Over the course of the last few years, eCommerce has sprung up and put the brick-and-mortar side of the retail industry on notice.
A growing number of eCommerce-focused merchants like Amazon have gradually increased their footprint in the physical store space. With the opening of the Amazon Go grocery store and bookstore in Seattle, Amazon is breathing innovation into the stodgy brick-and-mortar experience.
It is also changing the retail game by eliminating the need for checkout stations through its artificial intelligence (AI) infused checkout system in its Amazon Go grocery store. In combination with its recent $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, it may be safe to assume that merchants in the retail space will follow Amazon’s integration of more technology into the in-store experience.
Taking the survival of retail to the next level is the issue of having one holistic view of the customer. While this may have seemed like a difficult task in the past, technology options like AI, machine learning and natural language processing have brought increased clarity. Retailers are slowly starting to transform their entire in-store experience to help gather more customer details, create a complete picture and upgrade customer service experience.
It seems like Amazon is at the forefront of innovative retail experiences with its various physical retail space expansions. More retailers are likely moving in a similar direction.
Forty-five percent of retailers are planning to use AI in the next few years, according to the latest research from Boston Retail Partners. This AI integration will be done through the use of chatbots or digital assistants and primarily used for customer enhancement services.
As eCommerce continues to benefit consumers and retailers, technology like AI will likely only help to serve the needs of both. Consumers will experience a more seamless and personalized shopping experience while retailers will gain more data on how to attract, retain and maintain consumers. Boston Retail Partners’ research found top customer experience priorities for retailers to include:
- Optimizing the customer experience — 55 percent
- Increasing customer loyalty — 50 percent
- Improving mobile shopping experience — 45 percent
- Creating a seamless experience across channels — 42 percent
- Enhancing personalized service/sales assistance — 32 percent
- Providing personalized promotions, recommendations and/or offerings — 24 percent
The future of retail will likely involve a mixture of real-world experiences and technology. Boston Retail Partners’ research summarizes this outlook:
“Stores must now encompass both worlds — the sensory experience generally available in the physical world, such as touching and feeling merchandise and personally interacting with a knowledgeable associate — whether simply human or a combination of AI and human characteristics — married with the unique and personalized shopping experience common in the digital world. The physical and digital worlds are forever intertwined as we look into the future.”
We’ve seen technology move into the retail space with the likes of Sephora’s AR Virtual Artist app and Melissa Shoes‘ addition of interactive M-ND tablets to their stores. If these are any indicators, Gartner’s prediction that 85 percent of consumers’ future business interactions will involve zero human interaction may come true.
This week in AI news, Accenture issued a new research report stated that businesses that choose to implement AI and are successful will see an astounding 38 percent increase in profits by the year 2035. AI is also expected to potentially give an economic lift in additional added gross value across 16 industries in 12 economies resulting in $14 trillion.
Given all of the attributes of the technology and positive retailer attitudes, AI may just be the key to brick-and-mortar’s survival in the eCommerce-infused age.