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If you haven’t wasted the last few years searching for evidence on extraterritorial life in the distant corners of the world you’d have surely heard about Artificial Intelligence or AI! Together with Big Data this is transforming the world. In a world where access to data has become easier, computing power is at historical lows on the cost side and algorithms have been programmed to think and react like human mind, the power of AI is truly being unleashed. The impact of AI is being majorly felt in the retail industry where it is creating store like experience on online platforms and at the same time arming brick and mortar stores with technology that narrows the game between them and online retailers.

AI in shopping was first tried in the world of ecommerce and this wasn’t surprising as online retailers had been at the forefront of adopting new technology. But the brick and mortar stores have been slowly catching up. In fact AI seems to have become the tool for offline retailers to arrest the mass attrition of customers towards ecommerce. Let us now look at how Artificial Intelligence is reshaping the shopping experience for the customers and how it is helping physical as well as online stores reshape the shopping experience get back their customers.

Improving Customer Experience Through AI

The greatest impact of AI can be felt in the domain of customer experience. Businesses that crack this code are the ones that enjoy more sales and loyalty. There are three things any online or offline store must focus on to enhance the experience of its customers –

  1. Know what the customer wants
  2. Know when the customer wants it
  3. Offer it to them at the best price

Artificial Intelligence makes it possible for you to achieve results on all these three counts. When you have information about the tastes, needs, income levels and other demographic information about your customers you will be able to predict what they are looking for and when they need them. By putting these products in front of their eyes business are able to increase their sales.

Predictive pricing and Incentives    

With the advent of technology most businesses have relied on dynamic pricing as a proven technique to keep their customers hooked on. The challenge with this strategy is to constantly be a step ahead of the competition. AI shall help you in this game. With intense machine learning and statistical programming AI makes it possible to predict the right price and demand for the products in the market. It is now possible to study customers’ behaviours, aspirations and buying habits by taking into account dozens of individual parameters that can even include weather conditions and seasonal demand. Artificial Intelligence is also helping businesses get insights on the incentives that customers look for in products and offer it to them.

Marketing & Analytics
It won’t be wrong to state that Analytics has become one of the most important pillars in the success of any business. Retailers generate tons of data and analyse to make information out of them.         So far you may have relied upon your analysts to give direction to your future marketing campaigns.             There’s one problem with this approach though – nearly 33% of qualified leads are either not targeted as they slip through the gap between lead generation and actual targeting. Others are targeted with suggestions of wrong products. It is simply saying ‘No’ to 33% potential customers. AI solves this problem and can help you run highly targeted marketing and remarketing campaigns. In fact there is potential to completely automate the whole process of marketing your business.

Visual & Intelligent Searches
Ecommerce stores started with text and keyword based searches and then graduated to smarter product recommendations based on customers’ buying habits and needs. AI is moving it to the next direction with visual and intelligence based searches to make the experience engaging both for online customers as well as those visiting physical stores. It is now possible for you to point your smartphone camera towards a product and find it in an online store. Pinterest recently experimented with Intelligent Searches where in a user can search for individual products and objects in an image and find them on online stores. Apart from helping customers find products they are looking for AI tools can also suggests the right accessories and complementary products that improve the experience of the primary products for the customers.             

Augmented Reality            
Imagine the possibilities if you could let a user see how he or she would look in the cloth that’s showcased in your store. Augmented Reality which is often seen as an extension of AI makes this possible for online store as for years the inability to have a touch and feel of the product was held against online stores. It’s not with clothes alone as customers can try out every product in virtual space. In physical stores AI helps customers browse through the product range much like they do in an online stores reading reviews and rating for the products.

Cyber Security
Online retailers have been focussing on personalization to improve customer experience. One of the challenges that have emerged from this is the concern for privacy. AI has addressed that concern and improved security for the stores as well as their customers. Modern shopping assistants such as Chatbots are helping customers find the exact products they are looking for without the need of sharing sensitive customer data with dozens of third-party agencies. And the benefits of AI with respect to security isn’t restricted to  online stores alone as brick and mortar stores have been able to bring down incidents of shoplifting by use of this technology.  

To sum up AI is changing and reinventing the shopping experience for the customers in more ways that people think. It is driving businesses and customers to the next generation of shopping experience with more incentives for both the groups.

Summary – In this write-up we look at some of the ways in which advanced technologies are reshaping the ecommerce business and why you should embrace these technologies.

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