of entry for interactions with customers in the real world. These three brands offer some good examples for other retailers and CPG brands to follow in utilizing new technologies and services to meet the growing consumer demand for convenience and instant gratification.
For more information on how brands can modernize their retail experiences to better engage with customers, check out the Boundless Retail section in our Outlook 2016.
Sources: Fortune, Engadget, and Re/Code
CES is amazing for the amount of new technology it can showcase, but much like a high-end fashion show the question inevitably emerges: will I actually buy any of this stuff? And if so, when, where, and most importantly, why? This year, CES is aiming to tackle that question in a serious manner; look no further than Amazon and Netflix’s 4K agreements and Smartwatches’ partnerships with high-end fashion as evidence of trying to actually sell, in addition to creating, the tech we’ve seen.
In the same vein, one of the biggest CES trends has been the Smart Home – from lights and thermostats that interface with apps, to home security and chatting appliances – but the question still lingers, where, when, and why can or should consumers buy? Staples is looking to tackle this question with its renewed partnership with Zonoff. They partnered last year to offer what little home automation technology existed, but now post-CES 2014 the partnership looks to take off with offerings such as the Goji smart lock, Koubachi garden sensors, Radio Thermostat’s WiFi-connected products, Philips, Honeywell, GE, Linksys and more. To prove the ‘why’ quotient, Staples has agreed to showcase the platforms first hand in the Staples Manhattan store.
The race to get these home automation products into the hands of consumers is well and truly on. Revolv will be available at the Home Depot, Lowe’s will be selling the Iris home automation kit, and SmartThings is selling an entire package including Philips Hue, Jawbone Up, and Belkin’s WeMo. Now the question becomes, will consumers bite?
In a true sign of the times, 3D printing is now more than ever rapidly becoming a regular consumer product. The office product supply chain announced today that it will begin selling 3D printers through its website, and that the printers will hit stores by the end of next month. Staples also claims that it is the first major U.S. retailer to sell the product. Potential consumers will be able to purchase the Cube 3D Printer from 3D Systems for $1,299. It comes with built-in WiFi and more than two dozen 3D design templates, with infinitely more available for download online, of course. Staples will also sell plastic cartridge refills. Though this means that 3D printers might lose some of their ‘cool factor,’ it heralds their continued acceptance as a genuine consumer product in the marketplace that the average person might purchase. The day when everybody will have a 3D printer in their homes is rapidly arriving.
It looks like 3D printing may not be reserved for multilingual MIT grads. According to engadget, select Staples in Belgium and the Netherlands will make 3D printing available to their customers. Consumers upload designs files and Staples will print them using their Mcor IRIS printer to 3D models up to six inches in height.