Making smart choices – AI and retail recommendations
AI is now well beyond being simply a buzzword. And as is often the case, Middle East-based retailers are ahead of the game when it comes to embracing – and balancing – its benefits.
There’s no doubt that the tech industry experiences more paradigm shifts than most, thanks to rapid advances that are triggered by humans and accelerated by the ability of intelligent machines to educate themselves. While the principles of AI have been around for years (the Turing test was devised in 1950), the advent and unprecedented rise of AI-powered tech, including the much-discussed language model ChatGPT , has brought its capabilities into sharp focus and caused a fundamental shift in the way we think about and interact with technology.
Having just returned from GITEX Global Dubai, the largest tech expo in the world with more than 6,000 exhibitors and around 180,000 visitors, it’s clear from the conversations we had with business leaders from around the globe that AI and its transformative potential goes beyond simply being a ‘hot topic’. It’s central to tech strategies across all industries, whether as an active project or, at the very least, a key consideration.
Intelligent retail experiences
So what does this mean for the retail industry in particular? The prioritisation of customer experience has led customer success leaders to consider how new AI-powered tools could become a source of support, inspiration and, ultimately, increased sales for store associates.
Retailers know that their human expertise is a critical asset, and expect store associates to provide increasingly personalised customer experiences, fuelled by relevant communications which create profitable relationships. At its simplest level, AI can offer a degree of automation for more routine tasks including helpdesk/customer enquiry services, data input and other areas where computers can be ‘taught’ to quickly analyse information to provide accurate content to users, freeing up store associate hours for delivering those experiences which rely on the human touch – something that AI simply can’t offer.
And suggestions for messaging using a natural language model AI such as ChatGPT can be really effective in generating proactive ideas of what store associates could be sharing with customers and creating natural, engaging messages, allowing them to focus on providing a warm, caring, person-led experience.
But the potential of AI-powered experiences goes beyond messaging and automation – with the right smart engine behind retail data, it’s possible to take control of it and radically upgrade how store associates interact with technology, with the ability to quickly and easily access data from every customer touchpoint in a practical way which increases sales and supports every interaction.
The latest breakthroughs in natural language processing enable AI to read and understand all of the documents store associates use, plus tech specs, product reviews, social chatter and more. Couple this with personalised details about specific clients, their profiles, past purchases and wishlists and you have a powerful recommendation engine based on intelligent data analysis which can generate a prospect score for every customer, ranking them by their potential to convert in the immediate future. Through in-depth understanding of customer lifecycles and purchase events such as birthdays and anniversaries, it’s possible to automatically identify revenue opportunities so that store associates can engage with customers at a time when they’re ready to buy.
And as every customer interaction can be analysed and used to ‘teach’ the AI technology to evolve and improve future recommendation cycles, the sales process can be continually refined with increasingly accurate suggestions.
Getting the balance right
If our conversations at GITEX proved anything, it’s that AI is now well beyond being simply a buzzword. And as is often the case, UAE-based retailers are ahead of the game when it comes to embracing – and balancing – its benefits. Making the most of AI technology’s potential to elevate the human elements of the customer experience while automating and enhancing the data-driven aspects of the recommendation and sales process will be central to their strategies.
This article first appeared in MyCustomer