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Real-time pricing: coming to a store near you
Personal shopping is on the brink of taking on a whole new meaning. The advancement of mobile technology and the information held on individuals' shopping histories means product prices could soon adapt as shoppers walk up and down their supermarket aisle.
Gone are the days of retailers only being able to actively manage the price of a small number of products once a week. Algorithmic pricing and real-time competitive pricing data allows the changing of product prices on the fly.
Amazon is at the forefront of such "real-time pricing" initiatives, which have traditionally been the preserve of online-only retailers.
However, brick-and-mortar retailers in the US are showing their UK counterparts the limitless possibilities when it comes to dynamic pricing.
Independent consumer electronics retailer Abt Electronics pipes competitive pricing data gathered by Dynamite Data into its point-of-sale systems to allow staff to negotiate prices at the point-of-sale, according to Dynamite Data chief executive Diana Schulz.
Sainsbury’s claims real-time pricing would result in "chaos", while Asda says such a strategy would be a "nightmare"
Meanwhile, another one of Dynamite Data’s un-named clients uses electronic shelf labels and re-prices every product in their stores each morning based on the prices of its rivals.
The ability to change prices dynamically is not simply the preserve of all-powerful brands such as Walmart or Target either.
Schulz explained that her company has "seen these types of technologies in both large and mid-sized retailers" despite the "investment in technology and competitive data that is typically needed".
Back in the UK things are not quite as close to a Minority Report-style personalized shopping experience.
Even online-only specialists Shop Direct and Ocado claim they do not engage in real-time pricing, while those that do heavily use real-time data to adapt their prices such as the airline brands are reluctant to discuss the issues.
EasyJet declined to comment when contacted because of commercial sensitivities around discussing pricing-related issues.
Grocers Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s have all claimed they do not engage in real-time pricing, with the latter two both citing the logistical difficulties in aligning such a strategy across their physical stores and online presence.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman claims real-time pricing would result in "chaos", while an Asda spokeswoman saying such a strategy would be a "nightmare".
Yet, despite such a negative perspective from UK brands, experts are confident real-time pricing will arrive on these shores sooner or later.
Simon Spyer, a partner of VCCP data arm Conduit who began his career working on the Sainsbury's Nectar business, believes the UK will begin to see "more and more" of matching rivals’ prices dynamically, particularly in the grocery and electrical sectors.
He explained that real-time pricing is likely to affect "anything where the product is largely commoditized" and in instances where the only way retailers can differentiate that product is by "being really keen on price".
As it stands the major barrier for implementing "real-time pricing" in-store is changing the prices to match the online price, a hurdle that could be removed by the electronic shelf labels being pioneered in the US.
Schemes like Tesco Price Promise and Asda Price Guarantee already use real-time data to 'price match'
In the UK various retailers have dipped their toes into the water when it comes to electronic shelf-labeling including a Nisa Local store in Shrewsbury that launched a trial in August last year to carry out automatic pricing and timed promotional updates, alongside QR codes and meal ideals.
Tesco has also experimented with electronic labeling on various occasions with trials in 2006 and 2008, but the retail giant has yet to combine real-time pricing with its electronic labels.
Spyer claims "the capability is definitely there both online and offline – it is whether there is a business rationale for investing in it".
However, with major UK supermarkets lacking a pressing reason to implement real-time pricing, that investment may be slow in arriving, argues Kaye Coleman, the founder of price consultancy Ripe Strategic.
Coleman explains: "The supermarkets already do price matching – it is not so sophisticated but price matching is already happening".
Schemes including the Tesco Price Promise, the Asda Price Guarantee and the Sainsbury’s Brand Match currently use real-time data to "price match" by offering money off the next shop.
A cynic could argue the supermarkets should knock money off at the till rather than relying on customers to redeem their vouchers at the next shop, but such an action could hit the companies' bottom line.
The growing sophistication of mobile marketing is also likely to revolutionize the way brands approach their price matching.
"If you can come up with a value proposition where I check-in [on my mobile] when I walk through the store for the first time and that presents me with a personalized experience based on my purchase history then I could see the benefit for a customer and a retailer," said Spyer.
The trick for retailers is persuading customers to adopt such behavior, but the offer of being delivered ever-changing personalized price offers and messages in-store is a compelling proposition.
Personalization is already a priority for retailers. Sainsbury’s uses anonymized shopping data gathered from the Nectar card to personalize offers.
The levels of personalization offered by Sainsbury’s are increasingly complex. If a female customer buys folic acid they will be sent promotions on other pregnancy-related supplements during the pregnancy period and offers on nappies further down the line.
UK retailers are sure to keep a close eye on developments over the Atlantic, with Schulz claiming she knows of clients that are piloting technologies that enable in-store personalized discounts.
