A lot has happened in the past three years - the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and geopolitical conflicts, to name a few. As businesses navigate through these hurdles and 2022 comes to an end, critical challenges such as unemployment and the rising cost of living amidst changing customer spending patterns remain. In fact, 94 percent of Indian small businesses (SMBs) agree that they will lose business to more customer-centric competitors without continuous improvement to CX capabilities.
In such a competitive market, exceptional customer experience sets businesses apart. As the economy shifts and customer behavior follows suit, businesses need to deliver the best customer experiences to gain and retain consumer loyalty. Compared to larger enterprises, e-commerce SMBs face the biggest test ahead owing to smaller teams, tighter resources, and a dip in customer sentiment on spending.
As 87 percent of Indian customers expect the majority of their service interactions to be automated, but only 39 percent currently offer AI and chatbot-guided self-service, SMBs need to ensure they have the technology needed to effectively and instantly engage with customers. With this shift to making always-on customer service imperative, how can AI help small businesses ensure they are focusing on areas that matter most to their customers?
Use Your Data So You Don’t Go In Blind
Any AI is only as powerful as the data sets it has to work with. It begins with a large amount of data about who your customers are, their status with your company, most common requests, and what channels of engagement they prefer. Use that data to define your AI strategy. With the right tools and insights, SMBs can use this data to better understand their customers and identify areas to strategically add AI and automation across the customer journey. This data can also be used to detect patterns that can inform how support agents should be deployed during peak times.
Get Personal If You Want to Build Brand Loyalty
Times of economic uncertainty presents a great opportunity for small businesses to focus on what’s working and understand what drives customer loyalty. When 99 percent of Indian customers are willing to spend more on brands that offer personalized and streamlined services, e-commerce SMBs can no longer ignore the imperative to get personal. That’s where AI-enabled CX technologies can help small operations respond with greater flexibility and develop lasting personal relationships with repeat customers through personalization.
Using AI to provide personalized service entails anticipating customers' needs in a way that feels seamless and simple to customers. For example, data analytics may give insights into the types of products your customers want but bombarding them with ads for products they’ve viewed may make them feel frustrated.
SMBs can use AI for added personalization by adding a layer of context to those data insights and predicting the right time to serve up the right product ads based on their customer’s preferences, account history, purchases and returns, and interactions across service channels. When this data is easily accessible to support agents, it makes it easier for them to answer questions and resolve issues quickly.
Empower Employees with AI
During peak times like the holiday season, every second counts for e-commerce companies, but not every customer service ticket can be fully resolved with AI. SMBs can use the power of AI to gather information and intelligently route the tickets to the right agent. When coupled with powerful machine learning and natural language processing abilities, AI can be used to identify customer intent and show agents recommendations on what to do next. This not only enables SMBs to offer better experiences to customers but also helps agents resolve issues faster and more effectively.
AI-powered chatbots can triage queries to identify trends and resolve common issues. eliminate repetitive tasks, and answer simple requests, like checking on order status, and processing returns, and especially do all of this 24/7. With new technologies democratizing access to AI, SMBs no longer need specialized developer skills and large budgets to implement AI solutions within their organizations. Solutions that work out of the box make it more accessible to smaller businesses and startups to use.
Measuring ROI on CX Investments
Merely investing in CX tools isn’t enough. Small businesses need to streamline workflows, train agents, and monitor CX performance to identify areas of improvement and know whether their investments are paying off.
Storing data on customer orders on a spreadsheet cannot achieve these results. Small businesses need to dive deep into the data and look for insights they might have missed while using siloed data. Integrated dashboards with advanced analytics enable companies to identify consumer behaviors that impact inventory and support channels in real-time and uncover trends that will allow them to respond quickly to changes.
Data analytics is about understanding how your business can improve and continue to monitor success. CX software with built-in reports that help you to view and analyze key information and leverage tools tailored to your unique needs go a long way for SMBs. These insights can be shared across the business as it sheds light on customer perceptions of the products, services, user experience, and marketing campaigns.
