Chatbots and artificial intelligence are still in their infancy. In a relatively short time, they have been implemented in a variety of industries, all clamoring to be on the cutting edge of new technology.
However, retail is one industry where chatbots may find a more permanent home. They have proven useful for a variety of functions such as streamlining mobile payment, optimizing online e-commerce conversion and much more. As these technologies continue to evolve, the the retail industry will likely reap the benefits. Here’s how.
According to analyst reports by eMarketer, worldwide e-commerce sales are projected to top $4 trillion through 2020, with mobile transactions accounting for 45% of those sales. Many retailers are adding mobile checkout because it addresses a common problem: the consumer finding what they want, and then abandoning when faced with waiting in line.
With the introduction of payments on messaging apps (e.g. Facebook Messenger, Kik, etc.), chatbots can be integrated into this mobile checkout process. This benefits retailers and shoppers alike, with stores generating additional revenue from reduced abandonment rates, and consumers receiving a personalized and instant “cashier” experience.
Many chatbot systems out right now aren’t truly AI, but sophisticated look-up systems that appear to be AI. However, as developers add new layers to the technology through machine learning they are moving closer to creating a true AI experience. One area in which AI has much to offer is in making recommendations to shoppers. Bots can use revealed preferences and purchase history to make pertinent recommendations. For example, brands can drive traffic by can incorporating chatbots into a mobile interface and initiating sessions when a shopper is near their store.
We’re already seeing recommendation capabilities being integrated by Amazon with the company’s Echo Look. The device, equipped with the company’s Alexa voice-controlled assistant, is able to give users advice on their outfits based on browsing and purchase history, as well as the photographs users take using the Look’s camera.
Chatbots will not eliminate the need for in-person retail associates (at least not anytime soon). After all, 91% of unsatisfied customers won’t return to a store for a repeat purchase or service, so having accountable human presence is key for ensuring shopper satisfaction. Bots can, however, enhance a retailer’s ability to deliver better customer service experiences for shoppers both in-store and online. By letting chatbots do the heavy lifting covering basic FAQ-style questions and lower-level requests can leverage capital to better train associates for more nuanced shopper needs.
It’s no secret that chatbots are still in their early days, but as their capabilities improve, retailers are beginning to recognize their potential to improve the store experience. By helping to augment CX, bots will increasingly be seen as an invaluable tool in a retailer’s disposal. There’s going to be plenty to see on that front in the coming months and years.