How many times have you interacted with a chatbot through a shopping website, or at least seen the option available in the screen corner? Retail has had to evolve quickly to keep up with the rise of e-commerce and it hasn’t always been the smoothest transition. Thanks to the pandemic, foot traffic in shopping malls has slowed right down, department stores have closed up shop, and many smaller stores, once anchored by larger establishments, have been
left without a safety net or have been forced to shut down entirely.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already become part of everyday life. From the chatbot in the contact centre answering your query; to the recommendations and offers you receive from your supermarket, AI is already more ubiquitous than you might think. But then again, if you’re not noticing all of the AI around you, then it’s doing a great job.
How can retailers succeed in this changing environment?
On top of the move away from brick-and-mortar, consumers want to browse retailers' product catalogues from home; they want to know about in-store pickup options, and they want round-the-clock answers to questions about returns or replacements. Retailers can address the needs of shoppers with digital assistants through phones, tablets, PCs or in-store kiosks.
Assistants know which sales are relevant to each customer, sharing product options as well as pricing and shipping estimates. For personalised items, customers can use the assistant to check when the product is ready and shipped. Unlike the robotic communications of the past, today’s digital assistants are naturally conversational, answering questions in a realistic and lifelike manner that helps build a connection with customers.
With so much potential, AI is at pace to completely transform the retail industry as we know it and there are three primary reasons for this transformation:
Memory and recommendations
AI when combined with machine learning can figure out how to solve a variety of problems. It excels with an impeccable memory that can retrieve customer selections and preferences, keep track of retail visits, and make predictions about future purchases. Customer questions are automatically stored to provide better, more accurate answers down the line.
While sales personnel can’t offer the same benefits, they can use an AI-equipped mobile device to answer customer questions. That’s a win-win for everyone.
Providing customers with unique personalised recommendations like North Face does, is one way we’re seeing the retail industry make waves with AI - this brand has adopted IBM Watson’s cognitive computing technology to help consumers work out which jacket is best for them, based on variables like location, where they may be travelling and gender preference.
Communicate with customers now
Conversational AI can also be utilised to answer most questions through an app or in-store kiosk, serving as an extension of the retail experience, creating a stronger bond with customers.
Retail staff could also benefit by using that same app to help fulfil customer requests and therefore use their own time for more complex queries. For example, if an employee isn’t available or if the customer doesn’t have the app, retailers can use in-store kiosks to provide an easy and convenient way to deliver outstanding service.
‘Grab and Go’ for a quick checkout experience
Amazon.com's popular AI-infused convenience store, Amazon Go, has helped to popularise the “just walk out” idea of shopping, without the need for cashiers or registers. Using a mix of computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion, retailers can tell exactly which items customers intend to purchase. The transaction isn't complete until they walk out the door, leaving them optimal time to swap items as necessary. Amazon Go shows us that this is another way to bolster a brand and offer the fastest and most convenient shopping experience possible. Without AI, a store like this wouldn't be possible, and consumers would have to continue lining up at the checkout counter.
The world of retail is changing — and with those changes comes the necessity for technology that can meet the evolving needs of consumers. AI is an especially important part of that evolution. It paves the way for a new era in retail, one where questions are answered quickly, concerns are addressed immediately, and long lines are a thing of the past. Not to mention keeping consumers informed, as well as delighting them during the buying journey - it’s important to be human after all.
With these benefits propelling brick-and-mortar to the forefront of the shopping experience, consumers will be genuinely excited by the prospect of returning to their local favourites.
Ready in just weeks and fully customisable, Ako’s InConvo is a chatbot platform specifically designed to meet the needs of enterprises in any field - with the capacity to scale up or down depending on your needs.
Find out more about our integrations, and discover what Artificial Intelligence can do for you.