Retail Gets Even More Personal As The Year Winds Down

Retail Gets Even More Personal As The Year Winds Down

You can count on at least one thing for retail in 2020: Things will get much more personal.

Evidence of that comes from the world of quick-service restaurants. There, Dynamic Yield, the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered personalization platform operator, is being absorbed by fast-food chain McDonald’s. Dynamic Yield now enables more than 300 brands in six continents, spanning retail, gaming, finance, travel and publishing. Its technology helps companies build customer profiles, launch and optimize personalization campaigns and automate decision-making for customers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sonic Move

That’s not all.

Mastercard, in a new partnership with kiosk hardware-maker ZIVELO, would like to solve the personalization problem. As Stephane Wyper, SVP for new commerce partnerships at Mastercard, told Karen Webster in a recent interview, the partnership will personalize selections for consumers as they pull up to a dynamic menu board that presents the most relevant choices, where they can place their orders using voice technology.

“We had the idea that every menu should be different, because every customer has different requirements and needs,” Wyper said.

This AI-powered ordering experience was launched at Sonic Drive-In earlier this year. Consumers with an appetite for Sonic slushies and burgers have two possible experiences, according to Wyper. The first is the anonymous experience: personalized not to the customer, but to the context. In those cases, consumers are shown hot chocolate in the winter, ice-cream sundaes in the summer or the top-selling menu items at that particular location. That’s not always entirely on the mark, Wyper said, as there will always be those customers who want an ice-cream sundae when it is 25 degrees outside. In that case, they can interact with the voice assistant to get their orders on track.

Second, Sonic app users experience another layer of personalization, one in which the app recognizes and authenticates the user, then personalizes the menu to them. That could involve surfacing past orders or favorites, or screening out items that contain ingredients the customer is allergic to or just doesn’t like.

The point is to make it easier for the consumer to navigate to what they want as quickly as possible, noted Wyper. It’s a good experience for the consumer, but for Sonic and the other quick-service restaurants (QSRs) where this technology is headed, the benefits are even greater.

Among brands, Wyper said, there is tremendous interest in using personalization and voice AI to increase engagement and loyalty. However, there is also interest in using this voice AI platform to tailor the experience to the QSR, improving efficiency and throughput in the process, regardless of the QSR format or footprint.

Wyper told Webster that the voice technology platform was designed with that in mind, integrating voice and AI into ZIVELO’s dynamic menu hardware and software kiosk platform. That makes the tech as suitable for drive-thru or drive-in experiences as it is at kiosks inside QSR establishments.

“We have built this as a tech platform so they can customize and drill into certain areas. We want to be able to enable payments and a smoother transaction no matter what customization is desired,” he said.

Bigger AI Role

Indeed, the latest Payments and the Platform Economy Playbook examines how marketplaces are using technologies like AI to innovate the customer experience.

Much has been written about AI-powered tools for fraud detection and security. What else can it do, though, especially for online marketplaces? AI is increasingly focused on visual search and personalization.

Many retailers are relying on AI to enhance personalization. Makeup marketplace NakedPoppy is using an AI-driven personalization tool to quickly match customers with the right products. The tool takes information from consumers’ questionnaire answers, photos of their skin tones and personal information like skin color, type, age, eye color and allergies before recommending goods. An important component of the site is the use of digital technology to screen its products for harmful chemicals.

Expect retail to get even more personal in the coming year.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.