Jun 11 2020

Can AI Help Retailers Survive Amid Shift to E-Commerce?

As online shopping spikes, artificial intelligences tools can help organizations make the most of the traffic.

The way customers buy goods has been fundamentally changed amid the global health crisis. The retail industry has had to adjust to limited capacity, extensive cleaning and curbside pickup to be able to operate during these extraordinary times.

But perhaps the most notable change of all is the shift to more online purchasing. When customers were confined to their homes, online shopping was one of the only ways to get the products they needed. Some states are beginning to lift restrictions and allow some brick-and-mortar stores to reopen under new guidelines, but that doesn’t mean that customers are ready to kick the online shopping habit. A recent study from Morning Consult found that 24 percent of shoppers won’t feel comfortable shopping in a mall for six months or more.

Online commerce is bigger than ever. The sector has grown 146 percent year over year as of mid-April, according to COVID-19 Commerce Insight. Expanding online shopping services to meet the rising demand does require the right IT support, but artificial intelligence can also play a large role in making these processes run smoothly. 

As e-commerce continues to grow, there are AI tools that retailers can use to their advantage. AI-powered solutions such as automation and machine learning can help organizations become more efficient while delivering a better online customer experience, and with more online shoppers than ever before, now is the time for retailers to dive in.

How AI Can Enhance the Online Customer Experience

Even before social distancing restrictions were keeping shoppers out of stores, retailers were expanding their online shopping experiences. Organizations were looking beyond convenient checkouts and focusing on how they could improve the experience on their sites. This has included an expansion of augmented reality, with furniture retailers allowing customers to see how pieces would look in their homes. Makeup brands have deployed similar tools to their products, allowing customers to check out the cosmetics without going into a store.

Retailers have also discovered that they can benefit from having their customers on their websites more. Organizations can collect information on what shoppers are looking at, and how long they look at it. That, coupled with personal data collected at the point of sale, can help retailers further segment their customer base and market to them better. 

MORE FROM BIZTECH: A guide to predictive analytics in retail.

AI has the power to revolutionize the retail industry in many ways, particularly when it comes to customer experience. The use of AI-powered chatbots and similar tools can help businesses store and access customer information that can be recalled in an instant, according to Total Retail. This can individualize the experience for the customer right away, whereas a sales associate might need multiple visits from a customer to develop that relationship in person. To make the most of these tools, employees on the sales floor need mobile devices packed with AI so they have access to it.

Most customers want a fast and hassle-free experience, and AI can play a key role here as well. Kiosks and retail apps can help customers get answers instantly, freeing up employees to focus on other aspects of the customer experience. Total Retail reports this is how organizations can ensure customers never have to wait for answers, even if a staff member isn’t immediately available.

This is a time of uncertainty for many retailers. Even for those in areas that have begun to reopen, the in-store experience has been altered, leaving many customers to opt for online options. Using AI-powered tools such as augmented reality, digital assistants and automation, retailers can get the most out of e-commerce.

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