The retail landscape may be uncertain now, but in the future, artificial intelligence will completely change the face of brick-and-mortar stores.
According to the Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce, AI is projected to contribute to keeping consumers in stores and providing them the experiences they seek—and even some experiences they may not have known the wanted.
From smart websites to customer service robots, here are eight AI trends that could shape retail in upcoming years.
1. Smarter websites
E-commerce shops already establish consumer profiles based on previous purchases, click behavior and other variables, but going forward, retail websites will be smarter than that. From presenting more personalized activity, like updated style recommendations that evolve as you shop based on what you’re looking at, to things like layout changes that adapt based on the user’s preference.
2. Chat bots will become smart assistants
Many retailers are already using chat bots to communicate with consumers on social platforms like Facebook Messenger, but these chat bots are helping at a basic level. Right now, chat bots can answer fairly standard consumer questions or help in the product selection process, but in the future, chat bots will be more like virtual assistants, doing things like searching the internet for products they already know the user will like.
3. Tailor-made marketing will become more common
TV advertising had its time, but down the line AI will be helping retailers save money on those often wasted advertising budgets. By analyzing consumer data, AI will be able to help retailers target and cater their messaging to a niche consumer demographic instead of the masses, which will likely increase bottom lines as the advertising will already understand just how to convince a consumer to purchase the product before them.
4 .Consumers will receive personalized coupons and loyalty programs
Loyalty programs have slowly been getting better on the personalization front, but AI could accelerate these perks by making them even more customizable. For example, consumers can rack up their own loyalty points individually and automatically collect more loyalty points when they visit stores to be used on the hobbies and products they want.
5. Store robots will recognize consumers
With AI, robots are going to start knowing the shoppers that frequent the stores they’re in.
In the not too far future, stores may place human-like robots at store entrances to greet consumers when they come in. But more than just saying “hello,” that robot would greet the shopper by name, take note of products they want, read their emotional state, and act accordingly.
Some companies have already began experimenting with these types of AI-powered robots. Pepper, a humanoid robot created by SoftBank Robotics, can recognize human emotions and interact with shoppers for a personalized experience.
6. Smart in-store features
Looking ahead, smart fitting rooms, mirrors and walls are expected to improve the in-store shopping experience even more.
When a consumer visits a store, mirrors and fitting rooms will tell them things like other colors and sizes in stock, and some will even project clothing on the consumer’s body, eliminating the need to get undressed. Smart fitting rooms could also streamline shopping trips by providing style advice and alerting nearby sales associates if help is needed. What’s more, smart walls will let shoppers browse for products, check prices, view personalized promotions and instantly check out items, even when stores are closed.
7. Human staff will be much improved
Although AI worries some retail workers, humans will not become obsolete in future stores. Rather, AI could help retailers detect when shoppers leave dissatisfied and point to which sales associate helped them and work on helping that employee improve their skills or cut their losses if that can’t be done. It could also help retailers streamline the hiring process by collecting data on potential employees’ professional strengths and determining, based on data, whether they have the right combination of skills to yield the customer satisfaction result the company is seeking. At the end, stores should be left with staff that are actually savvy and know just how to help their consumers.
8. Real-time inventory updates
Going forward, AI could also help retailers be smarter about the inventory buys. Unlike conventional methods of inventory tasks, AI-powered data allows retailers to make better predictions on the items they have in-store and tailor what’s on shelves according to demand. If temperatures are rising, pointing to an earlier end to winter, AI could alert the retailer to bring in spring product sooner. The idea here, is that stockouts can become a thing of the past and retailers won’t be toting winter coats well into spring and selling them at 80 percent off.