The challenges on the high-street mean there will inevitably be more casualties, but real-time pricing does not have to be the sole preserve of online-only retailers.
Innovative ways of manipulating real-time data could be the shot in the arm the high-street retail industry so desperately needs.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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Conversion Rate Optimization. CRO. If you’re an established business just getting on the technology track to improve your business, these words and acronyms can sound difficult and confusing. So, let’s put things a little simpler. Your website is your digital doorway to your business. Your service is your digital handshake. When you’re able to meet with customers face-to-face, you can get a firmer grasp on their likes and dislikes. You get to know your customers over time, they get to know you, and you begin to learn what the want so you can improve your business. If you’re a startup, you’ve opened your business because perhaps you’ve been a customer and saw a need no one could fill but you. Whichever type of business you are, when you make changes to your website to improve your customer experience, you’ve worked through conversion rate optimization, though you may not have realized at the time. What is Conversion Rate Optimization? It is the penultimate testing strategy to convert visitors into customers. Let’s assume your eCommerce business is bringing in leads, but no one is clicking the ‘buy now’ button. If you’re wondering why, this is your chance to test your CRO through A/B testing. This kind of testing examines your original version against a change in your wording or colors. Consider the number of times you’ve seen Amazon’s logo change over the years. Today, the name is no longer needed, only the smiling arrow. The simplest of tweaks to your call-to-action (CTA), logo, colors, wording, or even a well-read or reviewed article can drive more leads for your business. Simple testing with big consequences can be overwhelming to consider. But with a few key points to consider, you may have a better focus on what you need to do. This focus will help you identify your goals, your audience, and the best conversion touchpoints for your business. What Do You Want to Optimize? Conversion means many things to many people. While ultimately the goal is to convert visitors to customers, there are a variety of ways to get there. So, what do you want to do? Do you want to have more visitors call or fill out your contact form? Do you want new subscribers to your website? Or do you want your visitors to click ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’? Choose one goal and work from there. Data you may already have or can gather, can offer you insight into your customers to help you know the best way to move forward. Know Your Customer Digital and Web Analytics can help you navigate the Data gathered about your customers. For example, who’s already visiting your site? How did they find you? Age, gender, and location are additional demographics which may help your team make informed decisions about what to test, why, and how it will improve your conversion rate. Bringing Your CRO Team Together There are three main roles most often brought together for conversion rate optimization. Smart businesses make CRO a part of their Marketing Strategy. So, it’s only fitting Marketing is on the list. Marketing - These are the professionals who understand people. They know the strategy behind every level of the sales funnel within the customer journey. And from these understandings, they can troubleshoot, if needed, with acquisition, qualification, or optimization. Acquisition – These are the professionals responsible for bringing in new business. New leads. New customers. It’s their experience which can help to identify what’s optimizing well and what isn’t whether from targeting the wrong data point or on-page issues. Web Developer or Designer – These professionals assist with the technical aspects of conversion rate optimization. Begin at Your Homepage If you’re wondering where to begin, it’s best to begin at the homepage. This is where prospective customers find you and determine whether they’d like to look around a little more or not. So, knowing this there are a few things to keep in mind. ABT – Always Be Testing. This is a circular exercise in keeping up with the Jones’s of business. The more you know about your site, your goals, and your customers needs, your improvements can help to generate leads and increase sales. OTE - Optimize the Experience. When setting your goals, you’ll want to consider three goal types and set one or more. The first is to ask yourself, what do you want to happen immediately? If you want more clicks or views, this is an immediate goal. If you have a finite amount of time to generate leads, say fourth quarter of a given year, you may wish to set a campaign goal. And if you want to project net revenue or lead quality, you’ll want to set a long-term goal. Ready to optimize your conversion rate in your job search? Harnham may have a role for you. If you’re interested in the Digital Analytics, Data & Technology, or Machine Learning just to name a few, Harnham may have a role for you. Check out our current vacancies or contact one of our expert consultants to learn more. For our West Coast Team, contact us at (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to email@example.com. For our Mid-West and East Coast teams contact us at (212) 796-6070 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
25. February 2021
