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How Retailers Will Be Using Artificial Intelligence In 2021 (and Beyond)

We’ve known for years that artificial intelligence and machine learning technology is the future of marketing. 

 Or, at least, it was a few years ago. 

 The fact is, AI-powered retail technology is in full effect by today’s standards, in a variety of ways. And, as impactful as it’s been for many companies around the world, it’s only going to keep evolving as time goes on. 

 For retailers in 2021, using artificial intelligence technology is essentially table stakes. As Capgemini found back in 2018, 28% of the top 250 retailers use AI in some capacity (compared to just 4% in 2016). 

In other words, if you’ve yet to hop on the AI-powered bandwagon, your business is likely missing out.

If, perhaps, you’ve been waiting for some hard evidence to prove the value of AI before hopping aboard, well…look no further.

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AI and Data Analytics

Becoming more data-driven is the key to success as a retailer.

In using actual data and hard evidence to drive your business decisions, you’re all but guaranteed to keep your company on the right track.

Of course, combing through the ever-increasing amount of big data your teams collect can be a Sisyphean task if done manually.

Which is why artificial intelligence is playing such a major role in retail data analytics.

Netbase Helps IHeartMedia Analyze User-Generated Content and Other Brand Mentions

Staying up to date with what your customers want from your brand is more important than ever.

But, again:

With a million things being said throughout your industry at any given time, cutting through the noise isn’t exactly easy.

Knowing this, iHeartMedia began using Netbase’s AI-powered tools to track mentions of their brand in terms of both quantity and quality. With Netbase, the team was able to collect valuable insight into their audience’s personalities and perspectives — in turn leading to more promotional opportunities for the brand.

“iHeart uses NetBase to measure sponsorship ROI during our live events including the amount of activity generated for each sponsor, the amount of conversations, the quality and sentiment of those conversations, and the conversation themes.”

Hetal Patel, EVP of Smart Audio Insights and Analytics

With AI automating the process of monitoring social and other channels your audience operates on, your team can stay focused on actually using the data being collected to grow your business.

GumGum Scans Third-Party Sites to Optimize Ad Placement

Getting an ad noticed often comes down to getting it in the right place, at the right time.

With so many places to choose from, though, finding the optimal time and place for each of your ads can be pretty difficult.

Luckily, AI-powered tools like GumGum are here to help.

With GumGum, teams can easily identify the best possible scenario for a given ad, based on millions of data points relating to the customer.

The impact of refining your ad targeting just can’t be overstated.

As GumGum reports, one hotel chain was able to engage and book an additional 148,000 guests by optimizing its ad placement on various channels. Even better: The chain did so at a cost per acquisition that was nearly thirteen times below the industry average.

While other efforts certainly went into improving the chain’s ad campaigns, these improvements would have been for nothing without strategic targeting. With AI tech on-hand, though, this initial step becomes a breeze.

Using AI to Make Better Predictions

Going along with the last section, the entire point of gathering more and more accurate data is to make better plans for moving forward.

More than just collecting and analyzing data, AI is also being used by companies to act on the data they collect.

For example…

AIXON Helps CommonWealth Magazine Identify High-Probability Prospects

When it comes to predicting whether or not a given prospect will convert, AI will always be more accurate than its human counterpart.

Tools such as Appier’s AIXON are being used by a number of companies to supercharge their team’s ability in this regard. Specifically, brands such as CommonWealth Magazine have used AIXON to:

  • Unify and centralize incoming customer data being collected in real-time
  • Identify behaviors indicative of action/conversion
  • Identify the right offer to deliver these individuals, and the right channel to deliver it on

With AIXON’s help, CommonWealth Magazine was able to increase its subscriber list by 400% — at about a third of the cost it would have otherwise. Because the team was better able to predict the outcome of individual engagements with their prospects, they were able to focus on the ones with the best chance of converting.

SalesForce’s Einstein Helps Marriott Staff Predict and Provide for Guest Needs

Making accurate predictions is also key to keeping customers on the hook, as well.

This is especially true in the hospitality industry, where catering to the individual customers’ needs is critical to their satisfaction and loyalty.

For this reason, Marriott relies heavily on Salesforce’s AI-powered tool, Einstein. With Einstein’s assistance, hotel staff can stay on top of any goings-on that may impact their guests on the whole, or on a personal level. In turn, they can quickly react to any incoming information that may enable them to better serve their visitors.

“Partnering with Salesforce, we’re building a platform that enables us to go fast, but do it in a way that’s elegant and still warm and human at the same time.”

– Brian King, Marriott’s Chief Digital & Revenue Officer

AI for Proactive Audience Engagement

Brands are also becoming increasingly reliant on AI-powered technology to stay actively engaged with their individual customers.

