Retail e-commerce sales worldwide are projected to double in the next 3 years to $ 6.54 trillion. Convenience of always-on service availability, price comparison, better sales and discounts, greater choice enabled by worldwide, multi-cultural varieties of goods and services and delivery to homes free of charge are fueling a steady growth of e-retail. However, discoverability of online products and services continues to be a significant cognitive problem, known as the paradox of choice. Users abandon an online store visit for competitors after 2 to 3 seconds of unsatisfactory discovery experience. Success of an online marketplace lies in how quickly users find the product they need: quick, efficient discovery of the right product is shown to lead to higher conversion rate, better customer satisfaction, engagement and retention. Poor product discovery often leads to additional economic and environmental costs due to cancellation of orders. Several innovations such as visual search are emerging to address the need for better discovery. Gartner estimates that by 2020 30% of all searches will be conducted ‘queryless’. Recommender systems, which seek to present the perfect product to the users based on detailed profiles of users’ shopping behavior are unable to meet the need fully, and online storefronts like Amazon and Alibaba have established physical retail presences to augment the online stores and provide a more satisfactory buying experience. Discoverability in digital marketplaces is not entirely an information search problem; it is multi-faceted and is strongly influenced by the inventory, tagging and on-boarding of content, the presentation layer, search engine design and optimization, and the users’ domain knowledge and cognitive abilities as well.
If search and discoverability of basic, essential goods and services such as clothing poses such significant challenges to both the consumer and the retailer, it is understandable that the problem of discoverability is even more daunting in the context of complex and highly specialized, life critical services such as Healthcare, Fitness and Wellness. Wellness – the active pursuit of activities that promote physical and mental well-being including fitness, beauty and integrative health, is a $4.5 Trillion global economy of services. In this session, we will first survey how the modern trends of service-oriented and ubiquitous computing are disrupting the Wellness industries, followed by an in-depth treatment of the key ideas and challenges, algorithms and applications of product/service search and discoverability enabled by AI and ML in modern digital service platforms, using Wellness as a case study.