AI IN RETAIL: INTELLIGENT EXPERIENCES
Companies have been searching for ways to make retail more intelligent for years.
Leading industry analysts like Gartner indicate that 77% of retailers will have some manner of AI system in place by the end of this year (2021). Reports on the potential value of AI in the retail market believe that the tech will be worth around $14.7 billion by 2026.
Artificial Intelligence represents a powerful solution for a wide selection of retail problems. With AI algorithms, we can track customer information and deliver more personalized experiences. AI can help clients serve themselves with chatbots, intelligent assistants, or support agents to make better sales suggestions.
AI can even give companies a better overview of the trends of their target market, ensuring they have the best opportunities to outshine the competition.
The Trends Driving AI in Retail
Artificial Intelligence in retail can address and enhance virtually every part of the buying journey, from the supply chain to micro-targeting and predictive modelling strategies. Currently, some elements of AI in the retain environment are gaining more attention than others. Among the biggest trends present today are:
IMPROVED CUSTOMER SELF-SERVICE
Customers in the digital environment want the opportunity to serve themselves, and particularly save time in the process. Today’s customers expect to find FAQ pages online where they can answer their own questions about products. Chatbots and virtual assistants are also making it easier for consumers to complete purchases, renew subscriptions and engage in other retail activities online.
In the physical world, AI is also having on the way customers can serve themselves. AI assistants in a store can offer suggestions on other products to purchase based on a customer’s previous acquisitions. AI in point-of-sale systems allow customers to manage their own checkout experience, by scanning and bagging their own items, without the need for a cashier. Some supermarkets even allow customers to scan products as they go, to avoid a complex checkout experience.
Self-service solutions are likely to grow increasingly popular in the post-pandemic world, as companies look for ways to reduce interactions between people.
CHATBOTS AUGMENT THE HUMAN ASSISTANT
Sales assistants are a common feature of most retail environments. In the offline world, they assist with answering questions about products and completing transactions. In the digital world, they can help customers to find the right solution to their problems. Unfortunately, the rise in demand from customers in the current landscape means that human agents are stretched thin.
AI could be the solution for companies that need to augment their existing human assistants. Chatbots and IVR systems can respond to human requests with natural language processing and understanding. The same tools can also aid agents when they need to take over a transaction, by ensuring that the service assistant has all of the contextual information they need about the product, customer, and transaction.
AI solutions can instantly track and collect information from various previous conversations with a client across multiple channels. The same solution can also use historical insights into customer behavior and buyer personas to predict what the client might do next, and help drive positive outcomes.
Retailers thrive when they stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s coming next in a rapidly changing environment. Predictive analytics is a form of AI technology that can help retailers to stay on the cutting edge. By analyzing industry and customer data at speed, AI solutions can predict all kinds of potential outcomes.
Machine learning and predictive analytics tools can effectively determine which products are likely to be the most appealing to your customers in the years or months to come, so you know when to stock different items, or pursue new opportunities. The same tools can advise you when demand might suddenly spike so that you can prepare with the right amount of inventory.
Predictive analytics can even help with things like staffing by helping companies to understand when certain sales and seasons might lead to an increase in demand. During these times, extra staff members can be brought on board to manage customer service.
IMPROVED CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Customer experience is the number one tool for any business hoping to stand out from the crowd today. Customers are becoming increasingly demanding of high-quality experiences in any retail environment. Artificial Intelligence can offer a valuable solution to companies that want to deliver meaningful moments to their clients.
AI can use things like sentiment analysis and voice analytics to determine the satisfaction of a customer in any given interaction. Mood tracking can help teams to understand what kind of issues lead to unsatisfied customers. Artificial intelligence also makes it easier to build in-depth customer profiles for more targeted and personalized sales experiences.
The more information collected by a retail store, the easier it is to understand the needs and expectations of specific customers. AI tools can even be designed to suggest potential purchases or up-sells to customers during the transaction process, based on their previous purchases.
SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT AND LOGISTICS
Issues with supply chain management, logistics and order fulfilment lead to massive losses for retailers from all industries. Trillions of dollars are lost because companies simply can’t respond to increases in demand for certain products fast enough. AI in the supply chain can eliminate this problem, by calculating demand for a particular product, and determining when stock levels need to increase.
AI solutions can even automate various parts of the supply chain, assisting with things like tracking changes in stock amounts, and making automated orders with suppliers when levels reach a certain point. The ability to automate these activities means there’s less chance that an issue will arise from a team member forgetting to place an order at the right time.
Supply chain and logistical AI can also track potential problems in the supply chain and alert team leaders, so they can quickly make customers aware of any issues. This improves overall customers satisfaction.