The holiday shopping season is already underway. Retailers are doing everything in their capacity to woo customers to their online and brick-and-mortar stores. To enhance the shopping experience for their consumers, retailers around the world have started leveraging the power of technology, in particular, the AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology.
AI is not new for retailers. In 2016, eBay, which has over 168 million customer base, acquired Sweden’s AI startup Expertmaker to organize and curate data. Skechers, the leading footwear company, uses AI on its website to make highly personalized product recommendations to its visitors.
Here are a few examples of AI at work – where it is already helping retailers increase their sales and increase customer satisfaction while creating incredible consumer experiences–
Personalized Products – Forget shampoos based on your hair type. It’s time for highly personalized shampoos and conditioners specifically created just for your ‘Function of Beauty’, a beauty start-up, allows its customers to get custom shampoos and conditioners based on their personal hair type. It asks the consumers a series of questions to build their individual hair profiles, asks their future goals, and also asks how they want the end product to smell like. Armed with this information, the brand creates the end product – for this, the AI engine in the background processes 12 billion possible different ingredient combinations.
Shopping Assistant– To ease the browsing efforts in the stores, Adobe Digital is piloting a photographing digital mirror project. On the basis of buyer’s body shape and size, the mirror will recommend inventory items that perfectly match with the buyer’s form. The digital mirror increases its performance basis of the amount of information it fetches from the customer, only to further enhance the shopping experience that is backed by customer’s buying history.
Visual and Voice Search – Sellers, online and offline, are now relying on visual search (Google’s capability) where the user will paste images in the search box in place of keywords. However, now retailers are trying to capitalize this ability of visual search in commercial retail applications. Through its “Shop Find Shop feature in the app”, Neiman Marcus, the luxury retailer, allows its buyers to click pictures of an item they spot. Using this picture, the store inventory will display similar items. With AI as the cornerstone of the concept – all a customer needs to do is take a picture to get that item in her wardrobe.
Another major area where Artificial Intelligence is efficiently helping retailers is the optimization of voice search queries. comScore predicts that by 2020, more than half of the queries would be voice-based and looking at the ongoing trend, it may even soar higher. AI can help retailers create a more human-like experience and interactions between the site and the consumers.
Chatbots – According to the statistics by Gartner, by 2020 nearly 85% of customer queries will be entirely handled without human intervention. Very soon, Artificial Intelligence will become strong and intelligent to an extent where it will efficiently and accurately identify customer voices and facial features. Another capability of AI is chatbots, an offering to enhance the shopping experience like none. Industrial giants including the Amazon and H&M are already actively utilizing AI and chatbots. These chatbots can address issues such as tracking the order, making suggestions according to customer preferences, and various others. In another example, Sephora, a very well-known personal care and beauty stores chain, has introduced a chatbot on Kik messenger service. This bot helps users with tips, product reviews, and also specific types of applications. These reviews and recommendations come up an option to shop those products without leaving Kik. Customers can also book services like ‘Book a Makeover’ through the chatbot.
Reduce Cart Abandonment – The average eCommerce cart abandonment rate is nearly 70%. While there are several reasons for abandonment, eCommerce companies are always looking for ways to reduce it. AI and machine learning help online stores in this matter. AI can help retailers in keeping their online consumers on track and handle their digital objections more proactively. The AI engine can process hundreds of data points in real-time and show the shoppers just the relevant information to move them from consideration to purchase. North Face partnered with IBM’s Watson analytics to create a highly personalized and relevant shopping experience. Their AI-powered tool helps the online visitors like an experienced and knowledgeable in-store expert and assists them in completing their purchase.
AI – The Future of Retail
A study by Juniper Research predicts that the global spend on artificial intelligence is expected to be $7.3 billion per year by 2022. For retailers, AI is a big boom, and it could mean big business for them. Making highly personalized product suggestions, predicting the needs of consumers, sending targeted marketing campaigns, to forecasting demand, retailers are already putting AI at work. With an increasing number of consumers ready to spend money online, in 2019, effective deployment of AI is undoubtedly going to on high priority for retailers.