Cost-effective investments are critical for SMBs and this has become even more true over the past few years. With the right technology, processes, and workflows, these businesses can deliver more personalized experiences that deepen brand loyalty. Including CX in growth plans is essential for their bottom line, especially in ensuring the retention of their customers not only in turbulent times but for the long haul.
New technological advancements and the growth of the digital space have led various sectors to embrace innovation and adaptation. The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, in particular, has rapidly shifted in that direction by joining hands with the e-commerce industry. McKinsey reveals that e-commerce sales in the consumer goods industry are projected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2025, a fourfold increase from the last decade. In the face of intense competition and a high turnover volume in the sector, Artificial Intelligence emerges as a crucial differentiator in helping brands stay ahead of the curve.
Artificial Intelligence plays a vital role in bringing consumers closer to the brand. An ongoing challenge within the FMCG industry is for accurate consumer insights to enhance data-backed decision-making. Insights AI combines advanced AI technologies like Emotion AI, Behavior AI, and Generative AI, to ensure brands get in-depth consumer behavior data. These technologies help brands understand the expectations and preferences of target audiences and provide accurate data for efficient decision-making.
As with any other industry, consumer needs and expectations in the FMCG sector are ever-evolving. AI's ability to access and process vast data sets allows brands to tailor their marketing strategies quickly and effectively in line with the requirements of the target audience. With the inclusion of Insights AI, the Indian FMCG industry could witness a significant improvement in the cost and quality of products and services.
One of the most crucial aspects of any FMCG product lies in its ability to resonate with the consumer. Here is where understanding the emotions and behaviors of the consumer towards the product becomes important. Insights AI plays a vital role in bringing these insights closer to the brand in several ways.
Insights AI can create exceptional value for the FMCG brands thriving in e-commerce. 29.1 percent of consumers believe that AI can be better utilized in providing personalized product recommendations, while 33 percent agree on its function to provide optimized search results. It can decode an individual’s purchase history and demographic information to create personalized shopping experiences for its consumers.
As one of the industries undergoing a major change due to Insights AI technologies, let us look at some of the ways it is creating a difference today.
1) Consumer Research: Insights AI can gather data and feedback on the path to consumers' purchase journeys- from looking at a product ad to completing a purchase on a website. It helps provide deep, unbiased insights, which ultimately provide a seamless shopping experience.
2) Marketing Communications: FMCG can benefit immensely in creating targeted and personalized campaigns that truly resonate with their target audience by understanding what consumers like and dislike.
3) Content and Media Testing: Brands can optimize the visual appeal and engagement across various content formats, such as ads, videos, social media posts, etc., by testing content and media pre and post-launch.
4) Pack Design and Shelf Placement Testing: FMCG brands can test their pack designs and shelf placements using Insights AI, which analyzes the shopper’s purchase intent, stopping, holding, and closing powers to make products stand out.
5) New Product Development: Validate your concepts, opinions, and ideas before a new product is developed to ensure that you are not completely relying on your gut instinct and guesswork.
While AI has a huge potential for FMCG brands to scale and improve, its widespread adoption also raises concerns about data privacy and ethical considerations. The heavy reliance on consumer data for insights also means transparency is a key priority in AI.
AI-led disruption in the FMCG sector is not just a possibility- it is already happening. From optimizing strategies to personalized recommendations, AI is leading the way for the FMCG sector to thrive- in the e-commerce space and beyond. With the continuous evolution of technology and fierce competition in the market, the need for products and brands to stand out is imperative, especially among FMCG players. As such, brands must remain agile, adaptive, and customer-centric in their approach toward AI to deliver meaningful experiences for the end consumers.
Ranjan Kumar is the Founder and CEO of Entropik – research integrated platform powered by AI. He is an engineer from IIT Kharagpur, has invested most of his time working with soft computing, neural computing, and deep learning. Ranjan has worked with distinctive firms like ONGC Ltd and ITC Ltd, after which he turned an entrepreneur with Oyeparty.com in 2012. He has also headed business at Citrus Payments, a fintech company, giving the division exponential growth under his leadership.
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