AI Revolution in Retail and Consumer Products

Artificial Intelligence, abbreviated as AI, has been at the centre stage of business innovation since quite a few years now. It shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Instead, going by the recent trends, its adoption is expected to increase manifolds in the next couple of years. The rapidly growing competition in the retail industry requires the players to consistently innovate with their consumer products. They need to improve the efficiency of business processes and improve decision-making – exactly what AI is equipped to help them achieve. This will ensure consumer loyalty and further increase their base, helping them to stay buoyant in the challenging retail market conditions.

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A recent report titled “The coming AI revolution in retail and consumer products” conducted by the global IT company, IBM, predicts a bright future for AI-powered innovations. Conducted at the 2019 Big Show, which was hosted by National Retail Federation, the study included participants from 1,900 retail and consumer products from 23 countries.

Let’s take a look at the salient points of the report that was released by IBM’s Business Value.

  • 79% of consumer products and 85% of retail organizations that participated in the survey revealed their plans of integrating AI in their existing better supply chain planning by the year 2021.
  • Two out of five retailers already use AI, and the number is expected to become double by 2021.
  • The retailers surveyed believe that AI may push up their annual revenue growth by a significant 10%.
  • Artificial Intelligence plays an important role in automating demand forecasting and customer engagement.




Reinventing the retail shopping journey!


Retail shopping experience right from research to purchase to post sales service has seen a paradigm shift over the last few years. One of the primary reasons for this shift is a significant change in the consumer behavior. This change has had a global impact across industries including retail and it continues to drive innovations and advancements which will shape the world through 2030. Further, economic and technological shifts have reinvented the shopper journey holistically. Previously, shopping revolved around the purchase and was highly transaction focused. However today, shopping is an entire journey. It is a relationship building process for the retail brand with their consumers.

The modern day’s shopper journey can be broken down broadly into 3 stages: pre-purchase stage, purchase and the post-purchase stage. Today, the brand experience has to be infused into all of these stages seamlessly.

Taking a look at the pre-purchase stage, this stage is all about the brand connecting and framing a relationship with the shopper, by being able to answer the shopper’s questions about products they are exploring and helping them realize how their purchase can fit within their values and lifestyle. This stage is where customers research about brands and their products/service offerings, and based on their evaluations considering various factors would decide to make a purchase for a particular product, from brand. Hence this stage is a huge opportunity for retail companies to influence consumers and thus lay the foundation of a solid relationship while ensuring their patronage.

Meanwhile, in the purchase stage, being central to the shopping journey as the transactions happen here, there has been a reinvention in the overall perception of the transaction. Price still remains extremely important; however, today’s customer is not only paying for the product but also the convenience that is associated with the purchase. This convenience will also be integrated into the shoppers’ perception of value. Moreover, making things quicker is not only about speeding up the payment process, but other factors such as curating goods and services and information faster, also contribute to it. These will influence the purchase experience of the shopper and retail brands should ensure that this experience is positive, personalized and perfect to establish loyalty.

In the final stage which is the post-purchase stage, it is important for retail brands to extend their post-sale services to shoppers and continue efforts to cement brand-customer relationships as well as enrich loyalty. As such, the shopper’s journey with a particular brand may end at the purchase stage itself and this would be a huge loss as retail companies will miss out on repeat business from loyal customers. Thus the brand value should be extended to the shoppers in the post purchase stage as it enables connecting the brand with the consumer’s lifestyle thus making the brand experience relevant.

Build long-lasting relationships with your customers


Traditionally, shopping as an activity was highly transactional, but today it is an exciting journey. Earlier, shopping seemed to be simple and straightforward. But today, it has gotten complex because every step in the journey involves multiple touchpoints available for retailers and customers to interact. However, from an optimist’s point of view, there is an opportunity for retailers to capitalize on this complexity.

Being at the epicenter of the retail business, every retail owner is trying to woo the customers in order to grab their maximum span of attention and maximum share of wallet. Customer experience has therefore become the ultimate battleground for retailers to compete. To be better than the other, retailers are trying all sort of tactics to be able to deliver the best customer experience to win and sustain them. And while many retail companies are in this rat race to strike big with their customers, only a handful are getting it right.

The reason for such a circumstance is obvious and yet highly overlooked. Simply put, the main cause for retailers failing to get their customers to stick is that they haven’t taken efforts to get the basics right. Fundamentally, it is the relationship that the retail brand shares with its customers. The stronger the foundation, the longer the relationship will last. Customers prefer to do business with brands that they can relate with and retailers therefore, need to build long-lasting relationships with their customers.

