The Gist

  • Digital integration. Retail and digital co-existence is possible through seamless integration of AI-driven experiences, boosting customer satisfaction and revenue.
  • In-store personalization. AI-enhanced retail experiences allow for tailored in-store interactions, increasing customer loyalty and long-term relationships.
  • Uncovering desires. Utilizing AI to look beyond customers' perceived limitations enables brands to provide experiences beyond their expectations, fostering deeper connections.

This is the final part of a three-part series. The first two pieces in the series include:

In the final and third part of this series, we discuss how retail and digital can coexist and provide massive dividends for customer satisfaction and revenue. AI and machine learning can be leveraged to provide synchronized experiences that strengthen connections between customers and retail associates. AI isn't here to replace retail associates but to complement and extend their value to customers.

So, how can retail and digital co-exist? Is it even possible? The short answer is yes — in fact, more now than ever, retail is making massive comeback. Digitally-fueled personalized experiences are now bleeding into the retail space and some research indicates it provides massive dividends for customer satisfaction and revenue.  

AI and the Power of Personalization

According to a McKinsey study, 80% of consumers now expect personalized experiences from retailers. Consumers want to enter a retail location and have their needs already known. According to the same McKinsey study, personalization yields a 20% increase in customer satisfaction, a 10%-to-15% increase in conversion rate and a 20%-to-30% increase in employee interactions.

Yes, you read that right — a 20%-to-30% increase in employee interaction with customers. Could this be right?

Now, I know what you're probably thinking, “Well, new generations of shoppers are looking for enhanced self-service experiences and don’t want to speak to retail associates, right?”


Related Article: AI’s Role in Digital and Retail Personalization, Part 1: The Big Picture

The AI-Driven Customer Experience Utopia

Here’s why — in a perfect AI driven customer experience utopia, all customer systems and experiences are communicating with each other in a synchronized symphony that yields exceptional experiences for customers and added revenue for brands.

Let’s go back to my previous example from this series of the man who has a date and and is in need of a new shirt and cologne. 

Integrating AI into Digital and Retail Experiences

Let’s say this customer explored the retailer’s app before entering the store to browse for shirts and cologne. He likely even conducted research through other retailers but ultimately decided that he wanted to try the shirt on and smell various colognes before purchasing. 

In this scenario, both the digital and retail experiences should be seamlessly integrated through machine learning and AI to assist the customer in finding desired products. Prior to entering the store, the customer's online search would likely have recommended a variety of shirts that similar shoppers purchased, as well as suggesting colognes often bought in combination with those shirts as part of a bundle.

Related Article: AI’s Role in Digital and Retail Personalization, Part 2: Changing Rules of Engagement

AI and the Personalized In-Store Experience

The app could track the customer's search for the nearest retail store and infer that he likely was planning to visit the store before making a purchase. Upon entering the store, in-store beacons could be leveraged to send push notifications via the app, offering style tips, discounts and the option to request assistance from a store associate in real-time.

Learning Opportunities

While considering purchase options, the customer chose to speak with an associate — to get advice on the best shirt and cologne suited for his personality. The style guide associate provided the necessary feedback, and the customer completed his purchase.

AI and Post-Purchase Engagement and Ongoing Relationships

After the transaction, the store associate noted in the retailer's CRM system that the customer was shopping for a date. Consequently, the customer will now receive targeted content tailored to his current journey. 

The customer completes his date, and to his surprise — receives an email from the store asking how the date went. Impressed by the retailer's attention to detail and follow up, this customer now sees the retailer as more than just a place where he once bought products for a date. Instead, he sees it as a valuable resource for anything he may need for future dates or special occasions. 

And here’s the key point — the customer here is just starting his journey with the retailer. Maybe that date turns into multiple dates, maybe those dates turn into an engagement, maybe that engagement turns into a wedding — and maybe eventually there will be children. 

As the customer embarks on his life journey, the retail store can utilize AI and machine learning to determine the customer's current stage in life and anticipate his future needs. AI can then provide relevant content, both digitally and within the retail setting, that complements the customer's ongoing journey.

Related Article: 4 Ways AI, Analytics and Machine Learning Are Improving Customer Service and Support

AI as a Catalyst for Enhanced Customer Experiences

This is the future of what's possible when AI takes the driver's seat for personalization. AI isn’t here to replace retail associates; instead — it aims to complement and enhance their value to customers. Ultimately, society will always crave human interaction and connection. That will never change. However, if AI can help strengthen those connections for the better, why not take advantage of it?

Remember a quote often attributed to Henry Ford, "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Indeed, it is crucial to understand consumers' wants and desires.

However, it's even more important to look beyond their perceived limitations of what's possible and provide experiences they never thought possible at all. Aim to leverage AI within your brand to help uncover customers' desires, but keep in mind that just because they want a new shirt and cologne today doesn't mean they won't desire a Ford Mustang someday.

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