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Is Artificial Intelligence Still the Future of Retail?

Is Artificial Intelligence Still the Future of Retail?

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AI is shaping the future of retail, and with the right data, AI will help retailers meet and exceed consumer expectations – they just need to wake up to it.

Continuously striving for innovation, this new age of e-commerce is driven by a mass of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI). AI is reinventing the industry as we know it and is a trend that is set to shape the future of retail by enhancing shopping experiences for existing customers and creating new ways of attracting customers to meet the growing demands of consumers.

Whilst there has been a variety of “flashy tech” platforms and solutions that are already being implemented across retail, such as chatbots, virtual assistants and beacon technologies, AI is already adding something new to the mix.

Personalise or lose out

As consumers continue to demand greater levels of personalisation from brands – 69% of us now want an individualised experience, while two-thirds expect it – the pressure is on for retailers to provide seamless engagements, fed by valuable data insights.

When it comes to personalisation, many retailers still believe they don’t have enough data or the right type of data to do the job well. However, that’s where they are wrong. Whether it’s purchase history, location, recently viewed products or the type of device being used, individual experiences are easy to create and manage, leveraging just a couple of simple data sources.

How then, will this change with the introduction and growth of AI? The answer is: for the better. Not only will the use of AI within personalisation save time for retailers – thanks to the technology being self-functioning – but it will also mean that customers get hyper-personalised experiences based on real-time data.

Experiences in real-time

As it stands, retailers that personalise their online experiences will use a rules-based decision model. This means they can create multiple tests across various segments for anyone they like. However, it still requires some level of human management, with an individual or team then overseeing the results, and changing the personalisation strategy/metrics based on them to suit their customers. In many cases, this leaves retailers feeling overwhelmed by their data and unsure what to do with it.

When you involve AI, after minimal human intervention, the technology will be able to self-sufficiently collate insights into individual shopping patterns and customer behaviour. It will then be able to switch an experience in real-time, ensuring shoppers are seeing products and web pages that are relevant to them at that moment, on that device and in that particular location.

The majority of retailers may not know it but they are already collecting enough data to personalise online – they just need to learn how to use it.

From ‘big data’ to ‘fast data’

As AI continues to make its mark on the industry, we’ll see a shift away from ‘big data’, and towards ‘fast data’ in order to meet consumer expectations of receiving what they want, when they want it.

With so much data available to retailers today, it can be extremely daunting to not only process the mass of information but to then make sense of how to create experiences from it. This is where AI can lend a helping hand, assisting retailers in making sense of large data quantities and finding those that are going to drive a personalisation purpose.

It is not fair to call AI the be-all and end-all, or the one-stop solution to the personalisation problem for marketers. Although, it is certainly enabling huge strides in meeting and exceeding consumer expectations, and retailers that do not wake up to this, risk losing out to those that do.

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Simon Farthing

Simon Farthing

Simon Farthing, director of global strategy and insights at Monetate, is a senior strategist with experience constructing digital and data-driven success for a range of major brands.

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