Artificial Intelligence to Fuel Predictive and Customer-Centric Retail Eco-system

In 2011, Gartner Customer 360 Summit Report predicted that by 2020, 85% of customer-enterprise interaction will be managed without any human involvement.

With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and with increasing use of AI in commerce, both online and offline, this prediction is on the verge of coming true.

Today when AI have crossed over to real life from Sci-fi movies, it is changing and shaping the ways businesses interact with customers like never before!

While one of the leading online retailers, Amazon is leveraging the power of AI with Alexa, an AI powered virtual assistant; electronics brand LG (Instaview Refrigerator) has included the same to make their products more interactive, intuitive and engaging than ever before.

Although, AI powered household items are still considered luxury, in the field of commerce, AI has is seriously changing the game.

So, the question is, how exactly AI is changing the shopping scene for online and offline retailers? And what can be expected in future years?

Let’s find the answers!

1. Intuitive user experienced across all touch points

Gone are the days when consumer purchase was driven by requirements only and the in-store interaction was the only user touch points.

Today, there are multiple user touch points that can be categorized as pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase interaction.

Already, Amazon’s Alexa is changing the way businesses used to engage customers.

Today, Alexa enabled refrigerators can tell you which are the products you are running low on, AI powered washing machines can tell you when you have purchase the detergent, interactive virtual assistants can remind of special occasion and even send flowers to your loved ones with a voice command.

This interconnectivity of AI fuelled devices with businesses, both online and offline is going to increase as the technology progresses even more and become more readily available.

The treasure trove of consumer data; purchase patterns, personal habits, brand preferences etc will help businesses create more intuitive recommendations during the pre-purchase interactions, offer the right product at the right price during the purchasing phase and offer better customer support during post-purchase communication.

This intuitive user experience can definitely go a long way in capturing market for online as well as offline retailers, especially in Southeast Asian market where competition is fierce and consumers set high score for personalized experience.

2. Machine learning to transcend forecasting

For years now big retailers are using machine learning to forecast which products will be in demand in which part of the country in what time of the year. In 2014, Amazon dived deep in machine learning and patented predictive stocking.

With the wide spread availability of AI technology, machine learning is going to become way more inclusive and go beyond forecasting only.

For example, in case a person is on a business trip and forgets to bring his phone charger with him. As he orders a charger from a retailer (no matter whether online or offline), using machine learning, the retailer would be able to gather data about when the person is arriving at his destination, how long he is going to stay, where he is staying, how often he travels on business and when he is returning back, to create and recommend a number of other related products such as noise cancelling headphones, power bank etc.

Another example can be the predictive vending machines. These machines can take into consideration the weather condition, the time of the day, purchase pattern of the local customers as well as the freshness of the stored goods to recommend products, slash prices or increase the prices.

As tech companies are diving deeper into AI research, the experts are anticipating even more in-depth customer knowledge to drive more sales.

3. Greater omnichannel experience

Omnichannel shopping experience is already gaining high level of popularity around the globe, including Southeast Asia.

The predictive commerce ecosystem of today is increasingly blurring the border of offline and online retail. AI is likely to fuel the omnichannel experience even more and give rise of user centric shopping experience and not store-centric ones.

Combining predictive power of machine learning with AI-fuelled omnichannel infrastructures retailers are already generating shopping suggestions based on consumers’ social media likes, Instagram preference and Pinterest boards.

Viewing and selecting the products on a large virtual screen in a brick and mortar store and getting the products right in the shopping cart in one’s mobile app is what AI powered omnichannel design can do.

In future, more and more retailers will sure opt for more such innovative options to engage customers across channels and drive sales.

4. AI with human touch to enhance customer support

In an increasingly competitive retail climate, enhanced customer support has become the holy grail of success. Here, AI is already making life easier for numerous retailers with chatbots!

Chatbots are probably the most known aspect of AI today.

Today’s consumers are highly pressed for time and used to 24/7 connectivity. Whereas, most big retails could afford to have extensive customer support services, the advancement of AI aka chatbots have made it possible for smaller retailers to offer live support to their customers without incurring the high cost of hiring support personnel.

As the time passes, usage of AI in customer support is going to be more prevalent and the interactions are likely to adopt a more human tone.

Last Words

As retailers start to think more like tech companies, and innovation labs become more crucial, AI inclusion is going to become more rampant in commerce. AI lets retails get enhanced user knowledge and helps them connect the dots!

In coming days, retail industry is going to see more AI powered data churning and product prediction for sure!