Artificial Intelligence has, in recent years, risen to prominence, with society becoming accustomed to the use of AI, as well as its many advancements in every walk of life. AI has transformed our day to day lives in terms of how we access our information, how we carry out basic tasks, and how we communicate with one another. Every sector and industry has come to terms with the phenomenon of AI and in order to keep up with the demand of the everyday consumer, has had to tailor their services to become automated, more efficient, and faster. One particular industry that has had to drastically alter their understanding of customer experience, consumer habits and spending behavior is the retail sector.
Keeping Up With Demand
For retailers, the advancements in AI technology in most recent years have meant that businesses and organizations have had to effectively keep up with the demand of its consumers, who now have a raised level of expectancy for service to meet demand. The way in which machines and AI systems can now gather, process and share information has rapidly altered the pace of consumer spending habits. This positive response from users of AI has, therefore, meant that retailers have had to devise ways to provide service and options that are similarly as quick and efficient. Looking forward, the fast-paced society that consumers are now used to will see a rise in the pace of AI services in the retail sector, which will be discussed in depth below.
One of the main attractions of AI for consumers relates to how convenient transaction processes have become. In the past, an average shopping experience could be seriously affected or dampened by busy periods, queuing and time-consuming waits in line to purchase goods. This is no longer the case due to the introduction of self-service machines. Gone are the days of waiting in line and having your goods processed by a member of staff, who would methodically scan the items you were buying and essentially be key to the completing transaction. Self-service machines have removed the need for such services, and it is not uncommon to see self-service machines in shops we visit every day.
The appeal of self-service is simple: it is quicker, and due to the size of self-service checkouts, queue times have rapidly decreased as ten machines can be placed in a space that would previously fit only a few check-out registers to be manned by human beings. What must be noted is that many people now visit the shops and purchase their goods without any interaction at all with a member of staff. This is an incredibly notable change in the way the retail industry will function in the near future. Shops such as Amazon Go have been tested to prove the possibility of a completely automated shopping experience. Looking forward, with such a rise in the success of self-service machines, as well as apps and mobile wallets to further aid the shopping process, retailers are expected to have to embrace the technological advancements to provide customers with a similar level of efficiency across the board.
How Does This Affect The Future of Retail?
As further advancements in understanding what technology is needed for consumers, shifts within the sector could see a further reduction in members of staff as automation becomes the norm. Pre-ordering and collection services through apps have also meant that the need to visit physical shops for long periods of time has significantly reduced. In terms of convenience, the dramatic rise in online shopping for retail websites could seriously see a shake-up regarding the future of retail. Next-day delivery has also become a popular choice for consumers, which has seen the importance of implementing effective strategies on the logistics and delivery side of things.
We crave convenience; whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, if we can find a way to make a process easier for us, we will do so. With society at a point where lifestyles and schedules are hectic, busy and so fast paced, it is understandable that we would look for options that will make our lives easier. AI effectively is providing solutions to benefit the individual, and this is why, in the future, we will see more services and sectors of the retail industry have more of an online focus, with limitations on human interaction and processing; it is simply a case of keeping up with demand.
Consumer Information and Personalized Customer Experience
AI has also had an impact on the way in which retailers can gather information about their customers, which includes their personal information as well as spending habits and consumer behavior. The surge in popularity in shopping apps and use of websites has enabled AI to track consumer habits, which allows for data collection and analysis.
Very rarely are you now able to purchase an item online without having to provide some sort of information; this can be as seemingly harmless as your email, or you may share more in-depth information, such as your address, and even gender and age being collected in the form of ‘data profiling.’ This information is then processed, with consumers shown certain products or items that fit the profile of that person, which thus entice the individual into spending more. Other trends such as notable events on the social calendar and weather trends can also be adapted to tailor the consumer tastes and adapt content to appeal to the shopper.
Chatbots have become increasingly popular on websites, offering answers to customer’s questions almost instantaneously, again highlighting a growth in further personal customer experience. Consumers feel their needs are being listened to with AI and through tailoring their marketing to suit the consumer, more of a relationship is formed, increasing the liklihood of that customer returning. Such personal profiling can benefit both the consumer and the retailer, as customer loyalty can be built from showing an interest in a shopper’s individual needs. The ability for AI to process large amounts of data instantaneously to satisfy consumer demand highlights how AI is being embraced and utilized in the retail industry. In the future, consumers and customers should expect further changes in their personalized shopper experience. Regarding bricks and mortar shops, more specialized and personal experience will be expected by consumers. This may involve a rise in digital personal assistants and features such as facial recognition being integrated into the everyday shopping experience.
AI has already gone a long way in changing the consumer behavior, so it stands to reason that, as technology evolves and develops further, this change is only just beginning. The retail industry is only one sector which is adapting to the implementation of Artifical Intelligence, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. For the consumer, this is surely a positive step forward, creating a more enjoyable, personal experience in every store.