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The Three Ways AI Is Impacting Customers And Retailers This Holiday Season

This post is part of a series sponsored by IBM about Five Ways Marketers Can Win the Holidays

Artificial intelligence (AI) is impacting the way consumers are shopping for the holidays. It is also driving how companies are operating in order to deepen customer relationships. According to Lauren Kindzierski, VP at HGS, “Forward-thinking companies are already using a combination of bots and brains to deliver next-generation customer experiences and optimize operations.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Cognitive and machine learning is powering behaviour in three critical ways for customers and retailers this holiday season.

  1. How customers find gifts? Customers are looking for ease and convenience when holiday shopping. They want an experience that is personalized to their needs. The expectation is that each stage of the journey will be seamless. Voice is driving the beginning stage of their journey. According to Accenture, a majority of consumers are already using or would like to use a number of technologies that are powered by AI. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed indicated that they were using or wanted to use Google Home, compared to 71 percent for Amazon’s Alexa. Similarly, voice-search enabled digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana and are becoming the go-to search mode for mobile. This trend is here to stay beyond the holidays. ComScore says that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches.
  2. Where and how customers buy? AI can help companies manage data and allow them to be predictive of customer behaviour. By leveraging information about weather, location, and preferences, it can help to create an optimal shopping experience. For retailers, AI can improve supply chain management. It can provide insights in to managing inventory levels and streamlining shipping management. The result is the right items are available and can be shipped to customers in a timely fashion.
  3. How companies manage customer service? During the holidays there is an increased need for seasonal staff to handle customer service issues. For companies, AI is playing a key role in handling many of the basic requests. IVR’s and chatbots powered by AI are handling tasks such as updates on orders, sharing return policies and answering FAQ’s. According to Narvar, customers are not noticing the difference. Their research found that 38% of consumers didn’t know whether a live chat or messenger app was a human being or AI. Only 10% knew it was not human. Gartner predicts that by 2020, the customer will manage 85% of its relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human source.

To find out more about the five ways marketers can win the holidays, check out this series by IBM covering: 1 – Bridge Digital & Physical Experiences, 2 – Predict the Future to Improve Your Impact, 3 – Market in the Moments that Matter, 4 – Discover the Best Path to Purchase, and 5 – Get Alerted to High-Impact Situations.

Personalization is the Key to Enhancing Customer Experience

This is the second blog post in a nine post series for IBM focused on the intersection of customer experience and technology, data and analytics. This post covers the First “R” of relationship and the concept of personalization.

Personalization is a popular term in business today. Before we go any further, we’d like to point out the irony. Business has always been personal. In the old world where individual artisans or merchants owned their own shops, they knew each and every customer who walked through the doors. Recommendations and personal touches were commonplace. Somewhere along the road to mass marketing…the concept was lost.

Today, we use the word personalization to describe our desire to go back to doing business on a personal level, but often forget it’s not about segments or cohorts. To personalize is to design or produce something to meet someone’s individual requirements. The key is the individual.

In our current landscape, focusing on the individual can be almost impossible for companies. Hindered by legacy technology and distributed workforces, personalization is difficult. But it’s the companies who overtake these barriers who tend to see impressive results.

Connecting the Dots

To accurately understand your customers, you must bridge the gap between online history and offline behavior. You need a view into the behaviors of your customer that goes beyond demographics and purchase history. This requires the ability to collect and present thorough and accurate information about individual customer interactions…and connect the customer context dots. The final step is delivering the data and insight – on demand and in context – to drive specific actions.

IBM Case Study: Fresh Direct

Founded in 2002 and employing more than 1,000 people, FreshDirect is one of the leading online grocers in the United States. With more than 600,000 customers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the company has fulfilled 12 million orders since its inception.

The challenge: To drive sales and nurture loyalty, FreshDirect wanted to make its marketing communications more relevant and engaging – but first, the organization needed a better way to segment its customers.

The solution: FreshDirect implemented IBM solutions, enabling it to identify customer preferences on the digital channel and perform accurate customer segmentation.

The benefits: Today, FreshDirect reaches out with optimal promotions that are personalized for each customer, incentivizing incremental purchases and encouraging repeat business.

Read the full FreshDirect case study here.

Blue Goldfish Case Study: Erste Bank

Erste Bank is headquartered in Vienna, Austria. The bank uses analytics to determine the next best action for customers and analyze existing data that can recommend next best actions to customers via outbound and inbound touch-points.

Next best action analytics is driving impressive results for the bank. Erste makes these personalized offers through its call centers and online channels. They report a 95% success rate in determining the next best product for a customer using their data-driven approach. Getting this offer right is moving the needle for Erste as purchases for the next best product are up to 16 times above the average sale ratio.

Takeaway: The possibilities for enhanced customer experience are endless when you combine big data and little data into personalized offers.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here’s a video from IBM’s Amplify, an Ignite talk on infosense: