Retail is undoubtedly a fast, competitive and every-changing industry. With customers able to access retail sites from anywhere in the world 24/7, the competition has never been more ruthless. But whilst technological advancements have in some ways made it tougher to survive in retail, it has also created endless opportunities.
AI is a perfect example of this. By staying abreast of the many advancements in Artificial Intelligence and how it is used within the retail industry, you could not only keep up with the competition but also surpass them and boost your profit margins.
So what are the latest AI trends in the retail industry?
Customer Relationship Management
The modern consumer is demanding. They want immediate answers to their questions and access to assistance 24/7. CRM applications enable businesses to deliver just that. With AI powered CRM systems, you can process enormous amounts of data in order to better understand and even pre-empt customer needs.
One way of improving your CRM systems is via AI Chatbots. These are fast developing and are now able to carry out intelligent conversations. Chatbots can be used as a tool on your site’s homepage or even via the messenger app on Facebook. The latest Chatbots continue to develop as they engage in more and more conversations with customers. This means that they are continuously learning and improving on the job. They can remember users based on their IP address and can therefore, in theory, continue a conversation from where they previously left off
You can use Chatbots to help customers troubleshoot issues, navigate your website or to suggest similar products to what they have recently been browsing. This in turn will help minimise complaints, save time and money on help-desk staff, improve customer service and satisfaction as well as increase your conversion rates and boost sales.
Though it may seem like the plot to an 80s movie, many large retailers have begun utilizing AI in the manufacturing process. Amazon famously began using robots to assist with the heavy lifting, stacking and packing of items not too long ago. They have also introduced smart sensors instead of cashiers which has optimised accuracy as well as time-management and efficiency.
Using integrated IT systems that are able to complete physical tasks, collect information and predict consumer behavior can help streamline your operations. It increases productivity and can reduce costs in the long run. It also minimises the risk of human error which can save time and money. In turn, increased productivity and fewer clerical errors increases customer satisfaction which can increase repeat business and improve your reputation amongst customers.
AI is revolutionizing the way customers buy and pay for their goods. As technology evolves, customers expect to put less and less effort into the purchasing process.
Amazon Go is a prime example of the way in which AI-driven technology can completely change our expectations of the shopping process. Despite the company’s dominance of the e-commerce industry, this branch of the business involves actual brick-and-mortar stores in which no physical check-out is required. Customers are required to download an Amazon Go app and have an Amazon account. They must use the app to enter the store, after which point no further action is required. Customers are then free to walk around the store and place items into shopping bags. Using computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning, Amazon’s “Just Walk Out Technology” automatically detects when products are taken from or placed back on the shelves. These items are then tracked in a virtual shopping cart which is linked to the customer’s Amazon account. Once customers are finished shopping, they can simply walk out of the store. No check-out, no waiting in line. Later, their Amazon account will be charged and a receipt will be sent.
Apple are also revolutionising the payment and check-out process with the introduction of Face ID on the iPhone X. Similarly to other biometric authentication methods like fingerprint recognition, Face ID can allow customers to pay for products using their face as authentication. iPhone X users can already make purchases this way via Apple Pay, the App Store and iTunes as well as through a number of third party apps. Not only does this help tackle fraud and make both online and in store payments more secure, but it will also streamline the check-out process across the industry.
Using Pricing Intelligence tool which helps to give a accurate price among thousands of products across any number of competitors. With payment technology becoming more and more sophisticated, the future is likely to make physical card payments near redundant.
Logistics & Delivery
As with every other aspect of the industry, AI is streamlining the logistics & delivery aspect of retail. Using optimisation algorithms, it allows companies to manage stock levels and keep up with demand in real time, regardless of location and number of warehouses. Many systems can also enable companies to continuously track their supply chain and even help predict potential disruptions or delays by gathering data from various sources, including social media.
By allowing companies to continuously access and analyse endless data and information, AI can also help streamline the delivery stage. From using drones, small AI machines or droids for small deliveries to analysing previous journeys and pre-empting delays, AI enables retailers to continuously improve their delivery systems.
AI enables us to gather, process and analyse enormous amounts of data in an extremely short amount of time. So when it comes to AI, the possibilities are truly endless. It is becoming increasingly sophisticated and isn’t likely to go away any time soon.
So whether you want to focus on marketing and driving sales, streamlining the manufacturing & delivery process or want to upgrade your entire operation, AI should be a crucial and non-negotiable part of your business plan for the future.