Tag Archives for " Personalization "

Kicking off Black Friday and Holiday Shopping with Artificial Intelligence

Kicking off Black Friday and Holiday Shopping with Artificial Intelligence

US retailers are making final preparations for Black Friday in both their physical and digital stores to support the expectation of high volume shoppers. 2018 holiday sales are estimated to climb between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 to between $717.45 and $720.89 billion – all due to the rising health of the economy, low employment records, and increasing wage margins.

While the economy has been improving over the past year, technology has also been making progress – both online and offline. This is especially seen with making more personalized recommendations through the use of AI and machine learning.

AI-Driven Personalization takes priority

With retailers increasingly leaning towards AI and utilizing AI-driven platforms, they are choosing more sophisticated platforms to make more personalized recommendations for their customers, ultimately increasing revenues for retailers and brands.
Some studies even concluded that brands that invest in creating personalized experiences leveraging advanced digital technologies and proprietary data for customers see a bump in their revenue by 6% to 10% – two times faster than those brands that don’t.

For the holiday season, and the upcoming Black Friday shopping, AI can be a wonderful tool used to automate the process of helping online and offline shoppers find what they want to shop for. Shoppers often have trouble finding a memorable gift for friends and family, but do not have a clear starting point – this may need browsing extensively through different e-commerce websites and searching through several aisles in different stores to find the right gift.

AI simplifies this process by giving retailers and brands the ability to ask their customers questions about their gift recipients and offering personalized recommendations based on individual tastes and preferences.
The use of AI-driven personalization for e-commerce channels has increased over the past few years, but according to experts, the future of AI is limitless – especially in the physical store. Furthermore, the future physical retail is believed to be a mix of the speed and convenience offered by AI with a human touch.

Customers want to be engaged through human interaction rather than special effects using light and sound, so retailers can do well to create community events and use data to offer personalized in-store experiences.

In-store Personalization to Support Retail Employees

As more and more technology is being integrated into the store environment, retailers need to move towards an autonomous management reducing the dependency on manual management by store staff. Recent studies even predicted retailers providing in-store recommendations to shoppers through AI engines to be the most mainstream in-store technology in the coming years.

Though AI is often pegged as a technology of the future, it’s a concept that is slowly taking shape and is not too far into the future. AI capabilities enable retailers to pursue customer personalization in real time – which will soon become a top priority becoming important for shoppers. The capability to display prices and promotions, which are subject to change, also coincides with the concept of a more personalized consumer-friendly store.

Conclusion

As we approach Black Friday – the official kick-off for the holiday shopping season, it will be interesting to see in which ways retailers and brands will leverage AI into their shopping strategies this holiday season. While personalized offers and promotions to enhance shopper loyalty will definitely be in the mix in the months of November and December, retailers can also take advantage of the data they receive to encourage repeat business throughout 2019.

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customer experience in a grocery store

Customer experience- Why it matters most for grocery retailers

Customer experience- Why it matters most for grocery retailers

With the rapid advancements in technology and the shifting shopping behavior of consumers, grocery retailers are now faced with the challenging task of competing for customer loyalty. Every retailer wants shoppers to consistently make purchases from their business rather than their competitors. Many retailers often sell the same products, so the shopper can purchase from almost any retailer without having any preference to buy from a specific retailer.

For instance, while needing to buy Purina Friskies Wet Cat food, the shopper has several retailers to choose from, from Kroger to Target to Walmart to even Amazon. The aspect to keep in mind is that shoppers are often loyal to the overall shopping experience provided by retailers, and not to the products it sells.

The term 'customer experience' is used synonymously for providing a positive, seamless and wholesome shopping experience. This includes the integration of digital into the physical sphere where retailers can interact with customers across every touch point.

Here are 3 ways in which retailers can enhance the customer experience and keep customers coming back to their store for more:

In-Store efficiencies

For all the benefits that online shopping has to offer, the downside is the inability to touch and feel the product before making a purchase. In an effort to bring the convenience and efficiency of online to the brick and mortar, retailers are changing the design and the business model with the ultimate goal - to make the in-store experience as smooth and easy to navigate as possible.