In many cases, AI is being used at all stages of the customer’s journey in lieu of actual person-to-person engagements. While the technology hasn’t completely replaced the human brand rep, it certainly has enhanced their ability to deliver value to the customer.

Appier’s AIQUA Helps Clovia Deliver Dynamic, Personalized Content

Again, Appier’s suite of AI-powered tools comes into play.

Here, we’re looking at how AIQUA can help brands deliver dynamic content and offers to their individual customers based on their individual circumstances. By automating this process, brands such as Clovia have uncovered tons of additional opportunities to engage with their customers in real-time.

In Clovia’s case, the goal was to minimize cart abandonment — and turn potential defectors into paying customers. With AIQUA, Clovia was able to present highly-targeted offers based on the customer’s shopping cart and purchase history at critical moments in the on-site experience. In turn, Clovia was able to recoup an untold amount of lost business.

Says Clovia’s Head of Digital Marketing, Rajeshwar Rao:

“Browser notifications work very well when the content is dynamically personalized. We like the way the entire system works by itself, fully optimized to meet our goals. Personalized cart drop-off campaigns have helped us scale conversions significantly.”

KIA Uses Chatbot Technology to Spur Sales

We’ve always been a fan of chatbots here at PostFunnel — and with good reason.

As artificial intelligence continues to improve chatbot technology, using it to engage with the customer will become more and more common.

Need proof?

Kia’s proprietary chatbot, dubbed “Kian”, generated three times more conversions than its website did within just four months of being operational. Through Facebook Messenger alone, Kia’s engagement levels increased fifty times over in that same time period.

Again, a common thread emerges among brands using AI to reach their customers. As Brendan Flynn, VP of Marketing at CarLabs explains, Kia’s chatbot isn’t delivering “blatant marketing messages.” Instead, it’s “the right message, to the right person, at the right time”.

Streamlining Transactions With AI

Modern retailers are also using AI to automate and otherwise optimize transactions for both the customer and the team.

For both parties, it’s all about convenience and ease: The less friction involved in the transactional process, the easier it is for each party to get what they’re looking for from the actual transaction.

For example…

Hypatos Automates Customer Invoicing Processes

As important as it is for your business to get paid, actually processing payments and other transactions can be a huge drain on resources if your workflows aren’t optimized.

Hypatos is just one tech company aiming to help companies do just that, specifically through the use of artificial intelligence. Hypatos’ AI-powered tools take nearly all of the legwork out of processing documents, whether from customers, vendors, or internal staff members.

In addition to processing written and other physical text, Hypatos actively learns how to better recognize this text over time. Moreover, the tool can also detect anomalies within scanned documents, as well. In both cases, this ensures ever-increasing accuracy throughout any and all customer transactions.

The impact, here, can be tremendous: Many of Hypatos’ clients have seen an astounding 90% reduction in costs relating to invoicing and other processes.

Standard Cognition and Other AI-Powered Companies are Paving the Way for Cashierless Stores

While retailers have been offering self-checkout in some form or another for a while now, AI-powered technology continues to revolutionize the process as time goes on.

A few examples:

  • Standard Cognition’s software uses a network of cameras to monitor in-store consumer behavior and product movement
  • Imagr’s SmartCart technology identifies products the customer places in their physical shopping cart, allowing the customer to pay for their purchases via mobile app
  • Amazon continues to open more and more Amazon Go brick-and-mortar stores, where customers can simply “Just Walk Out” with their new purchase (which will be charged to their Amazon account)

Most recently, Australian AI tech startup Tiliter has secured $7.5m in funding to ramp up its efforts in developing cashierless technology. As explained in the company’s press release, the funding will be used “to accelerate its expansion across Europe and the U.S., with many supermarkets to unveil Tiliter’s product recognition technology over the coming months.”

In other words, cashierless checkout is going mainstream in the years to come. As things currently stand, the technology is able to process the necessary product- and customer-related data within one second, with 99% accuracy.

As artificial intelligence tech continues to evolve, we’re bound to see more brick-and-mortar locations adopt some form of cashierless checkout in 2021.

Is Your Retail Business Ready for Artificial Intelligence?

(Hint: The correct answer is “yes”.)

Like we said at the beginning, the use of AI for various purposes is no longer optional for modern retail businesses.

With so many affordable, scalable tools quickly coming into the mainstream, even the smallest of startups will be looking to see how AI can supercharge their business. What’s more, those that may have already adopted artificial intelligence to some degree will definitely be adding to their AI-powered tech stack in the near future.

That said, it’s important to be strategic as you add new AI-powered tools to your tech stack. The message to take from all this isn’t that AI allows you to put your business on autopilot; it’s that it allows your team to truly maximize their efforts, while automating tasks that don’t need the human touch.

So, really, you shouldn’t be asking yourself “Is our organization ready for AI?”, but instead “How are we going to be using AI to supercharge our business this year?”

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