Devvrat Arya, Vice President of Technology, Pepperfry shares how the online marketplace player is delivering exceptional user experiences by leveraging digital technologies

The advent of pandemic brought significant challenges for the retail sector in India, where the focus had been largely prioritized on engaging customers through physical stores and person-to-person engagement. Most of the buyers in our country conventionally like to feel and experience things before purchasing them. This was one of the reasons why e-commerce entered very late in India. However, the crisis has changed the behavior of even many traditional buyers that left many offline retailers fraught with competing in the new digital era. Many of them had to shut their shops or reinvent their business models. 

For a new-age Indian online marketplace for furniture and home décor, Pepperfry, this was an opportunity to further its growth, inject innovation and demonstrate how by leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, personalized user experience can be provided to attract customers even at the comfort of their home. 

Devvrat Arya, Vice President of Technology, Pepperfry

“There are two parts to the personalized experience problem statement. One is to understand the psychological behavior of the individual, and the second is to present it in the most intuitive way possible. For Pepperfry, psychological behavior understanding comes into data analysis and machine learning-based model generation. Conclusion and intuitive presentation come under Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Realities (AR/VR/MR). If we understand our users’ psychological purchasing behavior and show those results which they like, we have won half the battle,” explains Devvrat Arya, Vice President of Technology, Pepperfry.  

Leveraging tech to engage customers 

The Mumbai-based digital-first retailer took cognizance of the shift in consumer behavior from offline to online and worked towards a simplified UI/UX to ensure a seamless experience for consumers, especially first-time buyers (F.T.B.). 

“The second half of the battle is to present the data correctly and most intuitively possible, which we provide through Augmented Reality. AR-VR-MR is the only way to provide an excellent experience and purchasing assistance to the user in our business segment. We are providing all these experiences through your mobile, laptop, and tablet without having consumers step out from the comfort of their homes,” Arya adds.

Additionally, given that furniture is a big-ticket category and consumers still rely on the tangibility aspect before purchasing the product, the company on its website started offering a 3D model viewing feature where a user can view a product in the 3D model as well as interact with the effect on their mobile phones and website. “We have noticed a significant rise in conversion rates for products that have 3D models, which implies that there is high consumer affinity towards this feature,” adds Arya.

From a business perspective, Pepperfry integrated its tech with logistics infrastructure to clear the delivery backlog, which was caused due to the lockdown in a brief period. Furthermore, its in-house analytics solution called ‘Athena,’ named after the Greek Goddess of wisdom and strategy, helped its team stay updated on important metrics and trends. “This enabled the team to craft consequential strategies to continue championing the online furniture and home space,” elucidates Arya.

But with changing buying habits and a massive surge of data, there are also challenges related to managing security threats and ensuring the protection of user data. Is the company’s new data-driven strategy equipped to handle the same? “We have implemented measures to provide 360 degrees security for all user-related data. We have a robust security policy framework that takes care of a secured infrastructure, customer-facing applications, customer data in transit and at rest, customer authentication, third-party integrations, and public-facing assets from external attacks,” adds Arya.

Focus on intuitive customer experience

This accelerated shift from offline to online will aid in democratizing the highly unorganized furniture market, especially since offline local players and furniture brands are foraying online through existing online marketplaces and websites. 

As a significant percentage of consumers will shift to online, retailers have to bring in an in-store and personalized experience on their digital platforms to succeed and generate consistent user interest. “We are working towards integrating it by developing new tools to provide the best experience to the user. Advancements in AR/VR/MR & AI made the augmented personalized experience possible for our user base,” says Arya

To achieve this, the company is building ML models that will continuously learn from users and predict the individual’s psychological shopping behavior and collectively from demographical regions. “It makes searching and browsing super-fast and easy for users making it more relevant and precise. The second is to provide an intuitive augmented experience through our AR/VR/MR tools. We call it Experimental AI,” updates Arya.

The company aims to enhance its experiential AI to enable its users to experience furniture and home decor through 3D spatial augmented layouts using mobile phones and AR/VR/MR goggles. Pepperfry is also planning toward the IPO process and expanding its offline presence in metros and smaller cities by launching its experiential centers.

“You can virtually fit any furniture and decor item in your current home and do DIY layout settings within seconds. Whichever items you choose for your DIY layouts, you can directly buy them with a click of a button. Through our Experiential AI, we will shorten the consumer’s purchasing time by half and multiply satisfaction by the factor of four,” explicates Arya.

Pepperfry is creating intuitive customer experiences by developing new AR/VR tools to provide the best experience to the user. And who would better know the art of delivering more fabulous user experiences than Arya, who has led several UI/UX projects in his career to delivering exceptional user experiences around video content streaming, online education, human resources, and healthcare.

“For the last six years, I have dedicated myself to various products powered by Machine Learning and Data Analytics. I started my AI journey in 2015 with my recruitment product which was providing solutions to companies by doing Contextual Matching and Resume Parsing. Later on, from 2017, I have worked on Cognitive AI, which predicts Role Fit based Psycho-linguistics parameters of a candidate based on video interviews,” signs off Arya.

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