The robots are here, at least in terms of retail sales. That's because artificial intelligence is a part of every step of a customer's retail journey. AI in retail is more than just automated chatbots and warehouse robots that retrieve items. The sooner retailers embrace technological advances, the more market share they stand to gain.
Starting with marketing, artificial intelligence shouldn't replace the humans who create emails, social media posts, product descriptions and video content that draws in consumers. However, technological tools make this process easier. Imagine software that analyzes the best time to post social media campaigns and then posts them automatically when the time is right. AI can even suggest hashtags and content. Instead of users setting the time for social media posts, software can learn the optimal times to post things to Twitter and Facebook using analytics tools.
Real-Time Consumer Experience
AI can learn consumer preferences for style and design in real-time as a consumer looks over products. For example, a person might find a blue couch on the website of a home furnishings retailer. AI learns the person's preferences and suggests items that match the blue couch based on the image alone. The software matches the image with similar items that complement the style. Retailers no longer have to create image tags or examine historical data to determine what a consumer wants. Rather, an artificial intelligence program sees what the person looks at and goes from there in real time.
Another way AI works is through personalization. Someone sees an outfit on Facebook. The person clicks on it, and the consumer goes to the retailer's website. From there, artificial intelligence lets the consumer customize a look with different colors, accessories, sizes and designs. This makes consumers feel more in control, which is the overriding principle that drives the overall retail journey.
When advance computer software determines customers' preferences, it allows retailers to create mass customization techniques to reduce inventory. Machines are reaching the point where they can create outfits, products, garments, shoes and toys on the spot and on demand.
Online retailer Cosabella started using artificial intelligence software in 2016 as a way to analyze its marketing techniques. A program examined and experimented with color, size, fonts, timing, messaging and placement of pop ups on its website. The software increased subscriptions by 2,000 percent. Even better, Courtney Connelly, Cosabella's marketing chief, said the AI software the company used from Sentient was very affordable. Computer programs such as these give smaller retailers a way to compete with larger firms.
Affordability of these programs leads to more adoption, better software and even lower prices moving forward. Research firm Gartner predicts AI should govern as much as 85 percent of retail customer interactions by 2020. Retailers who adopt AI as part of an overall strategy in 2017 stand to benefit more as this type of technological advance grows.
Artificial intelligence in retail should eventually become so good that customers don't even recognize that their shopping experience is nothing more than interacting with a computer system with no human interaction. Industry experts believe that's where AI is headed, so retailers should get ready for the robot revolution.
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