The online world is interacting with brick-and-mortar stores in radically new ways, fueling a revolution in how people shop, said Connie Chan, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Ms. Chan said retailers are scooping up more data about shoppers and their habits than ever before, in both online and real-world settings, helping them fine-tune the ways they match buyers with products.
“The offline world is being optimized by the online world,” Ms. Chan said at The Wall Street Journal’s D.Live conference in Hong Kong on Friday.
Ms. Chan pointed to Amazon.com Inc.’s new “Go” convenience store in Seattle as an example. Shoppers at the store are tracked by an array of sensors, and the store uses computer vision and machine-learning algorithms to charge shoppers, follow them through the store and learn about their buying habits.
Ms. Chan expects stores to more deeply integrate artificial intelligence into the shopping experience. For example, she said, stores in the future will allow shoppers to scan food for nutrition and other information, then suggest other items to round out a meal and guide shoppers through the store—all while gathering and storing information about shoppers’ buying habits.
The goal for retailers, she said, is “the massive, perfect profile of customers.”
While retailers for years have been nudging consumers into physical stores with online ads, coupons and other enticements—a business tactic called “online-to-offline,” or O2O—Ms. Chan said China is leading the next stage of this revolution, which she called “O2O 2.0.”
For example, Walmart Inc. stores in China allow shoppers to pay for goods with WeChat ,the social-media platform owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd. WeChat then uses the data on consumers’ shopping habits to suggest shopping lists, coupons and other items.
“For a lot of merchants, that’s data that they’ve never had before,” she said.
She also cited efforts by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to join with small businesses to help them better monitor their inventory via its Alipay online payment platform.
To be sure, many consumers are growing more mindful of the ways in which their data is being gathered and used in the wake of the Facebook Inc. data breach. But in many cases, Ms. Chan said, “This is the world as it already is today.”