Incorporating technology in the brick and mortar stores is becoming imperative as shoppers find that innovations such as auto-checkout, online ordering, mobile app offers, etc make their shopping experience easier and quicker.

In an effort to lure shoppers back into physical stores, some retailers are even altering the design of the physical store and creating smaller format stores, adjusting store displays to prioritize convenience, and incorporating new technologies. Grocery chains like Tesco and Food Lion are undergoing major store redesigns to compete with giants like Amazon and Whole Foods.

Some chains are even including experiences such as wall climbing activities and special events and even dining into their physical stores to encourage more in-store engagement with shoppers.

Personalization

Personalization improves the customer experience making it easier for shoppers to locate products they want easier and faster. This also makes shoppers feel like the retailer understands them and who they are. In the online format, personalization will involve product recommendation based on past purchases or curated homepages. In the store, this would involve features like digital fitting rooms, product customization based on saved items or past purchases.

Shoppers want personalized experiences, and retailers are trying to deliver this expectation. Successful personalization comes down to customer data to be able to provide a memorable tailored experience. Retailers like Home Depot and Walmart are heavily investing in personalization.

Retailer loyalty programs

Once customers are delighted with the shopping experience, loyalty programs are one method to keep them coming back. These programs track and incentivize purchasing behavior and engagement. The more customers shop and spend, the more they are likely to receive in return.

It is much easier and profitable to engage and convert existing customers rather than new ones, so driving loyalty becomes more important. Loyalty programs when done right, can enhance the customer shopping experience tremendously. Retailers must create a program that both incentivizes and connects with customers.

To build a strong customer base, customer experience plays a very pivotal role. Customer loyalty programs along with personalization are just a few methods in which retailers can improve the shopping experience for customers.

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millennials sitting on the stairs with a laptop

Millennials: Capturing the largest spending demographic

Millennials: Capturing the largest spending demographic

Being the largest shopper segment, Millennials are currently a prime focus for all the retail businesses. This technology-driven and multichannel-hopping age group are on the threshold of creating pivotal disruptions in all segments. It is extremely critical for retailers to adapt their strategies to meet Millennials' needs. However, in order to do so, retailers must have a deep understanding of every millennial to get a better insight into them as shoppers.

Millennials today give utmost importance to experience over a material item. They seek a destination that allows them to make an outing of an otherwise boring and mundane task.  For instance, instead of going to a typical grocery store, they want a place that can not only provide fresh produce but also trials of different types of salsa or cheese. Wandering the aisles with a snack or a beverage in hand not only increases the time spent in the store but encourages them to add a few extra items in the shopping cart. So retailers must make an effort to transform their stores into the experience.

Personalization is key

Compared to the previous generations, millennial shoppers are far more comfortable sharing their data in order to receive personalized content that would be relevant to their individual needs. This makes it easier for retailers to tailor make product offers and run promotions increasing the likelihood of them making a purchase.
Furthermore, the retailer can also leverage omnichannel marketing to promote ads on social media to redirect the shoppers onto their platforms. 

Curated product offerings 

Retailers must also create curated product offerings that resonate with the needs of the millennial shoppers. Digitally-active millennials communicate, shop and do their tasks online, which creates a volume of valuable data that can be used by the retailers. This becomes increasingly important for brick-and-mortar retailers that compete with e-commerce giants such as Amazon who have endless online 'aisles' for users to shop right from their own homes.
These brick-and-mortar retailers need to leverage the data available and optimize their product offerings to boost store traffic and sales. 

Pricing the right way matters

While making a purchase, price is a key factor, but it is different from that of the previous generations. For example, Millennials are ready to splurge for luxury items such as organic fruits or vegetables or anti-aging creams but maintain a strict budget for other necessities like toothpaste or toothbrushes. If a retailer can leverage this information and price their products accordingly, the possibility of them purchasing products increase.
The best way for retailers to determine the pricing process includes analyzing which products Millennial shoppers are most likely to spend on heavily and which ones that they would not. Using past purchasing trends, retailers can collect the data needed to create a profitable pricing strategy.


