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AI and the Customer Experience: Today and Beyond

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In the retail industry, the customer experience  is more important than ever. With so much competition from e-commerce, many shoppers need a compelling reason to visit brick-and-mortar locations. This pressure has been the catalyst for re-imagining how AI and the customer experience. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be sans humans.  Let’s look at how AI and the customer experience is likely to evolve in retail.

 

AI Unlocks Retail Data

When retailers optimize the customer experience, it’s a competitive advantage and a growth driver. However, if it’s failing, it becomes a risk for falling revenue. While data is plentiful around customer experience, it’s not so easy to interpret. Customer behavior and patterns aren’t set in stone. It’s a moving data set with a value determined by the insights it can provide.

AI makes it possible to decipher these huge masses of data and find trends, which leads to making changes across the experience to elevate it. Next, it’s about understanding the applications and opportunities to use the power of AI.

Improving customer experience in any store starts with understanding customers and their needs. Do they value convenience? Brighter aisles? Or some other preference? You gain this type of information through monitoring consumer behavior and some common sense.

 

More In-Stock Items, Less Frustration

Take inventory management for instance. Many big-box retailers frustrate shoppers every day because either what they need isn’t on the shelves or it’s too hard to find. That results in a lot of lost sales and upset customers. AI helps resolve inventory challenges.

With advanced analytics via AI, stores are forecasting better and optimizing their inventory levels. Some even use real-time tracking and are alerted with items are out of stock. This means items get replenished sooner and stores are meeting the needs of shoppers. AI also helps in the physical aspect with robots as shelf-stockers.

 

AI Assistants Are the New Sales Associate

Another way in which AI and the customer experience is evolving: In-store shopping assistants. Since consumers depend on Alexa and Siri to help them out, they expect such an experience in the store. Instead of a sales associate answering questions, the communication is now bot to human.

Macy’s is trying this trend out with “Macy’s On Call.” Shoppers can ask questions, and the bot responds through the use of natural language processing. Personalized responses can then be sent to the guest’s phone.

These shopping assistants can also help customers make smart buying decisions with bots pointing out specials or sales. The bot could also be of assistance in looking for something based on criteria like a size of clothing.

 

Make Your Promotions Clairvoyant

Using promotions in-store has many great benefits—aligning with AI makes it even more valuable. This type of in-store customer experience should be more along the lines of personalization. Customers appreciate this, as research has shown that 78% of them are more likely to make a purchase when advertising is relevant to them.

This is already in place on a smaller scale in that when you check-out at a retailer and have a loyalty card, the system may recognize you. AI has the ability to take this idea further. Consider how much the store could know about its shopper from the moment they step in the door.

A shopper connects his or her smartphone to the Wi-Fi. This may already be a known device because the shopper has been there before. He or she may also use the brand’s app to navigate the store and find what they need. That’s more data.

Then with sensors, the areas in which the customer lingers longer could indicate interest so why not push a small promotion their way for what they are looking at? This push could be on in-store digital signage, via the brand’s app, or as a text message.

The network knows who you are, what you buy based on your previous purchases and loyalty card information. it also knows where you are in the store. Mix all that together with AI forming the patterns, and consumers get personalized messaging and offers in basically real-time. It becomes the right ad at the right time.

Your customer feels “special” because of the personalized promotion. After a few months, you’ll also have enough data to see if this personalization is leading to sales.

 

As you can see retail in-store shopping is still a large part of the life of a consumer. Even the biggest e-commerce giants understand that physical stores still matter with Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and Alibaba’s partnership with Kroger. What matters most is what you’re doing to ensure that the customer experience continues on the path of enhancement. You can do this more exactly and easily with the power of AI.

If you’d like to know more about your buyers and use AI more effectively, then check out what CB4 can do for you.

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