Renting, as an industry, has been in existence for a while now. However, it was unstructured in most parts until recently. With rising acceptance of the sharing economy in India, there are several online rental platforms today that are bringing a change in how people consume products. Urban consumers, in particular, are now renting everything from houses and furniture to home appliances and electronic devices through the online route. Multiple factors have contributed to the growth of the renting industry, and technology is undoubtedly one of them. As it is the case with any other sector, modern technology is already creating major disruptions in the renting industry. Although the impact may not seem too huge at the moment, the use of big data, machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) is expected to revolutionize the future of renting.
Enhanced customer experience
AI has been the buzzword for years now, and it will continue to be so in the years to come. AI-based applications like chatbots, recommendation engines and voice assistants will be change agents in the renting sector. Integration of chatbots into online rental marketplaces can improve the user experience to a great extent. Designed to communicate with customers in a personalized manner, chatbots can help them in finding the product or service they wish to rent, checking the availability for the same, and connecting them to the service personnel in case of further queries. All of this means that customers can look forward to a much better and seamless experience in the near future while they look for products to rent online.
Emergence of machine learning has made personalized recommendations possible. Product recommendation engines not only identify the potential customers but also analyze their behavior and rental patterns to cater to them in a more targeted way. E-commerce companies have been using product recommendation engines since the beginning of this decade, and it’s time for online rental platforms to jump on the bandwagon. As machine learning becomes more sophisticated with time, it holds the potential to anticipate consumers’ needs in a not-so-distant future. In addition to increased customer satisfaction, personalized recommendations can aid the overall growth of the renting industry as well.
Keyword search to become a thing of the past
According to a ComScore report, over 50% of all internet searches will be conducted through voice commands by 2020. Given the growing demand for voice-activated smart speakers among customers, these predictions might just come true. As we draw closer to 2019, online rental platforms are likely to benefit from incorporating the voice search option for their customers. Besides this, top rental platforms will also consider adding the visual search feature to enable users to search for the product they want to rent using images.
Prevention of customer fraud
Machine learning can be used to identify fraudulent transactions and similar activities, minimizing risks for consumers and companies. Companies often have to deal with inauthentic customers who purchase or rent products using stolen cards or through the use of other malicious tools. This can lead to huge economic losses as well as legal troubles. In such cases, big data and machine learning can come in to provide potential solutions to these problems.
With the arrival of online renting marketplaces, the renting industry is currently going through a tectonic shift. Along with the evolving customer demands, technology has played a vital role in bringing in this transformation. And, as we come to the end of another eventful year, we should brace ourselves for more changes that lie ahead, helping the renting economy to evolve in the process and enabling all of us to use products as per our needs while saving a lot of money!
(The author is the Founder & CEO of RentSher – a leading online product rental marketplace and an aggregator for event service providers, electronics and medical equipment.)