23 Oct How AI is transforming the Shopping Experience and Reshaping the Future of the Retail Industry
Nowadays, while computing power has become cheaper, the access to tons of data easier, and algorithms more reliable, we enter a new digital age: The era of Artificial Intelligence. AI reconnects physical and digital worlds while addressing retail online & offline challenges. Online shopping is often cheaper and more convenient. But how can retailers bring the shopping experience of brick-and-mortar to their online services? Offline ensures tangibility and lets you touch, see and smell. But how can you still have the convenience and choice of the online shopping experience? It is not a secret anymore that Retailers add artificial intelligence to their marketing mix, transforming the shopping experience into a highly personnalized journey. Here is a quick overview of how AI will impact retail.
1. AI and Predictive Analytics make Retail forecasts more accurate.
Gathering data within and outside the organization is not only trendy. It has become a must-do for any Retailer who wants to predict shopping trends, improve its forecasts accuracy and control its costs. From sales forecasts accuracy to better supply chain forecasts, predictive softwares include hundreds of variables – weather included – in their algorithms, enabling Retailers to identify patterns and behaviors at scale, generate new streams of revenue and reduce their costs. Those solutions also make yield management a new opportunity to maximize margins and get the best of the pricing component of Retailers’ marketing mix.
2. AI renews the whole shopping experience. Augmented Reality (AR) makes retail more trustworthy, convenient and emotional.
Three attributes Millenials value more than any other. Millennials’ affinity for technology helps shape how they shop. They are used to instant access to price comparisons, personalized content, on-demand services. A layer of narrative is added to the shopping journey which evokes shoppers’ new emotional response that drives the buying decision. Products reviews and social sharing reviews on the spot are one of the options enabled by AR matching with the expectation of this rising audience.
Among other AR deployment success stories, Ikea Place represents one of augmented reality’s most important use cases. As early as 2012, it experimented with augmented reality to bring its shelves and tables to life in your living room. Now that idea gets a major refresh, with a new app called Ikea Place. Tap through the app’s catalogue of over 2,000 products—nearly the company’s full collection of umlauted sofas, armchairs, coffee tables, and storage units—then hold up your phone and use the camera to place the digital furniture anywhere in a room. Want to see how the Strandmon winged chair looks by the window? Done. Can you really squeeze in that 7-foot-long area rug? Open the app, point your camera at the floor, and watch it appear at scale. It will certainly improve the furniture-buying experience, and relieve some of the stress of measuring what will or won’t fit in a tight space.
Moreover, AI is transforming the Shopping Experience based on the images consumers look at online. AI-image search is central to the ambition of building a data-science model that drives highly relevant product offerings to consumers across the social web. Becoming the retail sector’s next big digital shopping experience. It’s still early days, but AI-image search is based on digital platforms running machine learning that increasingly understands consumers’ interests based on the images they look at online and the social pages that they “like.” Apple said that thanks to AI-image search, shoppers may one day simply take a picture of a what they want and immediately have options. Trunk Club, an apparel subscription service owned by Nordstrom, has increased Pinterest engagement by more than 100 percent in recent months by embedding artificial intelligence into its digital-images marketing. At West Elm, the furnishings brand has implemented Pinterest and the Clarifai API to provide recommendations to shoppers (Style Finder service). Meeting an essential trend : delivering time-savy and highly personalized curated content.
3. AI enables Retailers and brands to turn customer-centric while increasing their focus on providing more and better services.
AI enables marketers to understand images, optimize user experience and converse with consumers.
Cameras are your entry point to understand the world. They also might become the entry point of your retail experience, while giving a warm personalized welcome to your customers. Want to welcome your customers while naming them and pushing a customized offer or granting a discount based on their orders history via a text message, an app notification or on a TV screen at the entrance of the store? With facial recognition, it is already possible.
In the same time, sales representatives tend to become and act as Brand experts and Consultants because they have been informed in real-time about the customer’s history – orders, customer previous experience with the brand: claims, returns and refunds, average cart, preferred payment method… Stores’ Staffing Associates can now provide better recommendations.
With (chat)bots, brands develop natural interactions in our everyday lives. And customers can easily place or manage an order through a text platform like messenger or while conversing with friends on snapchat. Bots are also a revolution in customer service field.
Leveraging data also enables retailers and brands to offer any customer a personal shopping assistant for free: Content curation has always been a key feature of most efficient ecommerce websites, playing a key role in conversion and upsell. Now your personal stylist is available while shopping online or in store. Visit one of the fitting rooms of Mango or Rebecca Minkoff stores in Soho, NYC: The mirror will display recommendations to complete the look!
AI also enables efficient one-step-further delivery services. While amazon has been known for testing air delivery, it is now the indoor and “into-the-fridge” delivery whose implementation is tested by Walmart.
Last but not least, always in a time-savy perspective, AI makes payment experience smoother and solves the challenge of in-store queue management while offering dematerialized options. Starbucks positioned itself as an early adopter of technology in this domain. Besides, the data which is collected online or through an app will feed the customer insights and intelligence
All those enhanced services contribute to a seamless shopping experience where the customer is at the heart of all the concerns. Goodbye mass consumption, good morning personalization.
As a conclusion, the revolution of commerce has started. Retailers add artificial intelligence to their marketing mix. One way to remain competitive, especially in a world where digitally native consumer brand challenge traditional retailers while growing fast and gaining market shares. Online retail is so image-based, retailers recognize AI is a key ingredient in the marketing mix. . While all of this may seem intuitive, many marketers are struggling to catch up. Only 11 percent of brands are AI experts. One might explain that one of the biggest challenges you could see with campaigns like those described above has nothing to do with the AI itself, but with the ability for a brand to clean and process the required data – systems architecture and integration is crucial – and to create the appropriate amount of content needed for unique user experiences. Besides, if ultra-personalization enables brands to enhance customer experience with new style finder or personal shopper assistant services ; its adoption also questions the integrity of pricing policies and demands attention from marketing professionals, as some customers could feel discriminated in case pricing rules applying to them would differ drastically from the ones applying to their peers.