In-Store is the Next Frontier for Digital

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In a recent podcast, GroupBy Inc. CEO Roland Gossage drew upon his eCommerce experience to give listeners a thorough explanation of the challenges facing the industry.

Roland was interviewed on October 15 on Future Commerce, an eCommerce-focused podcast hosted by Phillip Jackson and Brian Lange. In Episode 226, In-Store is the Next Frontier for Digital, Roland offered his take on the future of eCommerce and how retailers can successfully bring the omnichannel experience of their websites into their brick-and-mortar stores. 

Gone are the days when eCommerce was merely “an appendage” of the retail world, Roland said. It used to be that customers would overlook problematic user experiences online and just be grateful to make the purchase on the Internet. 

No more. 

“80% of clients who hit a website that have a poor user experience are likely to never return,” Roland said. “The stakes are higher, but we have more tools at our disposal to create those kinds of user experiences.”

A primary example of those improved tools is the Cloud, Roland said. GroupBy Inc. recently announced a new Product Discovery Platform powered by Google Cloud Vertex AI Search for Retail, which now drives the world’s most relevant and highly converting eCommerce websites. 

“The cloud has changed the way systems themselves have worked,” Roland said. “Some retailers have already embraced it, while others are still in the process.” 

Roland details some of the challenges businesses face with the data, including the ‘endless aisles’ of products retailers are adding to stay competitive and the complexities of B2B retailers needing to customize pricing and products for each client. Both scenarios mean a large volume of data comes in that needs systems to handle the data and search for relevant results at the speed customers expect. Maintaining and supporting this could require thousands of developers, which is not attainable for most retailers, so they turn to partners like GroupBy to handle the volume of data and scale accordingly.

“Search is, of course, the hardest piece to solve because as soon as you get humans using free form, you know you'll be surprised. Six different users looking for the same product do six different searches. Or you could have six users putting the same search in, but each expects a different product,” said Roland.

GroupBy Inc. is also at the forefront of “blurring the line” between the digital experience and the in-store experience, which will be a crucial development for eCommerce businesses moving forward, Roland said.  

Mobile applications should connect with in-store applications, he said. For example, the tablets used by employees at Bed Bath & Beyond, a GroupBy client, use the same online system as the scanner for gift registry. 

“A lot of the organizations that we work with have physical locations,” Roland said. “We want to blend those so that the user has an omnichannel experience.”

That omnichannel experience has become a hot topic in the world of eCommerce, but Roland believes that the industry has only just begun to explore the possibilities of omnichannel. 

“We're still not at the Promised Land, so we're working really hard to get there,” he said. 

A big part of the shift to omnichannel will come from the increased use of virtual reality and augmented reality, which could help bridge the gap between online and in-store customer experiences, Roland said. 

He imagines a future where a customer enters a store, describes what they’re looking for, and is led straight to the product by their smartphone. Once there, a customer could then use their phone to pull up all the metadata for the product without having to read the “tiny little print” on the back of an Advil bottle. 

“So really, the blurring of the line is sort of that next thing where it just becomes intuitive that I don't actually know or notice the difference between in-store and online,” Roland said. “That's where I think we're going collectively as an industry: to remove all the friction between in-store and online and really delight the clients with the discovery of products that are available — not just meeting my shopping list.”

To learn more about the future of eCommerce, listen to the full podcast here.