The Monday mindset: 19 June 2017 » Banking Technology

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Conversational commerce is starting to take off

Fintech zeitgeist! Every Monday, we might look back at last week; look ahead to this week; share a few thoughts (our own or others); or discuss anything that catches our eye.

This week, Anita Liu Harvey, VP for strategy and innovation at Barclaycard, fires us in the direction of “the magic bullets of future retail”.

A couple of months ago, I was shopping at the Lego store in Leicester Square with my children. In the middle of the gigantic yellow showroom housing kits to build spaceships, pirate ships and everything in between, I picked up a Lego train set and scanned it to reveal a huge 3D augmented reality (AR) vision of how it would look completed.

My experience, though by no means unique in many stores nowadays, is a reflection of how quickly the retail environment has changed. The days of “try after you buy” are quickly disappearing; the advent of AR and virtual reality (VR) can bring products and experiences to life in dazzling detail, and is helping consumers to make a better purchasing decision.

In fact, the digitisation of nearly everything has heralded a new era of “future retail”. Besides AR and VR, developments in technology have given rise to conversational commerce and enabled businesses to deliver a more personalised shopping experience. Retailers that take advantage of these trends have the opportunity to stand out in an increasingly crowded space.

Today’s time-pressed shoppers want a quick and easy customer journey, so it comes as no surprise that conversational commerce is starting to take off. I believe that typing things into machines was just an interim step until we worked out how to talk to machines, which is so much more natural for us human beings.

I’m sure it won’t be long before we use voice navigation to find a store of our choice, go in, select the what we like, and tell our mobiles to make the purchase before just walking out! I believe that voice commerce will surpass web commerce altogether in the not-too-distant future and that retailers that can jump on this trend, should.

In addition to conversational payments, consumers increasingly expect a personalised shopping experience. Big data allows retailers to respond by helping them tailor offers for each and every one of us, based on analysis of our preferences and behaviour. This can help all kinds of businesses stand out from the competition. For example, in the restaurant sector, Barclaycard research shows that over a third (34%) of us are more likely to eat somewhere if we receive personalised deals based on information we’ve provided.

Not everyone will be comfortable for their data to be used in this way, however, so I suggest retailers consider providing these services only on an opt-in basis. They should also give clear guidelines on how data will be handled.

These key trends in retail will only continue to grow over the coming years. Businesses that understand how they affect their customers – and what technologies they need to meet ever-increasing expectations – will be the ones to thrive.


Last week’s Monday mindset mulled over the aftermath of the UK’s festival of truth – aka the General Election.

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