The future is now: five ways AI can drive retail success
Retailers of all sizes can take advantage of the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to drive sales and make your business more resilient in these turbulent times, writes Dr Alan McCabe, Chief Technical Officer at Roubler.
If we are to believe the hype, AI is on the brink of completely transforming the trajectory of life as we know it. It may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but in reality AI is already thoroughly embedded in consumers’ day-to-day lives. Whether it’s face recognition on their mobile phone, the results of a quick online search, or an advertisement on social media, AI is already transforming the way your customers work, play and – most importantly – spend their money.
For many retailers, the idea of adopting new tech may still seem like tomorrow’s problem, something to be dealt with once a little normality has returned to the industry. In fact, today’s challenges present an opportunity for businesses to gain a competitive edge by embedding AI and machine learning to assist their recovery from the current crisis.
Emerging technology is essential to bridging the gap between virtual and physical sales channels. AI gives retailers newfound powers to create a personalised customer experience, even when there is no actual human-to-human interaction. This makes for highly compelling consumer interactions that will entice shoppers to buy more, more often.
For retail employees the impact will be just as significant, with AI heralding a new era of interconnection with fellow team members. As the shape of our workforces continues to evolve, AI will play a crucial role in reinforcing staff loyalty and creating a more cohesive and inclusive company culture.
In spite of this, many retailers are reluctant to invest their time and money into AI. Here are five reasons why intelligent technologies will be key to business success in a post-COVID world.
1. Roster smarter, not harder
Creating a roster can be an arduous and inaccurate process, especially across multiple sites and teams. Roubler’s smart roster incorporates everything from award interpretations, to shift patterns, to staff availability, enabling managers to create a cost-effective roster in seconds – potentially saving thousands of dollars a year business-wide.
AI can also be used to optimise the rostering process even further, taking into account how effective a person is at sales, how likely they are to show up for work on time, which team members they work best with, and more. Comprehensively understanding these nuances is far beyond the brainpower of any human, but is where machine learning excels. The result is a roster that provides the best possible combination of high-performing staff to drive sales.
2. Motivate your customers to buy
Marketing analytics is nothing new, but as online shopping reaches an all-time peak thanks to ongoing shifts in consumer behaviour, not to mention COVID-19, it is now essential to truly understand the rich data available at your fingertips. With Google providing a wealth of analytics information for free, there’s no excuse for not being intimately familiar with the ins and outs of your sales funnels to influence the buying decision.
As well as providing you with invaluable insights, AI can create a uniquely tailored experience for your customers that encourages them to spend more. For example, advanced content personalisation can help your website “learn” about a customer over time, and serve them relevant products accordingly. Amazon, of course, does this exceptionally well – but you don’t have to be an online giant to take a sophisticated approach to personalised content. Tools like Uberflip make it easy to create an engaging content experience and increase revenue.
3. Find the best people for your team
Finding the right staff is one of the biggest challenges in any business – as evidenced by the fact that the recruitment industry is now worth more than R50 billion. AI equips your HR team with the tools they need to find the perfect candidates and do away with agency fees for good. Traditional recruitment software is an excellent first step, as it helps filter out candidates for interview.
The latest advanced algorithms take this idea to the next level by and measuring a candidate’s aptitude, ability, culture fit and soft skills and making recommendations based on how likely they are to succeed in a role, and within the organisation they’re applying to. This shifts the focus of the entire hiring process away from the job interview, towards understanding how well a particular candidate will perform once they are actually in the job.
4. Engage your customers and team
Many retailers are already using AI-based chatbots on their websites to field customer enquiries and act as a first level of support. This is a powerful way to create cost savings and generate sales by automatically answering customer queries at any time of the day or night, without having to roster on any staff. A well-designed chatbot will smoothly hand over more complex queries to a real human, creating a completely seamless experience for the consumer.
Chatbots aren’t just for your customers; they also have a significant part to play in improving staff engagement and ensuring new team members feel welcome. The conversational interface can empower staff to find the information they need, and can even make proactive recommendations such as buddying up employees with colleagues who have similar interests, or simply helping them find the best double-shot latte in the local area.
5. Understand perceptions of your brand
The online realm is vast, making it difficult to understand customer perceptions across social media, online reviews, blogs, and the myriad other channels in the digital space. Even for the most well-resourced teams it is simply not possible to manually monitor every last online interaction and accurately measure the overarching sentiment towards your brand.
AI-driven sentiment analysis is so powerful it has been used to sway election results, by gathering insights into constituents’ perceptions of specific candidates or policies and allowing political parties to change their tactics accordingly. In retail is has just as much potential to transform outcomes by giving a business the competitive edge. Retailers can accurately gauge sentiment around a particular sale or product and adjust their campaigns or offerings in real-time to increase profits.