If you have ever wondered, “is this brand reading my mind”, when you received discount offers from the same brand you wanted to buy apparel, then maybe it is indeed ‘reading’ you. As artificial intelligence (AI) takes over multiple industries, retail too has not been left far behind. In fact, several reports suggest that by 2020, 85% of customer interaction in retail will be managed by AI and 30% of all companies will employ AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes by the same time period, writes ShwethaSatyanarayan.
As you enter the website of Keva Ayurveda, a brand that specializes in authentic, affordable Ayurveda products, a chatbot welcomes you. Based on your preferences, the chatbot guides you through the Keva catalogue and recommends products that suit your skin, hair and combinations that work for your skin type. What more? It will also suggest the products you need to avoid.
If you think the chatbot knows more about your skin, than you do, well you are not all wrong. “Technology has changed the way people buy products online and thanks to AI, the number of queries we receive have increased to 30-40 per day from just 10 in a week,” says Krishna, founder of Keva Ayurveda.
It’s interesting how AI has taken over retail industry and is helping retailers augment sales. According to Gartner, by 2020, 85% of customer interaction in retail will be managed by AI and 30% of all companies will employ AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes by the same time period.
Commenting on why AI will rule the retail industry, e-commerce platform SaleBhaico-founder Vishwavijay Singh, says, “Artificial Intelligence is transforming almost every aspect of retail, be it providing intuitive navigation or automated customer support. By itself, AI is already being developed into assistive products for everyday life. Behind the scenes, there is a huge intricate and long computational process that entails a precise set of algorithms so as to provide an amazing experience to end users. This technology is going to rule the industry.”
So it’s no longer a secret that retailers collect big piles of consumer data, capture their shopping experiences and use AI to augment sales. Is all this data actually helping retailers? “Not really,” suggests Anjali Kumari, Sr. Director(Product)Capillary Technologies. She says that less than 10 per cent of consumer data is being used to increase sales in retail.
“To stay ahead of the curve in today’s cut-throat marketplace, Retailers are constantly exploring the potential of Artificial Intelligence(AI). Although, everyone seems to be interested, adoption of AI -powered tech is still less than 10%. This is primarily because of lack of an integrated solution which can manage the complete customer journey using AI technologies,” she says.
How can AI help in conversions?
“Massive amounts of useful information are left unused, resulting in conversion rates of only 2 to 3 per cent overall. However, AI may change that for companies by using this data to take information and turn it into targeted shopping experiences, online chatbots that will easily answer questions and assist customers, and in-store intelligence to make the experience even more interactive,” says RohanMahedar, Product Head, Capillary Technologies.
Meanwhile, Singh says in India, AI is used mostly for customer service and backend development, but going forward, it will be used in customer services like a customer will get the exact product he’s looking for, as it saves time in navigation and search.
“Across the world, AI is already helping the retail industry by making the shopping experience more personalized -- search results, pages and product recommendations. Not just that, AI has even proved out to be a boon for the supply chain. The technology has optimized inventory management, distribution routes and allocations, as well as replenishment systems,” he says.
Enabling the offline
While online retailers have easy access to pre-transactional customer behavioural data which encompass the complete journey from visit to time spent on each product page to cart abandonment and the final purchase, offline retailers are less equipped than online players.
“Consumer insights enable online retailers to influence and tweak customers’ shopping behaviour in real-time and positively impact sales. We are leveraging the power of AI to offer similar strategic capabilities in an offline world. The AI powered devices enable the offline retailer to capture variety of data thus enhancing the per-purchase consumer experience. This helps in intelligently targeting the right customers at the right time with 1:1 personalised message and offers,” says Anjali.
The next wave in retail
“The next wave of AI adoption in retail industry will be engaging with potential customers in store and enhancing their pre-purchase experiences,” says Anjali. She suggests that using AI-powered devices, offline stores can be empowered to positively impact the conversion rates.
“Proactively personalizing customer journeys based on technology that would enable retailers to come up with recommendations using visual and demographic profiling and speech analysis with the ultimate aim of identifying the customer as they enter the store would be of great value to retailers,” she says.