With all non-essential shops in the UK having shut their doors for months on the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers are going to need each advantage they’ll get to bounce again. As we enter the brand new regular, research suggests almost half of UK consumers are nonetheless inclined to purchase on-line, showcasing altering shopper behaviors established throughout lockdown and the ongoing security considerations that many people still have.
Shopping centers, in particular, are struggling as tenants pause or end contracts due to footfall dropping at unprecedented charges. You only have to have a look at the collapse of Intu, the proprietor of a few of UK’s largest shopping facilities, to know the sheer impression of the pandemic on brick-and-mortar retail. However, eCommerce retailers haven’t gone untouched by the disaster, with Asos reporting declining sales during the lockdown and other on-line firms going into liquidation.
Vital to re-stimulating retail consumption will be in creating distinctive buyer experiences and a seamless buyer journey. Know-how, significantly synthetic intelligence (AI) within the type of clever automated companies, can assist ship this. Whether or not it’s by way of elevated buyer engagement, enhanced personalization or sales group assist, AI will play an essential function – each on-line and in-store. By stunning and delighting prospects by way of new innovations, retailers will construct up buyer retention and ultimately drive gross sales.
Creating a tailor-made online experience
Many online retailers are already tapping into innovation on the backend, the place refined AI systems work to supply ideas to new and existing customers. This has helped the expansion of the e-commerce and m-commerce sectors, the place customers can now buy items in simply a few clicks via Instagram.
AI can be mixed with machine studying to maintain track of earlier buyer alternatives and preferences and make predictions about future purchases. This paves the way in which for repeat shopping for and elevated customer loyalty – something which all retailers will be striving for within the wake of COVID-19.
Digital assistants embedded into a retailer’s website can help predict client conduct earlier than they’ve even started looking, making certain prospects get all the pieces they need from their purchasing expertise from the get-go. Customers want to be able to view the entire product range from any system, wherever and at any time.
They might want to know more about when merchandise might come again in inventory and various supply choices resembling in-store pick-up, which digital assistants can present. Ought to they’ve questions concerning returns, replacements or anything, digital assistants can reply instantaneously, reasonably than forcing the patron to trawl by way of the website for FAQs or having to ring up or tweet buyer companies.
Regenerating the high street
AI in retail nonetheless has large potential for growth – there is no doubt it can have the same impression on brick-and-mortar because it has done on-line, bringing new ranges of personalization to this area. A report from International Market Insights discovered that AI in retail was valued at $650 million in 2017 and predicted it can attain $8 billion by 2024.
We’re also beginning to see the usage of digital staff on the store ground, which may present prospects with all the pieces they want for excellent purchasing expertise. Delivered by way of smartphones, tablets, PCs or in-store interactive kiosks, digital staff can analyse and decide the most effective merchandise for every buyer. This creates an easy, easy-to-use experience for the patron with a well-recognized type of expertise and without the necessity for human-to-human contact.
As well as, as with the web experience, in-store digital assistants harness machine studying to entry shopping for historical past and particular person preferences whereas conserving observe of store visits. This permits retailers to create a holistic view of purchaser conduct and use that perception to create a streamlined buyer journey that spans each on-line and bodily shops.
An AI-powered personal shopper
AI-powered digital assistants can offer up new product options, reveal pricing particulars and supply supply estimates on the contact of a button. Because of back-end integration with CRM, provide chain administration, and enterprise useful resource planning software program (ERP), they’ll additionally update prospects in real-time about personalized gadgets that aren’t within the store that day, once they’ll be able to dispatch and when they’re anticipated to reach.
What’s extra, this can all be communicated in a way that suits the shopper – both by way of textual content or speech. In contrast to clunky, robotic communications of the previous, today’s refined digital assistants are naturally conversational, answering questions in a practical and lifelike method, which helps foster a stronger bond between the shopper and the retailer. As with every member of the sales team, their data bank additionally expands over time. For example, when a buyer asks a query, the information will be saved and retrieved at a later date, bettering the accuracy and skill to reply related questions going ahead.
Whereas having a powerful gross sales group is actually a should, AI can assist even essentially the most inexperienced of employees members. They too, can use digital assistants on a cellular system to reply buyer questions, discover information simply and reply to their requests, strengthening their capacity to serve prospects shortly and effectively.
Completely contactless buying
AI also powers “simply stroll out” shopping – as trialed by each Sainsburys and Tesco within the last few years. This is able to permit utterly contact-free purchasing, the place customers might stroll right into a store, seize the gadgets they need and exit without stopping at a single take a look at to totally automate the funds course of.
By combining the power of pc vision, deep studying and sensor fusion, retailers can obtain a lot extra. On the one hand, AI can forecast the merchandise a customer plans to purchase, while sensors and pc imaginative and prescient verify which gadgets have been picked up and precisely cost them for his or her purchases. The truth that the transaction is not finalized till the shopper leaves the store additionally implies that they’ll browse at their leisure, selecting up and placing down totally different gadgets without having to fret about incurring inaccurate charges. The “simply stroll out” idea might utterly revolutionize the in-store expertise as we all know it whereas enabling better social distancing without the checkout queues.
The new normal for retail
Pre-pandemic, the retail sector was already ripe for regeneration as the comfort and velocity of on-line purchasing outpaced innovation on the excessive avenue. The COVID-19 outbreak has since accelerated the monumental shift in purchasing conduct and a surge in on-line purchasing channels. That said, the trade will bounce again, and with it we’re more likely to see new technique of interacting and fascinating with our favorite retailers, each on-line and in-store.
Enhanced with expertise that prospects have come to anticipate, brick-and-mortar shops can construct an extension of the web expertise, furthering the connection between outlet and client. Ideally, and with all consideration for what a post-COVID world might look like, this can encourage different retailers to innovate, leveraging the possibilities of AI to provide a brand new and thrilling purchasing expertise that doesn’t finish when a buyer leaves the store or clicks off the web site.