Posts

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.

Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer–L.L. Bean

Hall of Fame Class of 2012–L.L. Bean

In my experience (and probably yours) the word “no” when it comes to good customer service is unheard of. After all, “no” has a negative connotation in most cases. That’s why when, as a customer, I experience the word “no” in a positive way I sit up and pay attention. With Maine retailer L.L. Bean the word “NO” isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact when it comes to free shipping and guarantees, they really know how to turn a negative into a positive.

THE ORIGIN

Leon Leonwood Bean, founder of L.L. Bean, returned from a hunting trip back in 1912 with really cold, wet feet and a revolutionary idea. He started to combine rubber bottoms with soft leather uppers, thereby creating a waterproof, non-slip boot that didn’t exist anywhere else at the time. Today, these duck shoes are imitated by many retailers but can’t compare with the originals by L.L. Bean  which to this day are handcrafted in Maine. And because L.L. Bean is so convinced his boots were the best boots, he offered a LIFETIME guarantee on them. How’s THAT for good customer service?

WHY FREE SHIPPING AND A GUARANTEE?

Free shipping is one of those little items a store can throw in that makes a big difference today. I can’t be the only one who has looked at my online shopping cart and decided to toss a product because five things were far more expensive to ship than four. In today’s world, free shipping is excellent business practice.

Now let’s talk about that other word: guarantee. The truth is that if you have an excellent product and you stand behind it, there is no reason you shouldn’t offer a guarantee on it to your customers. Many companies do, but putting it out there in print makes a big difference to your customers. L. L. Bean clearly knows this and it works for them.

TAKEAWAY

Creating a good product or service that you feel confident selling is very important. At L. L. Bean, they’re so confident in what they’re sending to you that they’re not putting any restrictions on how long it will last–it’s guaranteed for a lifetime and ships at NO cost. No doubt customers feel excellent putting their money toward L.L. Bean products time after time–since about 1912.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Did you know that L.L. Bean offers outdoor discovery schools for kids? Learn more about what they do and how they hope the great outdoors can impact a whole new generation.