The evolution of the retail industry is well underway, and it’s becoming more evident (perhaps as a response to eCommerce giants like Amazon) that retailers are looking for innovative ways to enhance their offerings. Specifically, customer service options in retail are seeing more interest from retailers for artificial intelligence (AI) implementation.
The ability AI has to continually learn and evolve is likely the attractive feature with which retailers are most in tune. As eCommerce continues to shape the future of the industry, the retail landscape is constantly changing. Artificial intelligence is key in helping make that transition a much smoother experience for both retailers and consumers.
Today’s consumer is looking for the ultimate retail experience that caters to their individual needs, and AI helps with that. According to joint research from customer car automation platform Linc and BrandGarage, “How AI Technology Will Transform Customer Engagement,” 89 percent of consumers who have a bad experience with a store will ditch the retailer for another one — up from 82 percent in 2016. Given the sensitive nature of today’s consumer expectations, retailers are looking to aspects of AI, including machine learning and natural language processing, which can be found in voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.
As 55 percent of retailers are reporting the rising costs associated with customer service, and are well aware that there’s little room for mistakes in this area, AI will help reduce human error. This research also shows that while 87 percent of retailers are looking into ramping up their use of AI in customer service, 44 percent are planning to integrate a conversational commerce interface. As such, it should come as no surprise that AI will be significantly expanding over the next few years. One in five retailers are looking at voice assistants as an integral part of the retail evolution process.
The 44 percent of retailers looking to invest in conversational commerce interfaces for consumer experiences will do so likely through offerings like Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa or Samsung Bixby. Research from Walker Sands Communciations shows that 20 percent of consumers have already made a purchase using Amazon’s Echo. Interestingly, this research also showed that 66 percent of consumers have made purchases on their mobile devices in the last year, and 77 percent believe the online shopping experience will soon outdo the in-store experience.
Outside of the regular customer service requests, Linc and BrandGarage’s research showed a customer service AI retail breakdown that includes 68 percent to route customer service requests; 52 percent to track packages; 43.5 percent for product suggestions and 42 percent to handle returns and exchanges.
Although there is positive sentiment when it comes to the use of AI-powered voice assistants in the retail industry, some research suggests that its success depends on learning more about consumer activity in the home, according to Strategy Analytics’ state of the market report. Its senior analyst of intelligent home group, Joe Branca, cautions retailers thinking about adding voice assistants into their processes.
“Although we expect voice interactions with products and services in the home to increase over time, voice will complement rather than completely replace existing interaction methods. Voice may be suitable for simple, single purpose commands — such as controlling lights, changing music or creating reminders — but other more complex tasks may require additional sensory stimulus such as visual feedback. Companies will need to think hard about how the user experience can translate to this new interaction medium,” he said.
From the looks of the current voice assistant landscape and research, it appears that we’ll be seeing some changes to how retailers engage with consumers over the next few years.
In other voice-activated related news, Amazon announced plans to allow consumers to use its Echo speakers to control the Fire TV by using only voice commands. At this point in time, this new offering will only be available to those Amazon users in the U.S. and will go live this upcoming Tuesday.