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Three Ways AI Can Enhance Customer Experience


At its recent I/O 2016 developer festival, Google signaled its intent to embrace artificial intelligence. With Google’s fall release of the Pixel phone and, more important, its Assistant, the transition to an AI-powered future is underway.

Artificial intelligence is here — maybe not in a Sci-Fi way, but as it applies to addressing real consumer problems, needs, and desires via computing power. And Google is leading the way by moving away from its traditional search-engine format into a new realm that streamlines access to information as an integrated part of users’ experiences. Its new messaging app, Allo, for example, integrates Google’s Assistant, allowing users to play games, check out movie times and restaurant menus, or watch videos while chatting with other users.

Many technology experts predict that in just a few years, AI will be prevalent in businesses across multiple industries. And retailers, in particular, have much to gain from AI.

Improving the Customer Experience With AI

Because all the ways to incorporate AI remain in their infancy, anyone outside of early adopters and retailers that view keeping up with technology as a competitive edge should tread lightly in the AI space. One way is to sell on sites like Thread, where you can dip your toes into AI and see it in action without having to invest too heavily in the technology.

Retailers that are looking to get a head start should follow Google’s lead and consider ways AI can be incorporated to improve the customer experience and attract new customers. Here are three of the best.

1. Messaging Bots and Assisted Self-Service

One way retailers can use AI is to help reduce call volume and connect directly with shoppers, especially in environments where your brand doesn’t have strong ownership.

AI — specifically in the form of non-human assistants — is the future of customer service. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customer touchpoints will be managed without humans. Moreover, as soon as 2018, cross-channel bots will be able to recognize the voices and faces of customers.

WeChat already uses these kinds of tools to reach its customers and market to them in new ways. The company links a chat-based interface to other tools like chat-based media, interactive widgets, and mobile wallets.

You, too, can leverage AI by turning traditional conversational events into novel ways for customers, bots, apps, and businesses to communicate meaningfully. This isn’t a new concept, but the business community’s buy-in and innovation is what will take it to the next level.

2. Scaling Customer Service

E-commerce pages — like category and product display pages, where combining data, science, user experience, and quality content are critical to conversion — are great places to integrate AI.

Outdoor clothing brand The North Face will soon launch a mobile app that lets users engage with Watson, IBM’s AI computer, to help them find the product that best meets their needs. Customers can feed information directly into the app and engage in a conversation about how the weather is affecting their favorite activities, for example, which will ultimately help Watson suggest a number of suitable options.

With digital assistants predicted to recognize customers’ faces and voices within the next two years, retailers that are embracing AI should ensure that their digital assistants don’t sound too robotic. To create a well-rounded customer experience, your digital assistant should use scripts made up of frequently asked questions and automatically apply what it learns from data regarding other, human-based service experiences that benefited customers in the past.

3. Predictive Pricing

Online shopping could become an in interactive dream for consumers in which they describe the perfect item and AI offers a match. This would allow designers, buyers, and merchandisers to work together to predict what customers want before they even know it exists.

Travel sites can also leverage AI. For its Flights too, Google recently added the capability to tell customers the best time to book a flight. This AI function is powered by historical flight data about certain destinations, and it also uses that data to estimate prices.

To inform your AI-driven predictive pricing, you should use your own historical product pricing as well as your competitors’; your inventory and margin targets; and your levels of customer interest. Sellers in marketplace use algorithms to set pricing enjoy better visibility, sales, and customer feedback.

As with so many other major advancements in the digital age, tech giant Google is leading the way on AI and setting an example for others to follow. Although artificial intelligence is still in the early stages of development, it presents many valuable opportunities for the future of retail, specifically in terms of improving the overall customer experience. Those who embrace this technology will be light-years ahead of the pack.

Anthony Nicalo is the VP strategy & corporate development at Mobify, a mobile customer engagement platform that facilitates, in one place, all of a retailer’s real-time interactions with its mobile customers.

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