According to Brigette Hyacinth’s 2017 book entitled, The Future of Leadership, the author suggests this when considering the ramifications of AI. “Using AI to improve efficiency is one thing, using it to judge people isn’t something I would support. It violates the intention on the applications of AI. This seems to be social prejudice masquerading as science…” How often have big tech companies backtracked their facial recognition software? What are the ethical implications of moving forward and leaving AI unchecked and unregulated? 2020 was in no way a traditional year amassing change on our daily lives at near lightspeed, or so it seemed. But what was brought to bear were unrest and tensions boiled to the breaking point. And when you look at it from the perspective of AI in our daily lives. What might the world look like in another year? When Social Sciences and Humanities Meets AI “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Humans make mistakes. Biases are unmasked with and without intent. But, when it comes to AI, those unintentional biases can have devastating consequences. From 2015 to 2019, use of AI grew by over 250 percent and is projected to boast a revenue of over $100 billion by 2025. As major businesses such as Amazon and IBM cancel and suspend their facial recognition programs amidst protests against racial inequality, some realize more than regulatory change is needed. Since 2014, algorithms have shown biases against people of color and between genders. In a recent article from Time.com, a researcher showed the inaccuracies of prediction for women of color, in particular. Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Serena Williams skewed as male. Three of the most recognizable faces in the world and AI algorithms missed the mark. These are the same algorithm and machine learning principles used to challenge humans at strategy games such as Chess and Go. Where’s the disconnect? According to one author, it may be time to create a new field of study specific to AI. Though created in Computer Science and Computer Engineering labs, the complexities of human are more often discussed in the field of humanities. To expand further as well into business schools, race and gender studies, and political science departments. How Did We Get Here? At first blush, it may not seem comparable to consider human history with the rise of artificial intelligence and its applications. Yet it’s human history and its social construct which explains the racial and gender biases when it comes to ethics in AI. How deep seated are such biases? What drives the inequalities when AI-enabled algorithms pass over people of color and women in job searches, credit scores, or assume status quo in incarceration statistics? Disparities between rational and relational are the cornerstone from which to begin. Once again, in Hyacinth’s book, The Future of Leadership, the author tells a story of her mother explaining the community around the simple task of washing clothes. Though washing machines now exist and do allow people to do other things while the clothes are washed, there is a key element recounted by her mother washing machines lack. The benefit of community. When her mother washed clothes, it was her and her surrounding community. They gathered to wash, to visit, and connect. A job was completed, but the experience lingered on. And in the invention of a single machine, that particular bit of community was lost. But it’s community and collaboration which remind humans of their humanity. And it’s from these psychological and sociological roles, artificial intelligence should learn. Create connections between those build the systems and those who will use them. BUILDING AI FORWARD Voices once shuttered and subjugated have opened doors to move artificial intelligence forward. It is the quintessence of ‘those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it’. The difference within this scientific equivalent is there is no history to repeat when it comes to technology. And so it is from the humanitarian angle AI is considered. The ability to do great things with technology is writ in books and screenplays, and so are its dangers. While it isn’t likely an overabundance of ‘Mr. Smiths’ will fill our world, it is important we continue to break out of the siloes of science versus social sciences. If AI is to help humanity move forward, it’s important to ensure humanity plays a role in teaching our machine learning systems how different we are from each other and to consider the whole person, not just their exoskeleton. If you’re interested in the Data Sciences, Data and Technology, Machine Learning, or Robotics just to name a few, Harnham may have a role for you. Check out our current vacancies or contact one of our expert consultants to learn more. For our West Coast Team, contact us at (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to email@example.com. For our Mid-West and East Coast teams contact us at (212) 796-6070 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
18. February 2021
Software. It’s the drivers to your printer. It’s the word processor on your PC. And it’s the concept behind your productivity tools, your CRM systems, and your social media programs. Software engineers are to software what Data Engineers are to Data. Software Engineers are the creators, builders, and maintainers of software systems and programs, so business runs smoothly. Now, that the majority of businesses have shifted online, it’s more important than ever to keep things running smoothly. These engineers must take into account not only what businesses might need to run, but also the limitations of the program. It’s a balancing act of software, hardware, limitations, and possibilities. If you took apart watches as a kid to see how they worked, Software Engineering might be for you. Are you a problem solver? Do you love putting the pieces of a puzzle together whether it’s on a board or in a crossword? Software Engineering might be for you. What Kind of Software Engineer are You? While there are a variety of roles to consider, below are some of the more popular paths taken. So, let’s say you want to build computer applications that affect what the end user sees. If you know programming languages such as Python and Java, and understand the mechanics of how to make a program work, then you may fit the classic example of a Software Engineer. If you’re more interested in the focus of robotics or automation, you may want to consider a role in Embedded Systems. You’ll still be designing, developing, and maintaining but your projects will be hardware and software used for a specific task. Want to keep information secure? You may lean toward Security Engineer. In this role, you’ll ensure there are no security flaws. How? By operating as a ‘white-hat’ ethical hacker to attempt breaking into existing systems to identify threats. Technical Skills are Essential. Soft Skills are Important. For anyone in the Data professions, technical skills are paramount. This not only gets your ‘foot in the door’, but ensures you know the basics. And for those who’ve been in the game a bit longer, also gives businesses confidence you can meet any challenges which may come up. Technical skills for Software Engineers include knowing programming languages like C++, Python, Java, and others like them. In this role, you’ll need to understand development