AI applications in the retail industry

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Technological innovation and the increasing capabilities of AI are continuously developing to make the retail experience as efficient as possible. How is Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) making waves in retail?

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Machine learning in retail

Industries are always striving to make life easier for their customers. Technological innovation and the increasing capabilities of AI are continuously developing to make the retail experience as efficient as possible. This is increasingly important in a post-Covid era, where we’re already seeing an increase in the amount of technical support to deliver experiences with minimal contact time.  

Although The global annual spending on AI by retailers is estimated to reach $7.3 billion by 2022 (Source), and more than 90% of consumers reported that their online shopping frequency has increased due to COVID-19. (Source) just under three-quarters of organisations surveyed by our partners Wirehive, claim to already be using AI at the moment. 

How is Machine Learning and AI being put to use in revolutionising retail?

Sales and CRM Applications

The MarTech stack is growing by the day and delivering a multitude of benefits to those that embrace the tools, from predicting customer lifetime value to personalising customer journey, machine learning is helping marketing and sales teams build real insights into their customers to gain the advantage. 

For example, Customer Relations Management (CRM) tools can utilise AI to review customer journeys, purchasing behaviour and amidst other attributes, understand which customer contact points most successfully engage customers. With ML, this process can be automated and optimised to engage, convert and retain more and more customers. 

This automation and optimisation of the process, not only helps to drive sales and to ensure customer retention, and reduce customer churn, but the capabilities of AI can personalise the service to each customer directly and sell items that correlate to past purchases. This is achieved by collecting knowledge about specific customers and personalising sales techniques based on these individuals past habits and behaviours.  

As the need for real time insights increases to deliver better customer service and differentiate from the competition, the demand for AI and ML powered solutions grows. We’ve seen this growth with our customers, from building forecasting models for consumer trends and buying behaviour to optimise marketing campaigns to predicting customers likely to leave to increase revenue and profitability. Sales and marketing is getting smarter! 

Delivery Robots

The robotic delivery of food and other goods is increasingly being rolled out across the UK. Delivery robots, fit with cameras, ultrasounds sensors, radar and GPS can navigate from a 360-degree perspective, and can recognise obstacles such as cars, streetlights, curbs and are feeble in swiftly swerving around them. By utilising AI, these robots are fitted with security measures and also have the ability to crossroads and recognise pedestrians, giving way to them on pavements.  

Temperature is controlled as well. These delivery robots can keep food to the desired temperature until the point of delivery, resulting in a +75% of the local delivery business in In locations across the UK (Source) ultimately revolutionising the delivery service. 

The value of these solutions for instance lies in the fact that these robots are relatively cheap to maintain, and unlike a human delivery service can operate for around 20 hours per day, every day of the year. They do not require time off or sick pay and can travel around 50 miles per charge; given these robots can travel a maximum of 4mph, they require only 1 charge per day.  

As the technology behind robots increases, the capacity for AI and ML to understand human emotion is evolving rapidly. Hointer, a retail shop in Seattle has utilised AI technology to generate a series of in-store robotic customer assistants. The shop displays one size and colour of each item of clothing, customers can then use their smartphones to communicate with the robots to request different sizes and colours of these items.  

The robots then deliver the desired items to the changing rooms, saving time and money as well as ensuring a positive customer experience. (Source).   

chatbots and customer service
Chatbots and Customer Service

Chatbots are dominating the world of customer service, they have made such a storm that by the end of 2021 80% of companies are expected to be using them (Source).   

This isn’t at all surprising given the number of benefits that chatbots bring to organisations. The recent development in AI technology has led to chatbots becoming effortlessly conversational, offering 24/7 customer service, and presenting an attractive scenario in terms of wages and fixed costs.  

As customers delivery expectations are growing bigger, thanks to more and more complex supply chains, globalisation, and the “Next-Day Delivery” option, having efficient and reliable customer service is now more relevant than ever. 

It will be interesting to monitor how these innovations will develop in the next few years and watch the potential for them entirely replacing human-led customer service.  

These solutions seem to be the most effective first contact point for customers, who can funnel and deal with simple requests whilst passing on complex issues to their human colleagues and gather data. 

Ultimately, seeking maximum efficiency and convenience for customers, the use of AI and ML in retail is expected to increase, providing customers with an endless opportunity for products all from the comfort of their own homes.  

Retailers have one common goal- to provide a convenient service providing great products, the future of AI and ML is certainly expected to shape the future of retail in the next decade, so if you aren’t utilising the advantages of AI, it might be worth looking into to stay ahead. 

Read more about AI and Machine Learning applications in retail here or see how we are helping retailers gain a competitive advantage with our solutions here  

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