Millennials have surpassed the previous generations with the most disposable income. Retailers need to focus on the three most important aspects - their product offerings, pricing and personalization based on a data-driven approach to create a Millennial-centric shopping experience. This would further help them to increase sales as well as loyal, avid shoppers.

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iphone with images on the screen

Visual Search: AI tool for E-commerce

Visual Search: AI tool for E-commerce

AI has been empowering many of the world’s top technology solutions. Within e-commerce, AI is being used to make the industry increasingly customer-centric. This can be seen with sales forecasts, product recommendation engines, virtual personal assistants like Siri or Alexa, AI-powered chatbots, automated warehouses, etc.

The need for visual search in e-commerce


Large e-commerce companies offer catalogs with thousands of products and plenty of options. Customers, however, are becoming increasingly impatient during the buying process figuring out what they want to buy in the shortest possible time. This hence poses the question of how to make the search process short and seamless.

In an important use case, AI has enabled search engines to become smarter. This can be seen when using text as a search query, the search becomes more semantic and conversational. AI has also enabled enhanced voice search features. The latest popular feature being search via images.

A new way of search

E-commerce companies are investing largely in integrating all three search methods on their websites to make a more responsive search platform. With text and voice search being increasingly used for products such as electronics, visual search aids customers to find an easier alternative for fashion and lifestyle products which may be difficult to describe with words. For instance, when searching for outfits worn by celebrities, knowing the right keywords would provide the outfits that are indexed with those keywords. Most often than not, the right outfit is not found. With visual search combined with indexed images, the right outfit can be found in just a click!

Today, visual search has increased the level of engagement that customers have with e-commerce websites as well as offline retailers. Be it for searching a product page online or being provided with relevant product recommendations, smartphone apps are becoming more accurate and faster at predicting the customer needs.

Visual search has created new shopping experiences for online and offline retail stores. Customers can now scan images of their choice of products whether it is online or in a store. Providing relevant and accurate product results will ensure that users can shop from anywhere and at any time.

AI and visual search: The tech

Visual search is a very recent trend, and this has been possible only due to the recent advancement in this technology. Visual search is built using Deep Neural Networks, a subset of machine learning. This in fact built as a replica of the neural networks in the human brain.  To put it simply, Deep Neural Networks make machines intelligent to gather and categorize information in the form of text, images or videos like humans do, using their biological neural network.

For example, To make a machine understand a sofa using deep learning, it is first shown pictures of thousand sofas. The algorithm reads and extracts features that can collectively classify a sofa such as a backrest, armrest, cushions, etc. After this, if a new image of a sofa is shown, the machine would be able to now tell if the image has a sofa or not.

Furthermore, if a complete picture of a living room is shown, the machine can individually identify different objects that it has been trained via deep neural networks such as rocking chair, coffee table, rugs, side table, etc. This technology is very adaptive - it recognizes a user’s search pattern so as to provide accurate purchase predictions.

Deep learning technology, providing accurate results can ensure that users find exactly what are searching for, in a short search span. This helps enhance user experiences, which in turn, leads to an increase in conversion rates. Neural networks and deep learning provide the best solutions to problems being faced in image recognition, speech recognition, and natural language processing.

Visual search has become one of the most successful technological innovations in e-commerce and retail, in turn, boosting the effectiveness on a global scale.
With the tremendous emphasis on digitization and the rising economy, this holds a strong promise.

Today, companies are looking for product differentiation through tech and visual search advancements offer just what they are looking for.

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woman holding chips and smiling

Personalization: The future of e-commerce

Personalization and recommendations: The future of e-commerce

Commerce has evolved over the span of 100 years. Over the century, it went from being driven by demographics in the 1890s - with retail catalogs offering a limited product selection to being driven by brands in 1990s - with stores and malls offering a rising product selection. With the advent of the world wide web, commerce was driven utility - with the rise of now e-commerce giants eBay and Amazon. In the 2010s, data began taking over as the driving trend.

The current trend

An indication of data-driven e-commerce are personalized e-commerce offering, curated product discovery and 24/7 recommendations. Many e-commerce and retail companies now have incorporated some level of personalization whilst engaging with their customers.