Being constantly connected with their customer is one way a retail business can help in fortifying the relationship. Staying connected effectively means that the brand needs to be available and ready to fulfil the customers’ needs be it for a product or for information, whenever and wherever the customer wants it. By seamlessly integrating together the various touchpoints a consumer might use to engage, retail owners can leverage and optimize the data from these engagements to plan and design a strategy that is most likely to resonate with that particular shopper.

Another surefire technique to strike the right chord with customers is personalization. Basically, it is the ability of a retail company to know their customer by name and also be able to approach them with a personalized set of communication. This will allow the brand to strengthen their customer relationship by demonstrating that they “know” the shopper’s preferences well. Personalization can ensure cementing the consumer’s loyalty in the retail business thus sustaining their confidence in the brand, making it a preferred choice.

Being connected to the customer will enable retail brands to understand their customer and deliver personalized offerings. This combination allows retailers to not only extend exceptional customer experience, but also it is a must to forge and fortify brand-customer relationships to ensure that their customers continue to stick to the brand.

Understanding The 5 Stages Of The Retail Customer Journey

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It is of prime importance for retailers to track the retail journey of their customer in order to make the right moves and provide better customer service. It gives them an opportunity to align their strategies effectively to the customer journey road-map. Given the latest developments and innovations in retail, the customers of today are spoilt for choice and options. All this seems to make the customer journey very complex, however it can be construed that the journey traverses 5 fundamental stages.

Research – The trigger to every purchase is the intention to acquire that particular product that is desired or needed. This leads the customers into the first stage of the journey, which is research. They research the various aspects of the desired product such as its cost, features and specifications, alternatives and so on through means and methods available. Additionally, they also research about the retail companies offering these products thus making it important for the businesses to have an omni-channel presence, be relevant and have an edge over the competition when the customers are researching.

Identification and Consideration – Once the research is over, customers analyze the information they have gathered. Based on their inferences, they narrow down their options for the product as well as for the retailer from whom they intend to procure it. Further, they compare the options they have narrowed down to and consider the one that they feel is the best. The impact that the retail businesses manage to cast during the customers’ research will decide whether they fall into the consideration bracket of the customers or not.

Transaction – This is where the customer acquisition is realized. It is at this stage where the actual purchase happens – the customers buy the product and pay the stipulated amount for it. Though it looks like a simple process of give and take between the retail businesses and the customers, it is not merely that. There are other aspects that make the process complicated and critical leading into the next stage.

Experience – From the customers’ point of view, if the transaction process was simple, easy, engaging and left a positive influence, it can be said that they have had a good experience. This is very important for the retail businesses as customer experience is one of the key ingredients in establishing a retailer-customer long-term relationship.

Retention – After establishing the relationship with the customers, the retail businesses need to build on it further. The longevity of this relationship could very well be the ability of the retailers to retain and extract more revenue from the existing customers. Thus the criticality lies in not only delivering the right experience in terms of deliverables and processes, but also sustaining those efforts and even exceeding the expectations at times. This will help foster loyalty among the customers and build goodwill through positive word-of-mouth, which the retail businesses can benefit from.

So is your retail business making the right impact at every stage of the customer journey?

The Last Mile In Customer Engagement

As the retail market becomes bigger for the global consumer, a premium is placed on creating extraordinary brand experiences. That is what keeps the customer relationships intact in an increasingly competitive arena. Following are a few examples of how brands have managed to carve out a superior brand image and relationship quotient with the customers.

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Anticipatory service at the Apple store begins for customers even before they arrive in the flesh. With the Apple store app, a customer can schedule an appointment with the store staff – who will be able to prepare for their arrival at the Apple store and be available to personally guide them. The results are benefits for customer and company alike. For the company, the benefit is level scheduling of demand, a Lean process principle. For customers, the app eliminates wait times and promises undivided attention, something hard to find elsewhere in retail. Then it gets even more personal.

While IKEA’s print offering is its most enduring piece of content marketing, it only scratches the surface of the brand’s exemplary content marketing efforts, which are many and varied and all revolve around one common mission: to improve people’s everyday lives. “We really look at how people live their lives at home,” says Christine Scoma Whitehawk, Communications Manager for IKEA U.S. “So, we really start with the customer, and try to see what’s important to them… And then how can IKEA help them so that we are truly partners in making their life better at home every day.”

Starbucks is masterful at wrapping its product in a deeply-textured in-store experience. The choice of furniture and fixtures, the names of its drinks, the messages on the cups, the graphics, it’s all been studiously crafted. It creates a unique ecosystem of customer interactions, attention to smallest details with quality products, all weaved together. It ensures value fulfilment across multiple channels. “The mobile-order-and-pay, a totally unique technology, is the single most important innovation that Starbucks will introduce this year.” says Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.