processes as well as additional technical concepts. Technical skills are a standard requirement. And as important as it is to have a good portfolio and experience, you’ll want to show the business, you have the technical know-how to take on anything which may come your way. Now that cross-functional teams across departments are regular occurrences and C-suite executives are in the know, soft skills are just as important as technical skills. What are Soft Skills? In a nutshell, soft skills are communication skills. In the past, Data professionals may have been siloed away from other teams, and a liaison of sorts might have translated Data information into actionable insights. Now businesses and professionals have found it’s much more efficient to have the Engineer speak directly to their team, their leadership, or stakeholders. So, it’s imperative your soft skills are on par with your technical skills. Scope of Work for a Software Engineer According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Software Engineer employment growth is expected to grow 21 percent by 2028. Now that we’re working, studying, and socializing online more than ever, is it any wonder? Add to this the changing needs of organizations as they shift their practices into the cloud, and it’s more important than ever to have professionals who can design and maintain software to meet the needs of an organization. Whichever avenue you choose, whichever business you join or career path you follow, the full scope of work will be broad. You could be in charge of creating, developing, and maintaining a full product or just a single component of an app. Regardless of your scope of work, though, you’ll most likely be working with developers, cross-departmental staff, executives, clients, and stakeholders to mold, shape, and fulfill a design envisioned for their product. If you’re interested in the Data Science, Data Technology, Machine Learning, or Software Engineering, Harnham may have a role for you. Check out our current vacancies or contact one of our expert consultants to learn more. For our West Coast Team, contact us at (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to email@example.com. For our Mid-West and East Coast teams contact us at (212) 796-6070 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
11. February 2021
It’s 2021. Autonomous cars are no longer on the horizon. They’re here and being tested. Most businesses have shifted to a fully remote workforce or offer a hybrid option. And social activities have been redefined. As social creatures, we humans crave attention. But does it matter from whom the attention comes? Social distancing is a gold standard these days to keep the pandemic at bay as best we can. But what happens when the pandemic solutions affect one of the fastest growing demographics in the US? Many active seniors have embraced the online – FaceTime and Zoom calls with friends and family, online classes for new experiences, and interactive activities to keep minds sharp. For those seniors in eldercare and assisted living, interactive has gotten a shape. Enter the robot. With Deep Learning, Computer Vision is able to enhance what a robot may see or what we see when we look into a robot’s LED face. We’ve worked hard to emulate the human experience in a machine, and have begun putting together instead a machine with human-like experience. Unsurprisingly, robotics have become part of a variety of industries from manufacturing to construction to…eldercare? Socially Adept Robotic Companions in Senior Living Scenarios Since Jane Jetson ordered Rosey from U-Maid, we’ve wondered and worried about the roles robots might play in our lives. As we remain socially distanced and families and friends make contact through videoconferencing to those in assisted and senior living facilities, we’ve uncovered a new shortage of skilled workers. This time it’s those in the healthcare industries. Particularly those who care for the elderly. There is an ever-widening gap between healthcare workers and those who need them. In less than 10 years, there will be a shortfall of over 150,000 care workers in the US. In twenty years, that shortfall is expected to double. Recently, Robotic Researchers, Roboticists, and Data Scientists have been putting together plans for a robot much like Rosey, the maid was to Jane Jetson. Though expecting residents to only need or want help in things like delivery or picking up and delivering items, it revealed instead a desire for social interaction. A prototype robot offers assistance from delivery to picking up items to karaoke and bingo activities. Add in a video-conferencing screen for interacting not only with friends and family members who are unable to visit, but also telehealth services with their doctor, or interacting with staff members who may not be nearby. Ways We’re Using Robots to Heal When we teach Artificial Intelligent beings and incorporate Machine Learning into our robots, we’re creating opportunities to heal. Already in use in healthcare from exoskeletons to assist stroke victims to Augmented Reality surgical practice, and real-life robotic assists in surgery, we’re able to help individuals heal physically. For many, the social isolation in eldercare homes can lead to depression and loneliness. But when someone, or rather, some thing is able to interact with them, some find a unique companion. For individuals who have difficulty connecting with people or those suffering dementia, it can be frustrating to not be able to communicate. But the role of robot in our lives just may bring a smile, a story, or a comfort. But robots aren’t just human-size companions. Some robotic companions are in the shape of pets. For those suffering from dementia, a robotic pet offers companionship and a less stressful alternative to live pets. There’s no need to worry about feeding Fido or Fluffy. These robotic pets love to be petted, but they don’t bark or meow, they don’t need to be let out, and bring to their caregivers a sense of purpose. If you’re interested in the Data Sciences, Computer Vision, Machine Learning, or Robotics just to name a few, Harnham may have a role for you. Check out our current vacancies or contact one of our expert consultants to learn more. For our West Coast Team, contact us at (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to email@example.com. For our Mid-West and East Coast teams contact us at (212) 796-6070 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
04. February 2021