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.




Omni-channel Retailing is not about the channel, it is about the Customer


In the modern day scenario, while there are numerous elements that play a role in the success of a retail business, the most essential element is to be responsive to customer demand and meet customer expectations. However this seems to be a challenging ask in today’s digital era as the consumer behavior and expectations are highly dynamic and constantly evolving. For the consumers of today, shopping is no longer just wanting to purchase products — they also demand entertaining, convenient and personalized shopping experiences. Add to this the complexity of handling multiple channels where customers can connect with the brand or shop from.

Omni-channel retailing has gained popularity over the years and now it has become the new norm and necessity for retail business to thrive and flourish. Be it brick and mortar retail companies or e-commerce companies – most have realized the dire need to go omni-channel and are thus adding new channels to their operations so as to facilitate their business with the opportunity to be where the customer is. However, one of the biggest roadblock for retailers achieving success in omni-channel is focusing on the channels and not on the customer. Retailers must understand that very essence of omni-channel lies in delivering a seamless customer experience across channels and hence it is imperative to focus on customer centricity. Here’s how:

Understanding and meeting customer expectations

Considering the shopping habits of today’s shopper it is clear that consumers themselves have dramatically changed. Technology such as the internet and social media have significantly expanded their horizons enabling them to consume more information, find a wide range of products and share about their experiences. Emphasis is on curated offerings that customers seek along with personalized product recommendations. Retail companies can find success by realizing, considering and understanding consumers’ shopping preferences and then using retail technology solutions to provide more personalized experiences. In order to continue meeting the demands of evolving consumer expectations, it is very important for retail owners to follow the shopper journey and then orchestrate information, pricing, inventory and promotions as the consumer moves through to the path to purchase.

Encouraging and enhancing consumer engagement

It is not just about delivering a personalized and seamless omni-channel experience, rather it is about being able to do it consistently. This is what retailers should seek to achieve in order to be able to stay in the game. It is important for the retailer to understand that each and every part of the shopping journey is important. Therefore they must not only focus on the purchase but also aspects like information gathering, opinion seeking, post-sales services, promotions and so on as the customer moves along their shopping journey. Importantly, the retail brand must be able to stay connected with the customer across the entire journey span, transcending multiple channels. Moreover the brand should seek to enhance their relationship with customer through constant engagement that is personalized and relevant to them. Retail business’ success lies in not only realizing that whether the customer purchases or not, every touch-point across the customer journey there is an opportunity for the retail company to meet its customer but also must be seized by the retailer and efforts should be taken to keep the customer positively engaged. With the right retail software, this is definitely possible to achieve.

Creating and enriching customer experience

As mentioned above, retail is no longer about just the transaction between the retailer and customer. It is way deeper than that and retailers must go beyond their usual practices to reach that depth. As the modern day consumers are evolving dynamically, they are not just seeking to satisfy their material wants by purchasing products; they are craving experiences – experiences that will leave an impact on them and want them to come back and stay loyal to the brand. From the customers’ perspective, it is easier for them to stick with a retail brand that stands true to their expectations. Retailers must constantly look to create and deliver enriched omni-channel shopping experiences as well as ensure that these experiences are seamlessly unified and are specially curated for the customer. By creating these personalized shopping experiences across the customer journey, retailers will able to address the needs of their consumers on their own turf – eventually moving from shopping carts to the consumers’ hearts thus leading to sales, positive experiences and brand advocacy. The right mix of retail technology and innovation will make it possible for retailers to achieve success.

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.