Most Consumers Welcome AI; Here’s What It Means For Retailers
Featured in Forbes - How AI is adapting to the commercial space and how retailers can adapt to it
18 October 2017
The recent article from Forbes written by Tina Mulqueen features Softvision and how we are responding to retailer demands with novel omnichannel approaches such as Smart Mirror. The interactive mirror was created for one of the nation’s leading ‘athleisure’ retailers, bridges the physical and digital store to provide unique shopping experiences.
Read more of the great insights from different experts – https://www.forbes.com/sites/tinamulqueen/2017/10/17/most-consumers-welcome-ai-heres-what-it-means-for-retailers/2/#333dd9b23e7d
Artificial intelligence (AI) has leapt off the pages of science fiction novels and into our daily lives. To millions in the US and around the world, coexistence with AI such as Siri and Alexa is as normal as ordering pizza and watching Netflix. Although the public does foresee major changes as a result of our new cybernetic future, perception is generally optimistic.
According to a recent survey by Conversica, three out of four respondents believe that artificial intelligence will have an overall positive influence in the years to come. Much of this feeling has to do with advances in education, medical science and safety, but there’s also a strong belief that AI will improve our daily lives. AI can lower time spent on repetitive tasks and free up individuals for more rewarding activities.
If customers aren’t resistant to change, retailers shouldn’t be either, so it’s worth exploring how AI is adapting to the commercial space – and how retailers can adapt to it. I sat down with Tarun Gangwani, an AI and cloud computing entrepreneur and the Head of Product at Grok, to share some insights on AI trends in retail. Here’s what he had to say:
Improving Company Cultures
Most of the time, when we think about artificial intelligence as it relates to retail, we consider improved demographic and consumer behavior information and targeting, more efficient inventory processes, and the role of the likes of Siri and Alexa in the buying process. Rarely do we consider the role of AI in company culture, but according to Gangwani, it’s worth noting.
“AI will change the way your employees interface with one another and the business,” he says. “Today, HR relies on several manual processes to find the candidates that can provide a great face to a retailer’s brand, have the right mix of work experience, and have a passion for the role.”
With AI, the process is streamlined. “Several startups provide HR solutions looking to make life easier for retail employees and managers. Some solutions screen résumés for the characteristics that align with a retail brand. Other solutions make it easier for employees to connect with one another, increasing well-being throughout the organization.”
What’s more, AI can facilitate more rewarding work experiences for employees which may have implications on employee performance, engagement and loyalty. Companies like YouEarnedIt, an HR SaaS company, tout the ability to improve bottom-line performance metrics by enhancing the employee experience.
“For HR, the pattern matching capabilities of this technology can help eliminate unconscious bias from your recruitment efforts, identify people on your team who need attention, those who may be at risk, or even those who excel greatly, but may go unnoticed because of other factors,” says C.K. Sample III, YouEarnedIt’s Chief Product Officer. “Imagine taking that data and encouraging individual employees to take more ownership of their employment, to schedule a one-on-one with their manager, take a particular training or reach out to HR in a timely and meaningful way.”
How does this relate to marketing, you might ask? At the heart of a retail brand are the people that build it. Gangwani continues, “AI can help companies foster an employee base into a workforce that evangelizes a brand and loves their work.”
Strengthening Omnichannel Experiences
AI is also helping to bridge the gap between retail channels, creating a more seamless omnichannel customer experience. In the past, shopping experiences had been realized within silos of brick and mortar and e-commerce. “Now, customers are buying products within mobile and social contexts, laying the foundation for patterns that can be observed throughout a shopping experience,” says Gangwani. “Companies are leveraging big data collected from brand awareness all the way through the completion of a purchase.”
Companies like Softvision are responding to retailer demand with novel omnichannel approaches.
“Our team developed an interactive mirror bridging the physical and digital store to provide unique shopping experiences,” says Andres Angelani, the CEO of Softvision. “We are currently working with one of the nation’s leading ‘athleisure’ retailers to create a holistic customer experience using these interactive mirrors. This holiday season, customers will be able to fulfill transactions while also checking for new running routes, exercise classes, and other ways to engage socially that service an entire community.”
AI algorithms can analyze data to uncover buying trends, customer behaviors and more. As a result, companies using machine intelligence have a competitive edge that drives more customers to become champions of their brand.
Bots, Customer Service & Sales
Thanks to advances in the field, in tandem with the huge amounts of data that programs can now draw from, artificial intelligence is able to serve in a customer service role that goes light years beyond the robo-calls of old.
“Automation, AI, and chatbots have become such an integral part of the customer service conversation, and we can really see how these will make a transformative impact in the retail space specifically—especially considering the upcoming surge in holiday sales,” said Linda Crawford, CEO of Helpshift. “It’s so important to help online shoppers instantly because making them wait around for help significantly risks losing their sale altogether. Maintaining the same level of quality service during such peak times like the holidays is both more challenging and more important in that regard, but these intelligent features allow companies to go above and beyond their consumer expectations, even during the busiest times.”
According to Crawford, retailers that embrace AI may come out on top this holiday season for more reasons than enhanced customer service. In sales, products like AI sales assistants are starting to gain traction.
In the case of the AI sales assistant, the data is millions of samples of human sales interactions, which the assistant uses to engage with customers. Because it operates 24/7 and can handle an unlimited number of prospective clients, it can generate strong response percentages among leads. With a next-level tool like the AI sales assistant, leads are handled far more successfully, with consumers responding favorably, whether they know it’s artificial intelligence or not. (Spoiler alert: they almost certainly won’t).
Forward-thinking retailers will take a cue from consumers to embrace artificial intelligence. From freeing up key employees for high-impact tasks to improving efficiencies and relationships with employees and customers, alike, AI has a lot to offer. Moreover, if a significant percentage of consumers are expecting AI to add efficiencies to their lives, it’s up to retailers to deliver the goods.