This article was originally published on the Seamless Asia blog by Capillary. 

With ~2 Billion internet users, Asia is at the cusp of omni-channel revolution. At the other end, artificial intelligence is getting consumerized. The convergence of Omni-channel + intelligence will significantly impact retailers and brands. Artificial Intelligence is being touted as the next biggest innovation since the advent of the internet and mobile technology. AI promises to enrich various aspects of our lives, through self-driving cars, smart homes, and even medical diagnosis. Countries such as India, China, South Korea, Japan, and Singapore are leading the way in AI research. In fact, China boasts of more cited publications on Artificial Intelligence than the United States.

Though some of these technologies are still a few years away, a few applications of Artificial Intelligence are already automating and enhancing the way businesses operate. Since big data has been in focus for quite a while, most businesses have made it a point to collect a large amount of data on every aspect of their operations. Now the challenge is in making sense of all this information.

AI comes in to aide in the analysis of this data and make predictions on the outcomes of different actions. This will not only help retailers engage with their customer in new ways, but also allow them to take important decisions quickly. Retail is one sector where Artificial Intelligence has immediately found acceptance. According to a  study, 77% of UK retail directors think that AI, deep learning and machine learning implementations will have a tremendous impact on their businesses with 23% claiming they’re already seeing results.

Let’s look at 5 game changers at the convergence of {Intelligence + Omni-channel}

Intelligent recommendations

These days, consumers are overwhelmed by all the different communication they receive from various brands, through multiple channels. If the message delivered isn’t relevant to them, they usually ignore it. Since most brands already possess extensive data on demographical, behavioural and historical aspects of their customers, AI can be used to predict their needs and wants. Through Artificial Intelligence, brands can provide accurate, relevant product recommendations to customers which are guaranteed to spark interest and bring about conversion. AI will even take into consideration factors such as the weather conditions, time of day and day of the week to deliver the right recommendations, something a human being could never do.

Social Chatbots 

Artificial Intelligence is also being used to assist a customer through their shopping journey which often comprises of various channels, be it social, mobile, web, and in-store. The store assistant can only help the customer in a physical store, but through chatbots, brands could intelligently interact with their customers no matter where they are. Brands can send product recommendations, solve delivery issues, help locate unavailable products, and guide their customer through the various channels they operate in, efficiently through AI. In the near future, brands should start moving segments of customer experience over Chatbot. Below is an example of loyalty use case.  

 

Personalised commerce

The concept of individualism is becoming more popular in Asian culture. Brands are starting to realise that they need to build individualized experiences around each customer in order to drive engagement. Artificial Intelligence helps brands to analyse available customer data in order to segment customers into various behavioural groups. Through this exercise they can then determine the right factors that could help them deliver a positive purchase experience. For example, an ecommerce website could display personalized landing pages with the colours and fonts that a particular customer would prefer and so on.

In-store vision

Most retail stores already use CCTV cameras as a theft deterrent. AI can help stores analyze this camera footage to improve their customer journey. Through the analysis of visual data, retailers could determine the path a customer takes within their store. With this information, retailers can design their spaces in such a way as to maximise time spent in store. Retailers will know which section sees the most and the least visitors, what products a particular customer puts in their cart and what they usually place back on the shelves. The technology could even be used to notify store assistants to help any customer who is stuck in a particular place within the store. This application of AI enables offline retailers to track a customer through their journey just like how ecommerce retailers would track clicks a customer has made.

Informed business decisions

Since forever, business leaders have been using a combination of available information and their own gut feeling to make decisions. Today, there is a plethora of information at the hands of any decision maker but businesses have also grown increasingly complex. Many a times due to delayed reporting and analysis, important insights are missed and the right decisions may not be made on time. Through AI such as Capillary Artificial Intelligence Retail Assistant (AiRA), business leaders could receive real-time insights on the business performance, market performance, and market opportunities. They could also receive strategic suggestions that would resolve the director from just following their gut.

Through Artificial Intelligence, retailers and brands are taking their advertising and marketing efforts to unprecedented heights. Acting as the last piece of the big data puzzle, according to CBinsights, AI in 2016 saw investments of more than $5 Billion worldwide. Today, the brands who aren’t already researching or employing AI could be operating with a disadvantage.

 

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