 The best examples can be seen with websites like Netflix - from the time a customer watches their first movie or show, Netflix’s algorithm starts working. They have been so successful at tracking customer preferences that they are spending almost 8 million dollars to keep up with the demand. They’re even using e-commerce personalization to affect the graphics for their shows.  Customers can get to see one of many different graphics of a show based on their preferences that Netflix knows about.

Another example on the other spectrum would be Subscription boxes like Stitch Fix, a personalized style service. Using the preferences provided by the user, Stitch Fix would deliver the best 5 items to suit them in the comfort of their own homes. Based on what customers keep and what they return, they personalize the clothes even further.

wooden box filled with condiments

Personalisation completely relies on data gathering to be effective, which depends on the customers as they have to be willing to trust and share their information with a brand. The brand can then, enhance their experience and engagement using this data. It becomes a win-win situation when carried out efficiently, the use of data will correlate positively with customer satisfaction.


While this is the current scenario of how companies are using some elements of personalization today, here are some predictions about how personalization will play a more substantial role in the near future.

The rise in Subscription services

Customers are slowly evolving from product purchases to subscribing. This is due to the rise in personalization - the leading factors driving the growth of subscription-based services. There is plenty of evidence suggesting that subscription services are the future of e-commerce or at least a big portion of it.   

Digital subscription services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or even Spotify are now the driving our entertainment consumption, while retail subscription services like Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club and Stitch Fix have started becoming more and more popular among consumers.

We have already demonstrated with Netflix, how personalization is breaking ground, another example could be Spotify, with their paid subscribers rose from 0% in 2008 at its launch to 45% in 2017. In other words, if a service is available for free, yet its paid counterpart is providing a better and compelling experience, consumers will not hesitate to invest.

wooden box with bath supplies

Spotify uses personalization to effectively nurture its recommendation engine - which provides daily discoveries of music based on a user's preference of songs, artists, genres, etc. This has not only increased the app preference amongst users but also increased the exposure of new artists enlisting their albums & singles on the platform.

Automation to support omnichannel marketing

Automation and personalization largely go hand in hand.
In the next few years, automation will play a massive role especially with the growth of omnichannel marketing. A study conducted by The Harvard Business Review among 46,000 shoppers in the span of a year stated that only 7% of that group solely shopped online, 20% shopped solely in stores and a whopping 73% shopped using multiple channels.

Omnichannel marketing has challenges yet tremendous opportunities that companies will be able to leverage to utilize automation in the near future and the companies that would be able to leverage it would only be those that can efficiently utilize automation so as to offer personalization across all channels.

Personalised deals and pricing

Shoppers today not only differ on what they want to buy but also on what they would be willing to pay for. Traditionally, companies had to study different price ranges so they would pick on what would give them the most profit, even if this meant that they’d turn down potential customers.

This is now slowly changing. Personalisation is giving way for companies to charge individual shoppers. For instance, Orbitz used to charge Mac users more - based on the assumption that that demographic tended to have more spending power. Hence, it stood to reason that they were willing to pay more.

With the advent of AI and machine learning, companies in the future will easily be able to get into the granular details. This, in turn, will enable more people to get the products and services that they require at an accurate price point based on their past buying decisions. This approach will help e-commerce companies to build attractive bundles or tailor-made promotions for individuals.

AI and Machine Learning

Leveraging AI and machine learning, personalization can scale new heights by anticipating customer support needs before they even have them.

Furthermore, machine learning will also change the language that websites use based on the visitors it gets. In a scenario where a user needs help, machine learning would allow the site to find the best answers based on the information instead of the standard replies that most websites give now.

If the site knows that a returning shopper is looking for some products with respect to a previous purchase, they will be able to recommend the best products but also further provide them with relevant content that would help them make the purchase.

Looking ahead

E-commerce personalization is already here, so if retail or e-commerce businesses have not utilized it yet, they must start now. With more and more innovations coming in, the horizons are widening day by day. These predictions can ensure that your business is on the right path towards personalization.

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