We are living in a digital-first world where consumers keep seeking bespoke shopping experiences in real-time. In the market brimming with thousands of products, they expect personalized product recommendations, shorter wait times, and quicker deliveries.
In a nutshell, this new generation of consumers - which mainly comprises millennials - expects retailers to know them as well as their local grocery shop owner does.
It indicates how the retail landscape is rapidly reinventing by going digital. The ongoing pandemic has further accelerated this digital transformation and pushed retailers to innovate their existing operations. To achieve this objective, one of the most crucial breakthrough tools that retailers are investing in is Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, the question is, how is this technology helping retailers attain happy customers? Against this backdrop, here are five present and future use cases of AI in the retail ecosystem.
Present Use Cases
Improving In-store Experience - For retailers looking to optimize their time and improve customer service, AI can help automate in-store operations and thus bring down operational costs, which can be spent on other relevant areas. For instance, it can digitize store displays and trial rooms, replenish stock through real-time monitoring, replace queues with cashier-less payments, and much more.
A good example would be Amazon's Just Walk Out technology, which has simplified offline shopping by allowing shoppers to move in, grab items and leave merely. This is helping retailers offer quick and convenient checkout experiences to shoppers by eliminating checkout lines, which has been an age-long problem across the retail value chain.
Chatbots for Customer Assistance - Over the years, retailers have realized that omnichannel presence is now a necessity, not an option. Since customer interactions nowadays don't stay limited to an offline store, retailers must keep their customers engaged across both online and offline channels. This is where chatbots come into the picture.
As a store representative, a chatbot can effectively communicate with customers, address their queries, recommend products, and collect valuable data throughout this process, which can be converted later into actionable insights to make better and informed decisions. The best part is, chatbots can self-learn from past data to refine customer interactions with more personalized recommendations. Chatbots are intelligent enough to surpass human intelligence, especially when it comes to data and customer management.
Several retailers are already using chatbots to ensure seamless customer interactions. For instance, H&M, a leading Swedish fashion retailer, has a chatbot, which helps shoppers make better selections through multiple filters and style preferences, among other such personalized recommendations. This is one of the reasons why this brand is so successful even in today's competitive fashion industry.
Price Adjustments - AI can help retailers study their competition by collecting data about their products, promotional activities, sales figures, and other additional information from the market. Retailers can thus leverage these insights to craft better pricing strategies and make price adjustments in sync with market parameters like seasonal trends and consumer demands to come up with the best offers for customers eventually.
This way, AI can directly positively impact sales and help retailers boost their market presence. eBay, a multinational e-commerce corporation, is already using this technique to bolster sales and gain customer traction.
Smart Product Searches - You must have already experienced how various shopping apps simplify your search and discovery process while looking for a product. In fact, with AI integration, consumers can even take a picture of a product in real-time and use it to search its availability online.
LoveTheSales, a leading website for sales, has built a tool to classify over a million products based on training data, sort them into the right parts of the website, and help shoppers find the best deal from retailers.
Efficient Supply Chain and Logistics Management - Inefficient inventory planning is one of the most significant challenges that retailers face the world over, eventually costing them more money, which could otherwise be saved. However, AI can help retailers analyze past sales, buying trends, promotions, location, and other factors to make accurate demand predictions about a particular product.
For instance, AI-powered drones are being used by some retailers to reach tricky corners and thus update them about the available inventory in real-time, thus ensuring effective warehouse management.
Future Use Cases
Price Predictions - Like AI can help retailers with price adjustments and come up with the best offers, it can also be of great use in price forecasting. Through AI, retailers can consider multiple factors like changing product demand, seasonal trends, the launch date of new models under the same category, to name a few, and eventually make accurate price predictions.
Using this feature, retailers can help customers know beforehand when and how the price of a particular product is likely to change using an app or service. Remember how we can see the flight rates of upcoming months at present and accordingly plan travel. The same can be replicated in retail as well.
Delivery by Drones - The concept of drone deliveries has already made a lot of buzz around the world. Well, the truth is, it is closer to becoming a reality. Amazon has recently got approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to deliver packages using self-piloting fully electronic drones. Although these are on a testing mode, the days are not far when we will see drones delivering items in not more than 30 minutes.
Voice Search - Although several companies are already using voice search recognition to ensure a quick search and discovery experience, the future is likely to witness advanced versions of this technology adopted by industry leaders to make the overall retail experience more seamless for customers.
Today, more and more people rely on voice search on mobile for a convenient search experience. Looking at the impressive pace and scale of its adoption, more retailers are envisioned to bring this solution to their websites and transform the overall shopping process.
Tracking Customer Satisfaction - A lot of retailers including Walmart have installed a facial recognition system across their checkout lanes to detect the mood of customers using AI. Through this process, retailers can check whether the consumer is satisfied or annoyed with the shopping experience.
Going forward, more and more retailers are expected to invest in mood tracking technology to study their customers' moods, and accordingly build stronger relationships with them by offering them better shopping experiences the next time they visit.
Fraud Detection - As more and more new-age customers turn to online channels for better shopping experiences, the scope for frauds and fake products is likely to increase. Retailers will, therefore, need to invest in AI-based fraud detection technologies to decipher between genuine and counterfeit transactions to safeguard shoppers from such incidents.
Various leading retailers like Walmart are leveraging AI to protect customer transactions and thus enhancing their security regimes. As we advance, more retailers will invest in AI to strengthen their security structures through predictive analytics. This tool can detect suspicious behavior and keep everyone protected against cases like employee theft, data breach, and false returns, among others.
We have already seen how AI can be a game-changer for the retail sector in ways never imagined before. It can improve customers' overall shopping experience by making the process simpler and seamless, but it can also ensure safety and security to them at every point possible. It clearly shows that AI is essential for traditional and modern retailers to excel in their respective businesses by keeping customers safe, happy, and satisfied throughout the journey.